The Well-Tempered Ear

Did any composer ever capture the quiet, timeless and motionless cold of deep winter better than Debussy? | February 9, 2021

PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

It was one of those deep subzero days of the polar vortex that we seem locked in now right now.

The Ear looked out a window.

It was a chilly scene of winter, as the American writer Ann Beattie once described it.

The Ear saw the snow piled up.

He listened to the windless quiet.

Time, like motion, seemed to stop– or at least slow down — in the severe cold.

He saw tracks in the snow.

He couldn’t say whether they came from a rabbit or a squirrel or some other critter.

But it brought to mind a piano prelude by Debussy (below) that contains a kind of frozen minimalism.

Life was once again imitating art, as Oscar Wilde once observed, remarking that “there was no fog in London until the Impressionists painted it.”

Has any piece ever captured the cold, the quiet, the feeling of time and motion slowing down or stopping as Debussy did in “Des pas dans la neige” (Tracks in the Snow)?

Especially as it was played by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (below) who, like Sviatoslav Richter, wasn’t afraid to risk taking a slower-than-usual tempo if it right felt right and created the appropriate  atmosphere. (You can hear Michelangeli playing the Debussy prelude in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Do you agree about the Debussy piece?

About Michelangeli’s interpretation?

Do you know of another piece that captures the Arctic cold spell we are in?

Please leave a comment and a YouTube link, if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.

Stay safe and warm.



  1. Here’s another thought — Barbara Bonney singing Sibeloius’ Diamonds in the (March) Snow.


    Comment by Ronnie — February 9, 2021 @ 2:10 pm

  2. Yes to Debussy and for sure to Michelangelo and a romp in the snow with closed eyes to Brahms’ Capriccio Op76 #2. Thanks, Jake as always.


    Comment by diacon2 — February 9, 2021 @ 11:20 am

  3. Sibelius Symphony #2


    Comment by Augustine — February 9, 2021 @ 9:45 am

  4. I somehow find myself thinking of the Vaughan Williams Sinfonia Antartica. The third movement, Landscape, is quite atmospheric.


    Comment by Robert Palmer — February 9, 2021 @ 8:59 am

  5. Thank you, Mr. Stockinger, for posting this selection, and for choosing a rendition that allowed time to listen to the music’s inner harmonic beauty, those delicious Debussy suspensions and hopeful resolutions.

    Other “winter” selections could include seasonally appropriate music by Tschaikovsky.


    Comment by Roy W Carroll — February 9, 2021 @ 8:58 am

  6. Well, Die Winterreise springs to mind, but that’s pretty obvious.


    Comment by Ann Boyer — February 9, 2021 @ 8:23 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,250 other subscribers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,411,928 hits
%d bloggers like this: