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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, six pieces for solo piano (1905-07)
Etudes, twelve pieces for solo piano (1915)
Recorded at La Salle de Musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, France, 7-14 July 2002. DDD
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
WARNER CLASSICS 8573 83940-2 [75:06]


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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.

Michael Cookson.

 



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