> Claude Debussy - Piano Works [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, Sets I and II
Canope, Bruyères (Préludes, Book II)
Children's Corner

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano)
Recorded 1963, Turin
APEX 0927 40649 2 [48.13]


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Michelangeli achieved legendary status as one of the great pianists of the 20th century, and Debussy was one of the composers with whom he was frequently associated. These recordings from Italian Radio date from 1963, and Michelangeli is heard at his compelling best.

The remastering is successful in giving a clear sound perspective while maintaining a sense of atmosphere. No doubt the sound is better than it has been previously. It is still not wonderful, of course, and the cover sleeve offers us the description 'historical'. Be that as it may, no-one acquiring this disc is likely to be disappointed that the sound is distorted or lacking in impact. It will give pleasure.

Pleasure in sound was of course one of Debussy's priorities as a composer, and nowhere more than in his piano music. If there is to be a criticism of these performances, and of Michelangeli's Debussy in general terms, it has to be that he gave less priority than he might have done to shadings of dynamic. Details within the texture, articulation of phrasing and line, are always exemplary, but sometimes the playing might be more closely attentive to the score, and quieter. These thoughts apply most to the second set of Images, and in particular to the slow-moving sections of Poissons d'or and Et la lune déscend sur le temple qui fut.

The crystalline detail of shimmering water is present in the first of the Images, the famous Reflets dans l'eau, in a performance which gets absolutely to the heart of the matter. And the two examples from the second book of Préludes are sonorously presented, if making one crave for a more sophisticated recorded sound which would do full justice to the quality of the playing.

Michelangeli frequently programmed Children's Corner in his recitals, and he recorded it in the studio for Deutsche Grammophon. This radio performance is nicely spontaneous, and ends in celebratory fashion with a rhythmically pointed Cakewalk from the Golliwog. As so often with these Apex recordings, the supporting documentation is well written but poorly presented, and badly organised on the page.

Terry Barfoot


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