This is one of the better offerings for Debussy’s 150th anniversary. Having already recorded Chabrier, Ravel and Messiaen, it should come as no surprise that Angela Hewitt is a remarkably fine Debussy pianist. This generously filled disc finds Hewitt utterly persuasive in the three suites at its heart. The wilful nonchalance of Children’s Corner is superseded by the perfumed world of the Suite bergamasque and the refined beauty of Pour le piano. Hyperion captures the sound marvellously.
Hewitt has the knack of noticing details without letting them detract from the musical flow. After the initial flourish of the ‘Prélude’ from Pour le piano, she maintains a magical hush as a rising motif strains at the leash, eventually breaking free. Such is the naturalness of her playing that it is surprising when a moment such as the end of the ‘Danse’ is not entirely convincing (a poor edit at the end of Children’s Corner is even more surprising). The second Arabesque might have a little more impetus, but the dreamy episode shortly before the end is breathtaking, and these tiny caveats are quickly forgotten.
Special mention should be made of ‘Clair de lune’: it is quite an achievement for its lyrical beauty to be heard afresh. And the exultant final pages of L’isle joyeuse provide a climax not just for the work, but the whole disc. After a decent pause, La plus que lente makes a sublime encore.