Debussy: L'Isle joyeuse; Images Book I; Etudes Book II; Estampes
Debussy’s manuscripts are at one with his passion for Japanese art: the notes are small, delicate, perfectly placed, a whole page shaped and controlled with exquisite taste. In such a world, nuance plays a vital role. In the first book of Images, Nelson Goerner responds infallibly to the composer’s demands. His technically secure playing displays a real feeling for the pieces’ ever-changing colours and for the logic leading one phrase into another, his tiny rhythmic adjustments never disrupting the flow.
Had the rest of the disc been of this standard, it would have been a really special recording. Although Goerner’s technique remains superb throughout, however, I have two areas of reservation, one subjective, one objective. In ‘La soirée dans Grenade’ he is generous with his pedalling, to the detriment of the acerbic wit that marks this piece as a typically French take on the Spaniards and their ways. Likewise, in the study ‘Pour les agréments’, I would like cleaner textures that respect the passage of the harmonies.
My objective reservation concerns missing notes (or, in ‘Pour les notes répétées’, extra ones). Near the end of ‘Pour les degrés chromatiques’ the G is missing from the fourth dyad in a set of five A/G dyads; its absence is highly disconcerting. And there is another missing note in ‘Pour les accords’. A great pity.