Clair de Lune: Works by Debussy, Fauré & Ravel

Menahem Pressler (DG)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CD_4798756_Debussy_cmyk

Clair de Lune Debussy: Arabesque No. 1; Rêverie; Clair de lune; The Little Shepherd; La plus que lente; Danseuses de Delphes; Voiles; La fille aux cheveux de lin; La cathédrale engloutie; Minstrels. Fauré: Barcarolle No. 6 in E flat. Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte; Oiseaux tristes
Menahem Pressler (piano)
DG4798756 66:51 mins

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Menahem Pressler is 94. This is not immaterial in considering his latest CD release. Having spent decades as pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio, Pressler has, since its disbandment, reinvented himself as a soloist to remarkable effect, and it is perhaps no wonder that he’s being regarded by some as rather a living saint. But can that really be justified?

Well, partly – because there are qualities in this chocolate-box recording of French piano pieces that would be hard for anyone else to match. The playing is neither consistent nor perfect, and the selection of music is mostly rather slow. But moments such as the opening of the Fauré Sixth Barcarolle, the articulation of the first line of Ravel’s ‘Oiseux Tristes’, or the voicing of the bells within Debussy’s drowned cathedral, are breathtakingly gorgeous. There’s an overwhelming sense of love, generosity and profound empathy for this music, delivered with a deep, luminous, cushioned tone and conveying a unique radiance of spirit. The recorded sound is absolutely superb and a fine complement to Pressler’s spaciousness of concept and attention to detail. If here and there one comes across unevenness, excessively slow tempo or an odd choice of articulation (the opening  of ‘Danseuses de Delphes’, for instance, or the inner lines of the Ravel Pavane), then one might, on balance, reasonably accept that for the sake of the greater whole. The disc is dedicated to Annabelle Weidenfeld (long ago, the companion of the octogenarian Arthur Rubinstein) for her ‘love and support’ and again, if that leads to some strange packaging, so be it.

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Jessica Duchen