Préludes Books 1 & 2
DG 435 773-2 2 CD [84 mins]
One pleasure of staying with friends is to explore their collections of books
and recordings. Having been disappointed recently by an intégrale
of Debussy's piano
works, it has been a pleasure to hear Krystian Zimerman's account
of the two books of Debussy's Préludes recorded at the
Kassel Stadthalle in 1991 and released 1994. The first book dates from 1910;
he began composing the second soon after and it was published in 1913.
The notes are by Roger Nichols, whose writings on French music are
invariably illuminating and stylishly written. He tells us that Debussy told
an English admirer that some of the more intimate of his Préludes
(e.g. Danseuses de Delphes, Des pas sur la neige &,
of course, La fille aux cheveux de lin) should be played only 'entre
quatre-z-yeux', i.e. to an audience of one. On the other hand, Ce
qu'a vu le vent d'ouest is plainly a virtuoso concert show piece.
British record collectors will be fascinated to read about the English
connections of these pieces - nowadays the Channel can seem culturally wider
than in Debussy's time, despite the Tunnel! Nichols tells us that
Minstrels portrays red-jacketed players of guitars and saxophones
parading through the streets of Eastbourne, when Debussy was orchestrating
La Mer there. Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses relates
to the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens; Hommage à S. Pickwick
Esq. P. P. M. C. pokes fun at the English predeliction to add letters
after their names, and it comes complete with God Save the King.
Zimerman has a full command of the pianistic range of these pieces and brings
each one vividly to life, tender or scintillating. The recording quality
is of the finest - try La Cathédrale Engloutie ; it is easy
to visualise the haunting image of bells tolling under the sea. This must
be a strong contender in a crowded field and will give enduring satisfaction.
Peter Grahame Woolf