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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Rêverie – The Life and Loves of Claude Debussy
Lucy Parham (piano)
Alex Jennings (narrator)
rec. 2016, Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (piano), Air Edel Studios, London (narration)
DEUX-ELLES DXL1174 [47.42 + 46.23]

In this the centenary year of Debussy’s death, I could not resist acquiring a copy of this album to enjoy and review. It came to my notice that this programme had been entertaining Debussy lovers at London-based Rêverie recitals and that you can catch a glimpse of the beginning of one such programme on YouTube. This YouTube excerpt also includes an introduction to its concept by Lucy Parham with Simon Russell Beale, on that occasion, as narrator. It appears that Lucy has built up an appreciable reputation developing similar programmes including: Liszt – An Odyssey of Love and Nocturne – The Romantic Life of Frédéric Chopin plus Beloved Clara about Clara Schumann and her love for her composer husband Robert Schumann.

Lucy Parham is of course an accomplished pianist - and her love for, and insightful and empathetic readings of Debussy’s piano pieces impress strongly. For instance, taking just two pieces, Poissons d’or and Pagodes: Lucy, living up to, in her performances, what she writes in her notes for this album, of the former declares “Debussy captures the movement and freedom [of the goldfish] with incredible finesse and alarming accuracy –it is not just the fish you hear, but also the water in which they move”; and of Pagodes she observes, “…the influence of the Javanese gamelon is obvious from the first bar and the use of the pentatonic scale and gong effects Debussy utilises immediateoy draw us into the world of the Orient…you can almost sense the tension between the eroticism of the dance and the languid delicacy of the writing.”

Accomplished and very busy actor Alex Jennings hardly needs any introduction. He is probably best remembered as King Edward VII in Netflix’s The Crown. In the context of this album, his narration is compiled from Debussy’s writings and correspondence. It begins with the composer reminiscing, at the end of his life, over his loves and experiences. “Music was responsible for the seduction of most of my lovers and both of my wives.” Jennings’s readings are delivered in a compelling yet dramatically relaxed style.

It is interesting to contrast this celebration of Debussy’s genius but chaotic life style, with that of Ken Russell’s anarchic observations for the BBC TV programme, which was unavailable for so many years after its transmission. (It is now available from the British Film Institute together with Ken Russell films on Elgar and Delius).

Ian Lace

1 Another man’s soul [0.12]
2 Rêverie
3 I too am at war… [4.16]
4 Danse bohémienne [206]
5 Well, it was the best…
6 Arabesque No. 1 [4.17]
7 I left my parental home… [3.11]
8 La soirée dans Grenade [5.04]
9 It was around this time… [1.31]
10 Pagodes [5.12]
11 Music was responsible… [2.29]
12 La fille aux chevaux de lin [2.46]
13 Ernest Chausson and I… [5.00]
14 Jardins sous la pluie [3.37]

1 After that fateful day… [1.24]
2 Des pas sur la neige [3.33]
3 When I wrote… [2.42]
4 Reflets dans l’eau [5.27]
5 We were happy… [2.28]
6 Poissons d’or [4.08]
7 The better known… [2.16]
8 Golliwog’s Cakewalk [2.55]
9 In early 1910… [3.30]
10 Clair de lune [4.50]
11 From the moment… [2.07]
12 Pour les huit doigts [1.31]
13 My publisher Durand… [3.26]
14 L’isle joyeuse [5.58]



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