Debussy: Children’s Corner; Images, Book 1; Images, Book 2; Préludes, Book 1

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Memoria
WORKS: Children’s Corner; Images, Book 1; Images, Book 2; Préludes, Book 1
PERFORMER: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999.101 ADD
Michelangeli was a musical superstar in the Horowitz mould, a byword for wilfulness and eccentricity, renowned for his disconcerting habit of cancelling recitals at the last moment but acclaimed for his prodigious musical talent. He was rare among Italian pianists of his generation in achieving international fame, and his comeback some time after collapsing at a concert in 1988 was something of a miracle.

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The present recital, given in Hamburg in May 1993, was his last public appearance, but these discs, important though they are historically, should come with a record company health warning. The recordings were made by a member of the audience, and his amateur status is manifest in the mediocre sound, with its attendant clattering, breathing, foot-scraping and corps de ballet-type thudding – all helped along by lavish audience coughing and the occasional muffled humming of Michelangeli himself.

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If you want these discs as a historic document you may well be prepared to tolerate this. If not, all the pieces are available in earlier studio recordings Michelangeli made for DG – no less gripping, just as idiosyncratic, and with sound in a different class. Wadham Sutton