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Complete works for solo piano, vol.2
Images - Serie I. Images Serie II. Le Petit Negre. Children's Corner. La plus que lente Valse Romantique. Ballade. Danse (Tarantelle styrienne). Mazurka. Suite bergamasque. Hommage a Haydn. Elegie. Berceuse heroique. Page d'album. Etudes Book I. Etudes Book II. Etude Retrouvee
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Decca 460 247-2, 2CD 150 mins.
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The first volume of Jean-Yves Thibaudet's intégrale recording of Claude Debussy's piano music included all the Preludes, the Suite Pour le Piano and the popular Arabesques. Here now, we have both sets of Images and the important, but still comparatively little known, Études, and the other, more popular, of the two Suites, Suite bergamasque - the one with Clair de lune - plus the Children's Corner, which every young aspiring pianist tackles.

All this music is played immaculately in studio recordings. I was glad of the inclusion of some rarities, an advantage of these integrales, especially a late Etude retrouvée reconstructed by Roy Howatt (there is no note about it). There are a few short occasional pieces from 1909-15 (Berceuse heroique etc) and some charming early piano pieces from around 1890,Valse romantique, Tarantella styrienne, Mazurka and Ballade.

These last lead me towards a clue to a lurking, almost certainly unreasonable, reservation I have about this production. I cannot fault the playing or the recording of the piano, and I didn't notice the edits, yet I am left with a feeling that it is all a bit bland and less involving than should be. Perhaps such all-inclusiveness is bound to lead to an element of routine, a huge task to be completed?

Debussy with Chausson

Thinking such thoughts, my eyes came back to the evocative historic picture, reproduced in the booklet (and also in the EMI booklet of Christine Schafer's Debussy/Chausson recital, reviewed the same week) of Debussy, shirt-sleeved, playing to a circle of friends at Chausson's house in 1893. How I would love to hear those same pieces as they would have sounded then, on that fine upright piano with candle holders! Less tidy, surely, and the piano unlikely to have been as perfectly tuned and toned as Thibaudet's impersonal Steinway - but more alive, who knows?

A sound, modern digitally recorded and edited account, then, of all Debussy's piano music, conveniently packaged and one with which to begin your exploration of this important oeuvre.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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