Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 13

Lucette Descaves
The distinguished French pianist and teacher Lucette Descaves (19061993) played a key role in the development of French pianism. After a hand injury ended her solo career, she devoted herself to pedagogy. Beginning as an assistant at the Paris Conservatoire to Yves Nat and Marguerite Long, she later became a respected teacher of all ages in her own right—with stellar results. Besides Jean-Yves Thibaudet, she taught Katia and Marielle Labèque, Brigette Engerer, and Pascal Rogé, among many others. In her teaching, she stressed, first of all, sound. “I had to memorize all the orchestral versions of the Ravel works I studied with her,” says Thibaudet. “She wanted me to think always in terms of an orchestral concept, to the point of imitating specific instruments.” Some of her ideas on Ravel might strike American teachers as unconventional. “Ravel didn’t like the pedal,” she told Thibaudet, “especially when it’s held down for bar after bar. Ravel is not a Romantic!” And she had Ravel’s own scores, with markings in Ravel’s handwriting (“I remember the blue ink,” says Thibaudet) to prove it. Her method book, Novelle Méthode Le Couppey, which she co-wrote with the French educational composer Marie Claude (revised edition, Billaudot, 1981), is a contemporary reworking of Le Couppey’s ABC du piano and Alphabet combined. The songs by Mme. Claude are charming, but especially useful are Descaves’s technical exercises. She begins with just two fingers, gradually expanding to the use of all five before introducing crossing. Each exercise stresses multiple repetitions of short patterns at both slow and fast tempi. Her ability to create clever drills was apparently endless. A slightly later method, L’Approche du Clavier par Lucette Descaves (Editions Combre, 1989), written with Nicole Moutard, has a whole different set of exercises from the same point of view. Her practice and performance directions are consistently interesting— ”sit with the elbows slightly below the black keys,” she counsels beginners. Always the focus is on fundamentals, especially proper use of relaxation; “without stiffness,” “very supple,” and “absolute flexibility” are directions found frequently. Descaves had a special interest in contemporary music. She performed the premieres of many works by French composers, with a special affinity for the works of André Jolivet. She played his Piano Concerto more than 100 times, a performance still available on YouTube. Her anthology Les Contemporains in four volumes (Billaudot, 1950-1952) contains a wellchosen and leveled selection of works by European composers, most unfamiliar to American teachers; some, perhaps, forgotten even by the French. They deserve to be revived—the fingering and interpretive markings are invaluable.

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

CLAVIER COMPANION

13

© Decca/Kasskara

I read somewhere that she spent quite a bit of time on technique. Yes...and no. She wanted you to play deeply into the keys, and with clarity. She had a solution for every technical challenge and clever practice devices for problem passages. It was not really the high-fingered playing that one often associates with the French School. She would rest her hand on mine and talk about arm weight and relaxation. We worked a lot on the use of the shoulder. But if you could do all these things, you got a lot more. She had a tremendous knowledge of the repertoire, and could always assign exactly the right piece at exactly the right time. She could change her approach to suit each student, or even the same student on different days. No matter how well you thought you knew a work, she could say something new and fresh. Everyone always felt comfortable with her, and she always had something to say, whether the student was a total beginner or an advanced pianist playing concerts. I later studied with Reine Gianoli.



Clavier Companion - January/February 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clavier Companion - January/February 2012

Clavier Companion - January/February 2012
Contents
Editor's Page: New discoveries
Variations: Tackling a twelve-year old's slump
Musings: Creative being and the disciplined life
An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
The story of music on board the RMS Titanic
The enchanted world of piano fairy tales
Jazz & Pop: The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation
Music Reading: Recipes for effective teaching
Perspectives: Coping with burnout
Technology: Virtual reality in the piano studio
Tech Tips
First Looks: What Music Means To Me
New music reviews
CD & DVD reviews
News & Notes
Pupil Saver
Keyboard Kids' Companion
Advertiser Index
Questions & Answers
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Clavier Companion - January/February 2012
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover2
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Contents
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 2
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 3
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Editor's Page: New discoveries
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 5
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Variations: Tackling a twelve-year old's slump
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 7
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Musings: Creative being and the disciplined life
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 9
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 11
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 12
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 13
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 14
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 15
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 16
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 17
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - The story of music on board the RMS Titanic
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 19
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 20
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 21
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 22
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 23
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 24
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 25
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 26
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 27
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 28
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 29
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - The enchanted world of piano fairy tales
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 31
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 32
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 33
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 34
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 35
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Jazz & Pop: The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 37
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Music Reading: Recipes for effective teaching
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 39
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 40
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 41
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Perspectives: Coping with burnout
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 43
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 44
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 45
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Technology: Virtual reality in the piano studio
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Tech Tips
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 48
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 49
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - New music reviews
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 51
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 52
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 53
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - CD & DVD reviews
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 55
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - News & Notes
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Pupil Saver
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 58
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 59
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Keyboard Kids' Companion
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 61
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Advertiser Index
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 63
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Questions & Answers
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover3
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover4
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