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Debussy the pianist

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

Many great composers have also been great pianists, genuine virtuosos who in addition to composing led successful careers as performers. One gifted composer/pianist who did NOT have a big performing career was Claude Debussy. He did often perform his own works, but he tended to get nervous, and he didn’t enjoy playing in public. And yet by all accounts Debussy was a wonderful pianist, especially noted for his remarkable “touch” at the keyboard.

“How could one forget his suppleness, the caress of his touch?” wrote the famous French pianist Marguerite Long, a contemporary of Debussy. “While floating over the keys with a curiously penetrating gentleness, he could achieve an extraordinary power of expression.” Alfredo Casella, another great pianist and Debussy contemporary wrote, “He made the impression of playing directly on the strings of the instrument with no intermediate mechanism; the effect was a miracle of poetry.” 

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.