Debussy: Preludes Book 1; Images Sets 1 & 2

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Preludes Book 1; Images Sets 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Paul Crossley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 52583 DDD
The mellow breadth, the sense of space and calm about the playing of Danseuses de Delphes, the first prelude, sets you at ease. With a fine ringing tone, Crossley’s playing is in its element in the majestic emergence of La cathédrale engloutie and in the measured rippling gestures and single Massenet-like outburst of Reflets dans l’eau at the outset of the Images. This prevailing character, recorded in a warm but not over-resonant acoustic, makes the performances easy to take in repeated hearings: the pianist never gets in the way. But with other pieces that isn’t a positive quality. There’s a lack of spark. The sons et parfums of the fourth prelude don’t impinge directly on the nerve-endings. Des pas sur la neige is lyrical and a little solitary, not isolated and pained.

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Crossley seems to stand well back from the expressive edge. Clearlyhe hears the ‘savage parade of instincts’, to quote his typically thoughtful and illuminating notein the booklet; it just doesn’t come through the keys. Maybe it has something to do with reducing Debussy’s ambition, which was to represent ‘life itself’, to depicting what Crossley calls ‘[Debussy’s] own inner movements’. Of all composers, surely he is the one most likely to find what is goingon out there a hundred times more dangerous and exciting than the contemplation of his navel.Robert Maycock