Debussy – Golliwog’s Cakewalk – Performed by Robert Estrin, Pianist

Piano Lessons / music performance / Debussy – Golliwog’s Cakewalk – Performed by Robert Estrin, Pianist

Golliwog’s Cakewalk, is the final movement of the 6 movement, Children’s Corner Suite. This piece has great significance for me. Some of you may know that I have somewhat small hands. Fortunately, I have a solid octave, and can reach most ninths comfortably. But as a child, my hands were very small, and weak.

When I was 13 years old, I learned and performed the complete Children’s Corner Suite which was a milestone for me. My father had many students who had far more developed technique at the piano than I had at the time. But, I was always able to create a great variety of tonal colors which worked incredibly well for Debussy.

However, at the end of the entire suite, Golliwog’s Cakewalk ends with a crashing lowest B-flat octave on the piano in the left hand, with the right hand adding a third E-flat. The octave was so anemic, my father had me play just two E-flats two octaves apart. Even then, my weak fingers couldn’t produce a suitably big sound to end this epic piece. So he had me use all my fingers curled up together in each hand to get some oomph at the end of this wonderful suite!

A Cakewalk was a popular dance form at the time this piece was written. You may notice a rather strange middle section. There is an interesting story to this! Debussy was one of the great composers of the French Impressionist style of music. This was in great contrast to the late Romantic, German style. There was a rivalry between Debussy and Wagner. The slow, middle section of Golliwog’s Cakewalk pokes fun at the very dramatic Tristan theme from Wagner’s opera, Tristan & Isolda. You can listen for the statement of the theme followed by what sounds like chuckling! Then the music transcends back to the cakewalk. Hope you enjoy this delightful piece!

Thanks for listening!

6 thoughts on “Debussy – Golliwog’s Cakewalk – Performed by Robert Estrin, Pianist”


  1. I enjoyed the performance very much. What kind of piano was it? The recording was extremely bright and harsh with some distortion. My son Jeremy has a Hailun 178 which is bright and a real powerhouse. Close-mics don’t work well at all. It works better to keep the mics far
    away from the piano or even behind the piano. Then there is no need to crank up the reverb in the editing and mixing. The result is a much more natural sound.

    1. You may try listening back on high quality speakers. You may find there is no distortion in the recording. Close miking works well to avoid ambient sound in the room from outside. In a perfect world, all the pianos would be recorded on stage! This is a glorious Steinway model B.

  2. Nice performance Robert

    The Steinway B sounds American, rich and on the darker side of the spectrum.
    I don’t hear any harshness or excessive brightness. Must be the gentleman’s speakers or headphones.
    Keep up the good work.

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