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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Douze Études pour le piano [47:53]
“A la mémoire de Frédéric Chopin”
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Fauvettes de l’Hérault – Concert des garrigues (arr. Roger Muraro for piano solo) [25:12]
Roger Muraro (piano)
rec. 2017/18, Studio Jugy, France; live, February 2018, Radio FranStudio 104, Paris (Messiaen)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM905304 [73:06]

Released towards the end of Debussy’s anniversary year, this final release in Harmonia Mundi’s Anniversary Edition celebrates the centenary of the composer’s death in 1918. As with all of their releases in this series this is an attractive and valuable edition presented in a cardboard sleeve inside a cardboard clam-shell box. This particular disc does not fit well into the series, in that it also contains music by Messiaen, but the booklet note makes it clear that this was part of a project to honour Debussy, therefore the coupling makes sense.

During the First World War, Debussy was asked to prepare a French edition of Chopin’s Études because availability of the usual German editions had dried up. While preparing them, he composed his own series of twelve Études, divided into two books of six. The Études have received some very fine recordings, not least those by Mitsuko Uchida (475 7559) and by Maurizio Pollini (423 678-2). In comparison to these recordings, Roger Muraro’s approach is a little quicker, more precise and even matter of fact, as he takes their descriptive titles more literally than other interpreters. This is perhaps a technique learned from his teacher Yvonne Loriod, herself a renowned interpreter of Debussy’s music. Whatever the case, this is an excellent recording, especially of the Second Book, which, while it might not sit with the likes of Uchida and Pollini, is an eye-opener in that it introduces a different way of interpreting these fine works, and makes a fitting conclusion to Harmonia Mundi’s excellent series.

The other work presented on this disc is Olivier Messiaen’s homage to Debussy, originally planned as a piano concerto. It was never completed; here, the pianist Roger Muraro has arranged a three-movement piece from the composer’s sketches, and the resultant work is pure Messiaen. Messiaen’s fascination with birds once more shines through, with the title “Fauvettes de l'Hérault” referring to the “Warblers of the Hérault”. While Messiaen reused some of the music planned for the concert in other works, the reason why he never completed it is unclear. As a result of many years’ work - or should that be his labour of love? - Muraro has arranged a piece that any self-respecting Messiaen fan will want to own. This is a strong work, one which could be by no other hand than Messiaen’s, and Muraro must be thanked for bringing these sketches together and presenting us with a performing version of this wonderful music.

As discussed above, the performance of the Debussy is at odds with the modern way of interpreting the Études, but Yvonne Loriod was one of the first pianists to bring the work into the performance repertoire, and as she was a student and friend of the great pianist, her style has naturally rubbed off on her pupil. This is a wonderful, committed performance, bright with nuanced insight into the music, demonstrating Murano’s love for the music. The recorded sound is very good, as are the booklet essays. This is a disc which can be recommended both for the Debussy and the Messiaen; no fan of either will want to be without it.

Stuart Sillitoe

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