3 of Thiollier’s Debussy cycle includes, in the Estampes
and the two sets of Images, some of the composer’s most
frequented and best-loved pages. The piano sound continues to
be gentle and translucent, giving the pianist a head’s start
compared with relatively present studio sound of Pascal Rogé’s
new cycle. Thiollier’s I-did-it-my-way approach is once again
broadly sympathetic to the composer and gets him further in
Estampes than Rogé’s beautifully cultivated but ultimately
not very communicative playing.
it gets him as far as pianists like Michelangeli or Richter
who chiselled out miracles of textural revelation and sculpted
dynamics in some of these pieces is more in doubt. Not to speak
of the legendary Gieseking. On the other hand, if you want more
modern sound than the latter and find the sheer mastery of the
former two somewhat off-putting in its aloofness, you will certainly
find Thiollier a warm-hearted guide. In the second book of Images
he is less free, for some reason. I felt that the Poissons
d’or sometimes seemed to be roiling in the full ocean but
in general this is a performance which will be welcomed even
by those who disapprove of Thiollier’s liberties elsewhere.
you have Gieseking or any other older cycle you might still
be missing the Images oubliées which were published only
in 1976. To tell the truth Debussy called them simply Images
and they are more “Discarded Images” than “Forgotten Images”.
On the other hand, if he had published them back in 1894, the
textbooks on the history of piano music would have read slightly
differently. The first recognizably “impressionistic” piece
of piano music has always been claimed to be Ravel’s Jeux
d’eau of 1901. Ravel himself would have acknowledged that
these three pieces already contain a good many impressionistic
traits. The second was partly reworked as the Sarabande
in Pour le piano. The very detailed notes by Cyrus Meher-Homji
refer to its “arguably clumsy-sounding (or forward-looking?)
dissonances”. Thiollier’s rounded tone makes them sound neither
of these. The third piece uses a folk-tune later incorporated
in the third Estampe, Jardins dans la pluie.
La plus que lente Thiollier tries too hard to be smoochy,
capturing the dance lilt only intermittently towards the end
and elsewhere pulling the music around mercilessly. We might
recall that he was at his least successful in the first volume
of the series in those pieces that have a dance background.
Once again, the version purporting to be by Joyce Hatto seems
to have the secret of this work. It does seem extraordinary
that a performance that has been so widely admired has not been
identified. Did no one really admire it before the Hattifiers
took it up? - Since I wrote this Klara Kormendi on Naxos has
afraid L’isle joyeuse fails to hit the mark entirely.
This isle is certainly full of noises, but with very little
textural clarity. Alongside Horowitz’s magic pinpointing of
every detail this is a non-starter.
with the three major works goodish to excellent and the useful
addition of the Images oubliées which you may not have,
this can certainly be recommended, if not with quite the same
enthusiasm I lavished on the first two volumes.
reviews of this series: