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Clair de Lune
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. DDD
NAXOS 8.555800 [78'10"]

Naxos have made a selection from Thiollier’s complete recording of Debussy’s piano music although Volume 5, consisting mostly of the Études, is unrepresented here. The choice is very much a ‘Greatest Hits’ with an eye to the marketplace. One can’t argue with that; after all, most of Debussy’s music is very fine and original so any choice may be considered fairly arbitrary. All the same, more of the Préludes and fewer of the really early works (Valse romantique, Mazurka, Rêverie, Danse), might have served Debussy’s image better.

All the pieces on the CD are very well played and should satisfy most listeners, especially if new to the music. Only when compared to the very best do these performances fall short. In fairness, a lack of the ultimate in wit and crispness might be attributed to the almost reverberant bloom of the sound. I found the resulting artificiality irritating and would much rather listen to the quiet dryness of the acoustic given to Jean-Yves Thibaudet on his natural sounding set for Decca. Occasional stop-start mannerisms obtrude, for example at the beginnings of La plus que lente and Golliwog’s cakewalk but, in general, this is not much of a problem.

I can easily think of more characterful Debussy interpreters such as Thibaudet, Fergus-Thompson (an absolute bargain on Brilliant Classics coupled with Crossley playing Ravel) and Kocsis. However, as a CD of good performances of a well-chosen if obvious selection of Debussy’s piano music, this may be recommended.

Roger Blackburn

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