This article explores the rationale behind a performance given by the authors at the Unfolding the Process symposium held in Oslo in November 2015. For this occasion, the authors devised a new version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations that builds upon Emmerson’s arrangement of the work for two pianos in 2012. A shortened version of the work (c.30 minutes) was designed that aimed nonetheless to maintain the original work’s sense of structural balance and coherence. This version involved the transposition of a number of variations into different keys to explore the possibility of adding a satisfying tonal structure to our experience of the work, in a context where both performers see potential communicative value in 'playing with' dimensions of original masterworks with a view to giving fresh perspective to the listener experience. The article is written from the alternating perspectives of the authors; one of which is primarily concerned with the rationale and process of devising the arrangement while the other reflects upon the performative aspects and implications arising from it.
This exposition reflects on several performances by the authors that aimed to re-imagine selected
pieces by Debussy in the centenary year of his death. More particularly, it considers some issues and
implications arising from performing the composer’s music for piano(s) on modern digital
instruments, specifically the Nord Stage 3 keyboards (2017). The exposition focuses primarily on the
second movement of En blanc et noir, although the composer’s version of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un
faune for two pianos and the solo prelude “Voiles” are also considered. The authors propose that
exploring this pivotal music from the Western and Modernist traditions on digital instruments allows
it to be presented and heard in new ways, thereby expanding our perception and experience of it.
Several video-recorded performances of these pieces are provided. An outline of Debussy’s own
preferences concerning instruments is offered, together with some brief comments on his broader
aesthetics, our perspective being that our versions remain congruent with underlying aspects of
both of these.