Notes from the arranger
The piano suite Children’s Corner (1908) may have been inspired by Debussy’s beloved daughter Chouchou, but at the time of composition she could hardly have been expected to play it herself, being barely three. Technically, the suite is within the capabilities of most fourth-year students (The Snow is Dancing is the hardest) but the ‘Children’ of the title are probably not intended to be the performers. Debussy gives us six little sound-pictures of an age of innocence.
Gradus ad Parnassum is Latin for “The Way to the Muses” and, in the sense of “practice makes perfect,” was used by Clementi for his collection of piano studies. Debussy gives us Doctor Gradus, and begins by imitating the style of such studies, the bane of every student’s early days. In the Cakewalk we find a piece in the manner of the Negro minstrel bands popular at the turn of the last century. But the middle section changes the mood radically, as Debussy seeks to raise us to heights of passion with the voluptuous music of “Tristan and Isolde.”