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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Suite Bergamasque: Clair de lune
La plus que lente
Arabesque No.1
Le petit nègre
Children’s Corner Suite: The snow is dancing
Children’s Corner Suite: The little shepherd
Children’s Corner Suite: Golliwog’s cakewalk
Trois Estampes: La soirée dans Grenade
Trois Estampes: Jardins sous la pluie
Arabesque No.2
Valse romantique
Danse (Tarantelle styrienne)
Pour le piano: Toccata
Images: Reflets dans l’eau
Images: Poissons d’or
Préludes, Book I: La fille aux cheveux de lin Préludes, Book I: Minstrels
Préludes, Book I: La cathédral engloutie
François-Joël Thiollier (piano)
Rec. 28 November - 1 December 1994, 13-15 March 1995, 16-18 January 1996, 25-27 September 1996, Temple Saint Marcel, Paris.
NAXOS 8.555800 [78.10]


Franco-American pianist François-Joël Thiollier has been working his way assiduously through the French repertoire in his indefatigable way for Naxos. He has recorded the complete Ravel and Debussy (of which this disc is part and is a Best Of). Surveys of d’Indy, de Falla and Franck are also to his name. Added to this is his repertoire of eighty concertos. So a name to be reckoned with – but what about his Debussy?

Let’s face up to a fairly insurmountable problem for those wanting an all-round recommendation. This is one of the most cavernous acoustics I think Naxos has ever given us and I’m afraid it vitiates Thiollier’s virtues. The sensitively projected La plus que lente doesn’t quite survive the swirling air; nor can Le petit nègre be etched with as much incision and wit as it might – attacks are blunted. Yes, the Toccata still sounds well and there is concentration and introspection in Reflets dans l’eau. He is certainly not above rhythmic quirks that may strike one as playful or obtrusive (I tend to go for the latter). It’s a pity that he has been done down by the recording because he is an astute colourist and technically fine. But in general he doesn’t strike me as quite the Debussy pianist that Zoltan Kocsis is – and if you want a representative collection – an old friend I know – you should seek out Gieseking’s four CD set.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Roger Blackburn 

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