Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

(1862 - 1918)
Suite bergamasque 15.43
Pagodas 4.08
La Soiree dans Grenade 4.14 (from "Estampes")
Reflets dans l'eau 4.39 (from "Images 1")
L'Isle joyeuse 4.55
MAURICE RAVEL (1875 - 1937)
Sonatine 10.03
La Vallee des cloches 4.51 (from "Miroirs")

(1810 - 1856)
Kreisleriana. Op. 16 29.33

Walter Gieseking (pno).
Recorded BBC Studios, London. 29 Sept 1956 (Debussy, Ravel)
Recorded BBC Studios, London. 6 Dec 1953 (Schumann)
MONO recording. BBC Records. BBCL 4030-2 [79.04]

Walter Gieseking was recognised as a great interpreter of many composers - Beethoven and Brahms from the classical world as well as Busoni, Hindemith and Stravinsky - but he is undoubtedly best known for his playing of the impressionistic world of Debussy and Ravel. His performance on EMI of the complete Preludes of Debussy is acknowledged as one of the great all-time recordings. The bulk of this CD is devoted to pieces by the two French composers.

These French miniatures are a delight. All that we expect from a great artist at work is there to hand - all put to the service of the music. These are not show-off pieces there to dazzle an audience; instead the illusion is that the pianist has come into the studio, sat down and played for himself and for his own pleasure, and the microphone just incidentally has captured the moment.

The delights are many. Like the extremes of rubato in the Prelude of the Bergamasque Suite, the ability to switch in a moment from utmost delicacy in the Menuet to almost savage attack, the loving, introspective Clair de Lune ,the rippling left hand with its subtle variations in the Passepied. Debussy's subtle harmonies and colours, the caressing of the keyboard and almost immaculate articulation in the later little gems are almost hypnotic. Ravel's name is often coupled with Debussy's but listening to them closely together as on this disc clearly shows how different they were. The three movement Sonatine - gently persuasive, and the closing piece from Miroirs are utterly beguiling.

All the Debussy/Ravel pieces in the recording are from September 1956. Gieseking died shortly afterwards at the age of 61. Three years earlier he recorded Robert Schumann's Kreisleriana - which then was not a familiar piece. Sadly, the recording cannot be recommended. If you particularly want Gieseking in this work, there is nothing wrong with the performance. He brings out the variety and contrasts in its eight sections but must be heard with a background of hiss - at varying levels - and occasional squeaks that do not make for easy listening. The recording of the French pieces - in Mono - is perfectly acceptable.

One other point. The notes included tell us a lot about Gieseking - and what an interesting man he seemed to have been - but there are no useful notes to inform the listener about the music.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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