The last batch of Naxos/Debussy discs to cross my
desk was the 9-CD Jun Märkl box (review
one of the highlights of that somewhat variable collection is Henri
Büsser’s fine orchestration of the Petite Suite
original version of which headlines this new disc. Pianists Jean-Pierre
Armengaud and Olivier Chauzu, are new to me, but their potted bios suggest
a decent track record as performers. However, this is only their first
recording for Naxos.
Initial impressions? Not very favourable, I’m afraid. Sadly En
, which opens the Petite Suite
, never leaves its moorings.
The playing is curiously diffident and the piano sound is nowhere near
as sophisticated or immersive as those of Hyperionet al.
the treble is hard and bright in Cortège
lacks charm and Ballet
is precise but much too mechanical for
my tastes. Also, phrasing and dynamic control leave much to be desired.
Really, it’s hard to imagine this delightful repertoire played
with less imagination than it is here. To make matters worse, there’s
an audible glitch in the dying seconds of Ballet
Recent Naxos releases suggested a welcome move away from the sub-par
piano sound of the past, but it seems that was wishful thinking on my
part. Back to the music; the Marche écossaise
gets a fair
outing, but again there’s a perplexing lack of engagement and
energy here, as if the pianists were each doodling in separate rooms.
That said, there are flashes of what might-have-been, which merely add
to my frustration with this disc. The Épigraphes
more alluring, but only slightly; regrettably, there’s still a
dull, self-regarding quality to the playing that’s just fatal.
Is there any chink of light in this drab collection? Alas, no. The duo’s
rendition of the Première Suite
is frankly relentless,
and any hopes of a resurrecting lift and sparkle are soon extinguished
by this graceless playing and shallow sound. Goodness, I can’t
recall a review disc so devoid of appeal. If you want to hear an almost
identical programme played with a liberating sense of discovery and
delight then try Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa on Quartz. I fully endorse
Dominy Clements’ sentiments on that one (review
See also review by Dave