Thursday, February 1, 2018


This is the night of the Blue Moon. A so-called blue moon occurs when there are two full moons in one month. January, 2018 had a full moon on the 2nd and on the 31st.

While you marvel at my knowledge and the astounding wonders of nature, I'll admit that I'm actually writing this in the early morning hours of February 1st. But it's still dark outside and the moon is still full. 
Not blue.
But full. 

In honor of the not-so-blue full moon, I've decided to torture you with my piano rendition of Clair de Lune (Moonlight) by Claude Debussy (1862-1918).

Long-time readers of my blog have seen this video before - but I'm assuming that they'll politely ignore the fact and enjoy seeing it again (I'm being a wiseass). 
Is "wise ass" one word or two? It doesn't often occur in my vocabulary.
Only about once in a blue moon.

A few program notes:
I recorded this video when I lived in Texas - - when I was already past my prime (almost) and far past my youthful days in California when I was a genuine musician. 

This composition by Debussy was originally titled Promenade Sentimentale, but he later changed the title to Clair de Lune - based on a poem by Paul Verlaine.

Critics could probably say that I play this piece too fast, too harshly, and too loud.
I say "Crap!" (and I'm being polite).

I've always maintained that most pianists play this piece far too slowly and with too much sweetness and delicacy. 

The average time length for a pianist to perform this is somewhere between five to six minutes.
I recently saw one pianist (a near-comatose female) who took over six and a half minutes to play it.
That isn't a performance. It's a crucifixion.

According to this video, I take about 4 minutes and 32 seconds to play Clair de Lune.

And my interpretative instincts are correct!!!!
I recently discovered an actual recording of Claude Debussy playing this and he only takes 3 minutes and 51 seconds.

Of course, these ancient recordings may not be entirely accurate, but they're close enough.
Here's the Debussy version.



  1. That's a wonderful recording. Artists own recordings of their work are often not that good but I'm thinking this must be a Welte reproducing piano roll created by Debussy? We are so lucky to have these as they give an authentic recording sound of the period.

    1. Jenny, you're absolutely right. My initial guess was that this is a piano reproducing roll. The natural flow of the performance is inhibited and the nuances are, in essence, flattened. Subsequently there's an artificiality about the performance. But is indeed still a wonderful preservation of musical history.

  2. Jon, your wonderful Clair De Lune is my favorite. Its stages of acceleration and emphasis are powerful, masculine, artfully done. However, even though longer (at 5 and 1/2 minutes), my favorite visual is of Kathia Buniatishvili, who sits a piano like nobody else. I like your version better, but just enjoy watching Ms. Buniatishvili sit for some reason. Forgivable?

    1. Geo - even though I have very high regard for Debussy's music, I was never a good interpreter of it - and seldom included it in my repertoire. I think that I now have a better understanding of Debussy than I did in my youth (and would probably do a better job of performing his works).

      Ah - Kathia Buniatishvili (I wonder if she ever has trouble spelling her name). She's an extraordinary pianist - - but (forgive me) I'm not enthralled by her often theatrical style of playing. I definitely don't think this is deliberate on her part - it's simply her nature. All pianists have their own style.
      (perhaps if she would do something with her wild hair - like pin it back...)

      By FAR the most annoying one was Glenn Gould - who used to actually hum along while he played. It is sometimes audible in his recordings. I used to think it was my imagination, until others confirmed that it was true.

  3. Your well aware Clare du Lune is one of my favorites.

    1. I think one of the reasons that I'm not completely smitten by this composition is because it is over-played.
      Perhaps too much of a good thing??
      But it is indeed beautiful.

  4. Replies
    1. I always felt a twinge of musician's guilt for playing Clair de Lune too quickly - - so I was relieved to discover that Debussy played it even faster than me!

  5. So beautiful; I love both of these scores.
    Moreover, I'm obsessed with this image of Debussy ... who reminds me of one of Jay North's pals on CBS' "Dennis the Menace." (Sorry, my lack of sophistication is rearing its ugly head again!)

    1. HA!! Now that is an unusual observation (or perhaps I should say delightfully unique).
      I was never a fan of Jay North or the TV show and only watched it sporadically. I remember Margaret....and Mr. Wilson. But I don't recall any Debussy lookalikes. Hopefully I'll find some D the M reruns on YouTube.

      I did see a rather recent interview with Jay North in which he admitted that he hated the show, was "tortured" by his demanding relatives, and said that acting nearly ruined his life.
      Of course, he wasn't much of an actor.....

  6. I was delighted to hear your rendition of Clair de Lune during tonights full moon. lovely, indeed.

    1. I figured it was a good excuse to drag out my Clair de Lune video again. Thanks!

  7. I thought the way you played it gave it more guts and more depth but I am not the musician in the family so I asked the saxophonist .
    He listened and seemed quite exasperated with me . He said " he's playing it the way it should be played of course , the tempo is spot on ! "

    1. I appreciate your positive input (and, of course, that of the saxophonist). I am always too self-critical.

  8. Again, I envy your talent Jon. Wish I had half your talent. A big miss in my life not learning how to play the piano.

    1. Ron, I wish I hadn't abandoned the piano ever since I came to Tennessee, but I'm completely overwhelmed with personal problems...and I still never recovered from the shock of the movers losing most of my piano music.

      BTW - I'm glad you were able to get a temporary cap (crown) before embarking on your California trip.

  9. The first time I heard there was going to be a blue moon, I got very excited at the prospect and made a point of going outside to get a good view of it. It was quite disappointing that it wasn't, in fact, blue. What a rip-off! Even so, a big full moon is still a delight to see, and your rendition of "Clair de Lune" is delightful, too. You played it with authority. You owned it, as they say. Very cool that your interpretation is closer to DeBussy's than most pianists.

  10. I love the moon no matter what color it is (I'm a non-biased night owl)- and it was very clear here (for a change), so I got a good glimpse of the recent full moon.

    I was delighted to discover that my tempo for Clair de Lune is close to that of Debussy!


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