Since its formation in 2005,
Onyx has assembled a formidable roster
of artists, some of whom, it seems, were no longer needed by major
One such is Pascal Rogé who has been a distinguished figure in the
French piano music scene for decades. He seems, in a sense, to have
round again with a recent and very well received complete recording of
Debussy’s piano music for Onyx.
On this highly-recommendable disc, he is joined by his wife (since
2009) Ami in versions for two pianos of major works by Debussy; the
himself prepared the reduction of Prélude à
l'après-midi d'un faune
, while the performers have arranged La
. As was normal for Ravel, the piano versions came first,
being for two pianos, and
the Ma Mère
(Mother Goose) for piano four-hands.
Almost as a bonus, there is also Saint-Saëns’s Scherzo
which he composed when in a depressed state following
the death of
his mother, though you would hardly know it from the sparkling opening,
realised here with considerable élan. While there are quiet moments
with contrapuntal touches, Saint-Saëns’s frisky pianistic
invention keeps the sun out for the most part. There are suggestions of
Debussy and Chabrier, not to mention an Offenbachian galop
end. It’s an interesting find and delightfully played here.
We ask straightaway with the Debussy transcriptions, why bother with a
at all? Right at the start of Prélude à l'après-midi
, you do miss the seductive timbre and legato quality of
but the loss is really in accompaniments like the tremolando strings at
in; the effect of replacing them with bass piano rumblings is to lose
Would Debussy have written it that way if intending a piano piece?
troubling me; I haven’t gone through the score bar by bar but what has
to the harp arpeggios after the initial statement of the theme at about
in? They are played in the video at Vimeo
by Cassard and Chaplin. My reservations are compounded by the very
the pianism, beautiful - and Debussy-esque - as it is. A legato quality
to the lusciously erotic effect of this music.
fares much better. The more robust
quality of the music can
the essentially non-legato treatment provided by the pianos, though
the tremolandi at the start of Jeux de Vagues
the strings - you might argue that, as a rule, the piano is generally
watery effects. Again, the playing is superlative and I would certainly
again to this version.
Ravel in Spanish mode works very well for the two-piano combination.
The rhythms of Malagueña
crisply articulated. Feria
is a suitably joyful
affair, the opening
of which loses nothing from the absence of orchestral timbres.
Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye
is the one piece on
this disc that is likely to find its way on to the amateur musician’s
piano; the orchestral form with its two extra movements is really a
different entity. For me, the lovely performance given here is the high
point of the CD, the affecting combination of melancholy and
superbly brought across. Contrast, for example, the crystalline clarity
Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes
opening chords of Le jardin féerique.
This is a
version of one
of the high points of the piano duet repertoire that I would be happy
It is interesting to have the Debussy arrangements but I would
happily have this CD on account of the Ravel pieces, not forgetting the