Debussy: Preludes Book 1; Images Sets 1 & 2

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WORKS: Preludes Book 1; Images Sets 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Paul Crossley (piano)
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.


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