Debussy’s Beau Soir…can it successfully be rewritten for 7 flats?

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    Hi everyone…. Just wondering if anybody has ever rewritten the piano part for the Debussy Beau Soir (originally in E Major, 4 sharps) for 7 flats? The harp part would sound much better if it was in flats… I remember a version of the harp part for Tristian and Isolde that was rewritten this way, so I suppose it’s possible… but before beginning the undertaking myself, I thought I’d ask if anyone else out there has already tried it. Thank you!!


    I’d ask your violinist before you do that…string players would NOT like having to read in 7 flats (or even 5 sharps, enharmonically). They’re much happier in keys centered around their open strings (sharp keys, like the E Major it’s written in). Or just take it down to Eb Major if you must, but I’d just learn it as written…an average listener will not be able to discern a difference between the keys, and this way, you’ll know it in case you want to do it with a vocalist in the future in the published key.


    Or do you mean that you’d do it so that the violin plays in E and you would play it in flats? So that the first measure, which is basically E major chords, would be played f-flat, C-flat, A-flat, etc? I guess you could do that, but the piece is so chromatic I’m not at all sure that overall it would be that much of a tonal improvement on a well-regulated harp.

    EDIT To clarify, I mean that you’re going to be pedaling all over the darned place either way. I think mostly you’d just be shifting where the pedals are up vs down, not getting all that many more notes in flats, although it’s been years since I last played it, so I’m just going from what I remember.


    Thanks very much, Barbara! That is what I meant…Your point is a really good one– I’ve only compared the first couple of measures in 4 sharps/ vs. 7 flats (Fb, Cb, Ab, ect) and though it sounds great that way, I haven’t marked the entire thing in it’s original key yet, so I don’t know how much of the piece would end up being played with notes in natural or sharp anyway…probably quite a lot of it—


    So is your question simply to play the harp part in Fb major, leaving the other players unchanged, without any transposition; I don’t think that was obvious at first, or was it into Cb major ?

    Whilst I don’t know Beau Soir at all, from what I’ve read above I would say that the suggestion simply to drop it one semitone into Eb is probably the best – recalling that Debussy’s 1st Arabesque for piano is in E major and the harp transcription by Renie or Salzedo is in Eb – (will check my facts) – and this way it is possible to play straight from the original sheet music, knowing that accidentals # on the original is a natural on the harp, similarly a natural accidental becomes a flat – so the players could do the same on their parts and change the key signature.,_Claude),_Claude)

    Will the brightness of the key change ? The harp is supposedly more melancholy in flats, I wonder if anybody notices, or the mood drops.

    Gretchen Cover

    Here’s the easy way out: Debussy for Flute or Violin & Harp. Transcribed and edited by Louise F. Pratt. It is in E. It is not difficult to play.


    Just a note: Fb major is 8 flats, not 7, so you’d have to contend with playing all of your A flats and B double flats (A naturals) on the same strings.


    Will the brightness of the key change ?

    Yes, that’s a good point. E is a bright, pushy kind of key, even on piano, and an enharmonic transposition might lose that quality.

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