History of the Composition
This beautiful piece was written by Claude Debussy while he was in his twenties, between 1888 and 1891. Debussy was from the Impressionistic Period of music, which followed the French visual art form. In this Arabesque, it is easy to imagine beautiful scenes of nature and art.
Arabesque No. 1. Andantino con moto
This arabesque is in the key of E major. The piece begins with parallelism of triads in first inversion, a composition technique very much used by Debussy and other Impressionists which traces back to the tradition of fauxbourdon. It leads into a larger section which begins with a left hand arpeggio in E major and a descending right hand E major pentatonic progression.
The second quieter B section is in A major, starting with a gesture (E-D-E-C♯), briefly passing through E major, returning to A major and ending with a bold pronouncement of the E-D-E-C♯ gesture, but transposed to the key of C major and played forte.
In the middle of the recapitulation of the A section, the music moves to a higher register and descends, followed by a large pentatonic scale ascending and descending, and resolving back to E major
I first learned this piece when I was approximately 16 years old, and played it for my Grade 10 Piano Exam. That was a long time ago! It has since been a favourite piece of mine, and so rewarding to play. I love its flowing lines, as well as the rubato section in the middle of the piece.
Photo By Atelier Nadar, Paris – Bibliothèque nationale de France.