Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline


Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Piano Music - Volume 4
12 Etudes (1915) [49:51]
Etude retrouvée (1915, realized by Ron Howat) [05:13]
Intermède (1880/82) [04:05]
6 Epigraphes antiques (1914/15) [19:07]
Les Soirs illuminés par l’arduer du charbon” (1917) [02:05]
Noriko Ogawa (piano)
rec. July 2007, Nybrokajen 11 (the former Academy of Music), Stockholm, Sweden
BIS BIS-CD-1655 [81:42]
Experience Classicsonline

I seem to have written rather often recently that, of recent and ongoing cycles of Debussy’s piano music, those by Noriko Ogawa and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet seem to me the most important. They continue to be issued in combinations and couplings that make straight comparisons difficult. Ogawa’s “Etudes” are appearing well in advance of Bavouzet’s even though, as a result of delays in writing this review, Bavouzet’s Volume 4, including the “Etudes”, has now been announced. Just to complicate matters even more, Bavouzet’s Volume 4 is his last – unless there has been a change of plan – while we still await a fifth CD from Ogawa which will group together the earlier pieces. The extra CD is certainly not due to short timings: look at the present one! Ogawa has included two major items not always considered part of the “canon”. One was the ballet “La Boîte à Joujoux”, which Debussy left in piano score, intending to orchestrate it, and of which she gave a really marvellous performance in her Vol. 3. Now she adds the “Six Epigraphes antiques”, first written by Debussy for piano duet and later reworked in a solo version. The three smaller works on the present CD, moreover, were discovered too late even for inclusion in Thiollier’s variable 6-CD cycle on Naxos, though Bavouzet gives us the “Etude retrouvée” and “Les Soirs illuminés”.

So what of Ogawa’s “Etudes”? Ogawa has consistently shown, throughout her cycle so far, an innate musicality combined with a translucent, delicate sound that nevertheless does not exclude power when required. She has always appeared technically at her ease. However, nothing else in Debussy makes the sort of fanatical technical demands that the “Etudes” consistently do, so it is pleasing, if not especially surprising, to report that the same naturalness and instinctive empathy with the music emerge unfazed by the stringent mechanical requirements. Indeed, while many performances of these pieces leave me wondering if Debussy’s meticulous and multifarious dynamic markings are not too fussy ever to be fully realized, I cannot say I noticed any markings in any of the 12 “Etudes” that Ogawa has ignored. This proves, I think, that her apparent simplicity and spontaneity are the result of far more sheer hard work than is apparent.

For comparisons I turned to Uchida and Rahkonen. The former (on Philips) won an award and much praise when it was new. The latter (on Finlandia) was one of my Records of the Year two years ago. Admittedly, I chose it believing the performances were the semi-miraculous issue of a terminally sick old lady, but on returning to them post-scandal I saw no reason to lessen my admiration for them. However, the Rahkonen disc remains unavailable – a bargain reissue would affect the competitive situation considerably – so for the moment I feel that both it and Uchida can now be considered superseded.

The differences can be summed up from the second “Etude”. Ogawa is flowing, caressing. Uchida is a little faster, occasionally ready to tear away impetuously. Rahkonen, at about the same tempo as Ogawa, is more upfront at the expense of sometimes playing too loudly.

Ogawa is a little more generous in her pedalling. In the section of no. 4 marked “au Mouvt, in poco agitato”, Uchida and Rakhonen have the right-hand sixths clear to the point of being brittle with (as far as I can tell) no pedal at all. The result sounds aggressive from the former, heavy from the latter. Ogawa surrounds them with a halo of pedal. This could be risky but her control of pedalling is superfine. Neither here nor anywhere else did I feel that the increased lustre and warmth produced by her added pedalling was accompanied by any attendant blurring.

At times the differences are minimal. It may seem niggling indeed to say that Uchida is too loud in bar 9 – and only in that bar – of no. 8, but that is the only point in the entire piece where I could see a preference between her and Ogawa. In general it may be said that Uchida is the more impetuous, with a tendency to ignore Debussy’s sudden drops to piano; Rahkonen is bold and assertive and may be enjoyed as such. She does, however, often mark up Debussy’s dynamics. But I wish to add that both Uchida and Rahkonen have some exquisite pianissimos as well. In short, I don’t think you could expect to hear these “Etudes” played more beautifully – and by that I mean “with a greater revelation of their beauty” – than they are by Ogawa.

I have seen the view expressed that Ogawa’s “Etudes” are very nicely played but ultimately unmemorable. I don’t really agree but I can see that there is also a place for a more questioning, modernist interpretation. Bavouzet may be the man. I should also like to hear Aimard, from the more recent versions.

The “Etude retrouvé” is not so much a first version of the eleventh “Etude” – “pour les Arpèges composés” – as a totally different piece addressing the same technical problem. It is more traditional in harmonic structure – I thought of Rachmaninov at times – and would have sat rather uneasily with its companions had it remained in place. Some listeners may like it all the more for that. Ogawa’s control of the different textural strands is exemplary.

The “Intermède” is actually an arrangement, possibly by Debussy himself, of a movement from an early Piano Trio. It seems to me more interesting as music than several of the “canonical” early works and is played by Ogawa with a fragrant elegance that bodes well for her forthcoming (I hope) recording of these.

Ogawa plays the rather strange, abstruse “Six Epigraphes antiques” with a sense of trance-like wonder. Thiollier is very slightly faster in all but one piece and seizes the opportunity for boldness when it is offered. You might feel he finds more variety. However, I suggest that, of the two, it is Ogawa with her semi-minimalist approach who has a precise overall view of the music, as opposed to interpreting it – very nicely – on a section-by-section basis. The return at the end of the last piece of the opening theme of the first has an “end-of-the-story” feeling from her while from Thiollier it just happens.

This “end-of-the-story” feeling also comes across in the recording by Jean-François Antonioli (Claves CD 50-9008). His tempi are faster still – except, also here, in one piece – and enough so to find a different overall character. The music emerges as lithe, balletic, almost neo-classical. I presume this 1990 CD has long since disappeared from view. If you can access it, this rather than Thiollier is the real alternative to Ogawa.

Lastly, the brief “Les Soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon”, included by Bavouzet in his Volume 1. With Ogawa it is a final, sad visitation of the impressionist world, the sounds wafting gently through the air. Bavouzet finds more tension. I couldn’t choose between them.

Excellent notes and a recording that is not only very fine in itself but also totally attuned to Ogawa’s sound-world.

Christopher Howell



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month


Chopin Bruce Liu

Ingeneri Volume 2

Mondonville - Titon et L'Aurore

Telemann - French Cantatas 1


March 2022

Brahms Symphony 4
MacMillan Larghetto for Orchestra

Bruch Violin Concertos

Debussy Preludes Book 2

Jan-Peter de GRAAFF
Cello Concertos

La Nuit étoilé
Berlioz. Holmes




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.