> Claude Debussy - Images, Estampes [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images (1894)
Estampes
Images, Series I
Images, Series II

Paul Jacobs (piano)
Recorded 1978, New York
APEX 7559 79674 2 [57.18]


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Some of Debussy best and most subtle piano music is found here, in performances which capture exactly the right tone. Paul Jacobs scrupulously observes Debussy's score markings, and the results are particularly pleasing.

The recital opens with a novelty, the group of the three pieces written in 894 under the collective title Images, the first time that Debussy had used this favourite term. But in truth they are pale shadows of the real thing, as the remainder of the disc shows. For Jacobs gives some beautifully paced and cleanly articulated readings, allowing the miraculously details of Debussy's carefully constructed and atmospheric music to be felt.

The composer was not personally fond of the word 'impressionism', though of course most people would readily associate it with this repertoire. The reason for his doubts was surely that there is an implication of inexactness, even vagueness, whereas his music is extraordinary in its close organisation and attention to detail, in which every little aspect of the detail relates to the larger issues. These important ideas arise thanks to the scrupulously prepared and thoughtful performances which Jacobs gives here. Rarely can Reflets dans l'eau, the first of the Images, Series I, have enjoyed such graceful and limpid articulation, perfectly creating the music's unique atmosphere and style.

And so it goes on. The three pieces of Series II are imaginatively paced and shaped also. For example, I particularly enjoyed the way that Jacobs allowed the rhythmic figures to make their telling point in Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut. Much the same can be said of the three Estampes. The Spanish rhythms of La Soirée dans Grenade, the limpid phrases of Jardins sous la pluie, are imaginatively caught. If this reissue has a fault it is in the recording, which although satisfactory enough, does tend toward dryness. More recent performances have been more atmospherically realised, but at budget price this recital is certainly worth serious consideration.

Terry Barfoot


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