Debussy: Pour le piano; Images

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Pour le piano; Images
PERFORMER: Boris Berman (piano)
These two discs of Debussy piano music are both beautifully played and each has plenty to offer the listener. At 70 minutes, Boris Berman’s offers 12 minutes more than Georges Pludermacher’s; each contains rarities alongside more familiar fare, and the common ground between them, the two sets of Images, are played very differently, but are both sensitive and convincing. Pludermacher’s is the more brilliant in sound and fingerwork – his ‘Mouvement’ in the first set of Images is especially memorable and his rendering of the three portraits of Estampes is outstanding, with rich characterisation and a delicious combination of sensuality and clarity. Berman’s musicality is darker and more inward; he has an exquisite sense of ebb and flow in the rubatos of ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ and of foreground and background activity playing and shifting in ‘Mouvement’. The short pieces which complete Berman’s disc are rarely heard and the Six épigraphes antiques give a significant glimpse into the mythical and exotic aspects of Debussy’s music; personally I found the Images oubliées on the Pludermacher disc less memorable. It is interesting to hear them, however. They went unpublished until 1977; the second is an early version of the sarabande from Pour le piano (a set offered on the other CD) and the third, extraordinarily entitled ‘Quelques aspects de “Nous n’irons plus au bois” parce qu’il fait un temps insupportable’, seems to foreshadow ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ of Estampes. Jessica Duchen