Let me preface this article with the fact that this is number 269, and as long as you keep writing in, I am very happy to try to help. They are all contained in the archives, listed on the site page.
This little classic, usually overlooked by most of us, is one of the more delightful, easy-looking works from one of our greatest composers, Claude Debussy.
First thing is the rhythm which must be exaclt as Debussy states, that is to say the dotted sixteenth and thirty-second run throughout the work and must always be accurate, not one crooked rhythm must you permit. This is the intent of the composer and the piece, to play these rhythms and yet to be as smooth as only french legato can be.
Written for the sight-reading part of the Conservatoire exam, it is usually purchased today along with the magnum Opus , Premiere Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano. The clarinetist will always attempt the Rhapsody and avoid the little piece. Both are relatively short but the Petite Piece is only about five minutes, which believe me can be harrowing, though terribly simple to look at.
The key is bad, the register is worse and the effect must be as smooth as an afternoon cocktail of something very very French.
I love the beginning note, throat g#! What could be more fun, the questioning quality of that first phrase. It is really easily performed and played, but if you play is with an absolutely seamless legato, you will find yourself momentarily lost in a swamp of the throat at its worst.
In pianissimo you must easily and deftly play mid D#, C and then back to our favortie g#, all in a loveey little french line that can be daunting.
That is the whole thing in this music, the legato is not only the embodiement of the french style of playing the clarinet at the time but incredible training for the Rhapsody itself.
The Petite Piece is too brief to write much more about, however it will please you greatly and your audience if you are able to easily negotiate this “little piece”. It is perfect to program it immediately prior to playing the Rhapsody and you will be warmed up, believe me.
stay well, sherman