There is no shortage
of recommendable sets of the Debussy
Preludes, but there is a surprising
lack of digital one-disc versions of
both books. In fact, I can only think
of one, Martino Tirimo on super-budget
Pickwick or IMP Masters as it became.
It’s not just this fact that makes Tirimo’s
the nearest comparison to this new Pascal
Rogé disc. Both pianists inhabit
similar sound-worlds, have similar approaches
to individual pieces and are remarkably
similar in timings.
Warmth of tone, soft
coloration of harmonies, a rich and
multi-layered keyboard palette, these
are some of the hallmarks of both Tirimo
and Rogé. This playing is light
years away from the crystalline attack
of Krystian Zimerman or his inspiration,
Michelangeli. After experiencing the
phenomenal technical assurance of these
two - especially in the Lisztian bravura
of, say, ‘Feux d’artifice’ - some may
find Rogé’s penchant for suggestion,
rather than bold statement, somewhat
lacklustre. It never bothered me once.
In fact, it’s best to see this as another
viewpoint of what is endlessly fascinating
music, music that can be interpreted
in many ways and still be faithful to
the composer’s intentions.
You may have gathered
by now that Rogé’s approach makes
him more successful in some Preludes
than others, and this is basically true.
The diaphanous textures of ‘Voiles’,
or the hauntingly beautiful impressions
of ‘Les sons et les parfums tournent
dans l’air du soir’ suit him to a tee.
I’m not sure he gauges the pulse at
bars 7-12 of ‘La cathédrale engloutie’
correctly. Tirimo’s performance follows
the composer’s own here in playing them
at twice the speed, and it’s always
been a moot point. However the emerging
of the cathedral from the mists in the
big central section is superbly effective
in Rogé’s hands. The piano and
recording quality must be mentioned
here, as both are in the demonstration
bracket and contribute much to the enjoyment
of the disc.
I found myself going
back and forth between Tirimo, Zimerman
and Rogé and finding new things
from each, which is as it should be.
I doubt there can ever be one recommendation
for such great and important music;
some would say Gieseking, who has his
own loyal following. You will be lost
in admiration for Rogé in the
exquisite tenderness of ‘La fille aux
cheveux de lin’, charming and intimate
in equal measure. You may also find
his opening to ‘Les fées sont
d’exquises danseuses’ too measured,
even lax when compared to Zimerman,
whose glittering fingerwork really does
achieve Debussy’s marking of rapide
et léger. I’ve already mentioned
‘Feux d’artifice’, but if there’s a
better performance than Zimerman’s in
the catalogue - those glissandi ...!
- then I’ve yet to hear it.
To sum up, you will
not be disappointed in Rogé,
who is such a subtle and experienced
advocate in the piano music of his homeland.
The recording is truly gorgeous, as
is the piano sound. I would simply urge
you to try others. Tirimo - if it’s
still available - is also exceptionally
good in this repertoire and gets nearly
as good a recording, all at super-budget.
Zimerman is on two upper mid-price discs,
but if this seems indulgent, wait till
you hear the playing, which really is
in the luxury class.
the ONYX Catalogue