Debussy: Préludes, Book 1; Préludes, Book 2; Estampes; Deux arabesques; Pour le piano; Masques; L’isle joyeuse; Images oubliées

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Préludes, Book 1; Préludes, Book 2; Estampes; Deux arabesques; Pour le piano; Masques; L’isle joyeuse; Images oubliées
PERFORMER: Préludes, Bks 1 & 2; Estampes; Deux arabesques; Pour le piano; Masques; L’isle joyeuse; Images oubliées, etc; Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 452 022-2 DDD
In the limited-edition interview disc that accompanies this well-filled two-disc set, Jean-Yves Thibaudet cites the exploration of colour and use of the pedals as being two of the prime considerations in performing Debussy’s piano music. True to his words, Thibaudet extracts an almost unprecedented range of timbres, with harmonies often being allowed to merge most intoxicatingly. It is not a matter of Thibaudet simply slamming his foot down but rather his judicious handling of half-pedallings and the third pedal coupled with a virtually obsessive attention to the minutiae of the score.

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Thibaudet’s punctiliousness and ability to evoke an aural kaleidoscope provide countless magical moments, but the larger-scale ebb and flow of tempi are more problematical. Phrases are not always imbued with the insouciance necessary for so much of this music. However, while preventing an unqualified recommendation, this occasional inhibition (which I do not recall being a feature of Thibaudet’s concert performances) is far from rife. Although Decca should be commended for squeezing so much great music into a single set, I can’t help thinking that acknowledging the designer of Thibaudet’s clothes in the booklet suggests a little too much concern for image at the expense of the Images. Christopher Dingle