Debussy was confident that his Images
for piano would take their place in piano literature and stated,
"…either to the left of Schumann… or to the right of Schumann."
The Images with their descriptive titles have become justly
famous works, indispensable in piano repertoire.
The twelve Etudes for piano were composed
later in 1915 and each of the pieces presents a technical problem
and an attempt at a solution. The Etudes are not as popular
as the Images in recital or on record however they embody
Debussy’s experiments in harmony, counterpoint, tonality and rhythm
etc., a kind of pragmatism verses fantasy.
The soloist on this Warner Classics release,
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, has become a specialist in late twentieth
century repertoire particularly celebrated for his interpretations
of Messiaen and Ligeti. Recently Frenchman Aimard has advertised
his recording credentials with a highly rated recording of the
complete Beethoven piano concertos on Teldec with the Chamber
Orchestra of Europe under Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Unfortunately French nationality is no guarantee
of success when performing Debussy. Aimard gives an okay performance
yet there is a feeling of reticence even nervousness; which is
unexpected in this normally confident pianist. Aimard’s playing
seems reasonably intelligent nonetheless there is not the level
of empathy that I would have expected. The playing seems to lack
spontaneity and I felt the majority of the proceedings somewhat
icy and curiously without atmosphere.
There is stiff competition in this repertoire
with the memorable recording by Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Decca 452
022-2 leading the pack.
The keyboard colours seem rather blurred and
slightly out of focus. Maybe the sound engineers are attempting
to add impressionist ambience to the recording.
Pass on this Warner Classics recording and opt
for the Thibaudet recording.