Debussy: Préludes, Book 1; Preludes, Book 2; Children’s Corner; La plus que lente,

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Préludes, Book 1; Preludes, Book 2; Children’s Corner; La plus que lente,
PERFORMER: Zoltán Kocsis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 456 568-2
Debussy’s two books of Préludes created a new perception of the piano, and of music itself, and here is a recording which reveals their diversity and depth to an overwhelming degree. Kocsis is one of the most sophisticated and perceptive pianists before the public today; his playing has an intensity and sensuous elegance at the service of the most vivid imagination – you wouldn’t think it possible to recreate a hackneyed piece like ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’ with such freedom and freshness; to discover in ‘Des pas sur la neige’ such a bewildering sense of the unknown, making you hang on each step. As Mendelssohn said, music is too precise for words, and just as Debussy insisted on putting his titles at the end of each piece, like an afterthought, Kocsis evokes images and descriptions which defy description. He rounds off the second book – by consensus, not quite so inspired as the first – with a show of dazzling pyrotechnics in ‘Feux d’artifice’, then follows up with a series of individual pieces, many early, among which I would single out his performances of La plus que lente, Nocturne and Le petit nègre for stylishness, and Danse (‘Tarantelle styrienne’) for effortless brilliance. Adrian Jack