Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) – Images (Book I) and Images (Book II); Préludes (Book II) – Marc-André Hamelin: pf
Debussy’s two sets of Images (1905 and 1907) are musical homages to pure sensation, conjuring the sound of bells through leaves, sunlight reflected from the scales of goldfish scales, and a multitude of other transient moments. The opening piece “Reflets de l’eau”, straight away establishes Debussy’s unique understanding of the keyboard’s potential, translating the rhythms of water into hypnotic, refreshing music that’s as vividly pictorial as anything Liszt could have created. The two books of Préludes (1910 and 1913) are the last of his descriptive piano works. Titles such as “La cathédrale engloutie” indicate an affinity with the allusive world of Images, while others such as “La danse de Puck” are indicative of a more outgoing element to the Préludes . They might be slightly more accessible than the Images (though bear in mind that Debussy did not intend all 24 to be heard in one session), but if anything they are technically more demanding – only the Études require more of the pianist.
Michelangeli’s performances of the Images and the Préludes are astonishing, creating an ever-shifting and constantly fascinating world of sound. These are among the finest accounts of Debussy recordings ever made. His Epicurean style, with its marvelous gradations of dynamics and timbre, are perfectly suited to Debussy’s most macroscopic piano music. However, Michelangeli is too preoccupied with seductive sonorities at the expense of musical depth, and his playing of these pieces is sometimes idiosyncratic. Marc-André Hamelin performances are vivid and characterful at every level, a wake-up call to an alternative point of view, to a more familiar misty-eyed evasion. A key to this approach – one of a very personal conviction – comes in Marc-André Hamelin’s fine accompanying essay, where he speaks of “a gently delineated haze… along with a clarity of vision (the two are not mutually exclusive)” becoming hallmarks of style.
Clarity of vision certainly; and if there are times when he can sound more forceful than subtle Images (Book II/No. 2), his conjuring of a bleak rather than opalescent poetic world is superbly commanding and authoritative. Even the central section of “La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune” cannot tempt him away from a clear-sighted even remorseless vision. In “Ondine” the piece is more animé than moderato and in “Canope” a pianissimo subito direction cannot lure him into whispered confidences. But what eerie desolation he achieves in the final descending autumnal swirl of “Les tierces alternées” and what enviable poise in the following “Feux d’artifice”. His “Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C” is spikier than affectionate yet entirely convincing in its own entirely individual terms. These recordings are absolutely brilliant. We are blessed indeed at having such a thrilling and audacious artist in our midst.
About Marc-André Hamelin
Marc-André Hamelin begins the 2014/15 season with a round of recitals in Aspen, New York, Verbier, La Roque d’Anthéron, the Duszniki Festival in Poland, Orford, and in the Montreal Symphony’s Virée Classique. There, he also performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto, No. 27, K. 595, with Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony, followed by performances of Beethoven’s Emperor Cto. at the Hollywood Bowl with Stéphane Denève and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Read more…
Music from All Corners of the World
If a record label – or imprint – were to be considered an “unfillable” library in the sense that the...
Ana-Marija Markovina: Mendelssohn – Towards the Restoration of Genius
Ana-Marija Markovina: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – Complete Works for Piano [Solo] Few composers – artistic geniuses at that – have...
John Cage: Etudes Australes
John Cage The Complete Etudes Australes – Grete Sultan: pf Guru to some, charlatan to others, John Cage constantly challenged the very idea...
Okaidja Afroso: Jaku Mumor
This is a spectacularly original album Jaku Mumor – an ethnomusicologist’s delight – is a mystical album of music with...
Catrin Finch Seckou Keita: Echo
A string gently caressed, somewhere between pizzicato and a curved legato seemingly played with soft flesh; a chord strummed on...
Berta Rojas: Legado
Even with a first spin of this recording Legado one wonders who but Berta Rojas could have played this music...
Artist Profile: Nella
Nella Rojas, or simply Nella, is a new voice hailing from the Venezuelan Island of Margarita Born in Venezuela, Nella...
Artist Profile: Salif Keita
Rail Band of the Train Station Hotel, Ambassadeurs of the Motel of Bamako, Ambassadeurs Internationaux, and lately, Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux: so many bands that...
Artist Profile: Alex Cuba
Alex Cuba is a Latin Grammy/Juno winner, singer-songwriter who is not tied to tradition; Alex has a vast musical vision....
Albums9 years ago
Isabel Bayrakdarian – Ravel, Sayat-Nova & Kradjian: Troubadour and the Nightingale
Albums8 years ago
Banda Magda Presents: Yerakina
Interviews9 years ago
Conversation with Chris McKhool from Sultans of String
Albums9 years ago
A Fascination With “Bombay”: Richard Bennett; Bombay Dub Orchestra