Debussy: En blanc et noir; Petite suite; Nocturnes (transcr. Ravel); Six épigraphes antiques; Lindaraja

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: En blanc et noir; Petite suite; Nocturnes (transcr. Ravel); Six épigraphes antiques; Lindaraja
PERFORMER: Katia & Marielle Labèque (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 454 471-2
The music for two pianists, overlooked to a surprising extent, reflects many aspects of Debussy’s output. It’s not a glamorous medium, but he gave it original and appealing sonorities, from the fluent domestic charm of the Petite suite to the more exploratory and discomforting En blanc et noir. The Labèques bring care for balance to textures that can easily turn dense, and a rhythmic ease that escapes the tyranny of the beat with buoyancy, pace and a light dynamic hand.

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The booklet does not say what instruments are used, but either they are notably soft-toned or the players treat them with rare subtlety of touch. They can float a melody over a quick accompaniment without having to highlight it, and take Ravel’s transcription of ‘Fêtes’ (from the Nocturnes) – with its typically ingenious pianistic solution for the score’s rapidly repeated notes – well up to orchestral speed. Then, with

the Épigraphes, they find an opposite answer for music that often skates elusively by: an unusual breadth, so that the lines can sing out or reach their full melancholy potential.

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Robert Maycock