Debussy: Estampes; Images; Masques; D’un cahier d’esquisses; L’isle joyeuse

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi Les nouveaux interprtes
WORKS: Estampes; Images; Masques; D’un cahier d’esquisses; L’isle joyeuse
PERFORMER: Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMN 911717
This is a remarkable debut disc by a 25-year-old pianist who in 1998 won the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition. The finest Estampes and Images on disc were recorded more than 20 years ago by Paul Jacobs (still available on Nonesuch). Jacobs was unbelievably sensitive to nuance, with lightning nervous responses. He was more volatile than this newcomer, who takes ‘Pagodes’ and ‘La soirée dans Grenade’ a good deal more steadily. Whereas Jacobs could drive you mad with his subtlety, Tiberghien has a deep sense of calm, as if he is considering the music at a slight distance.

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Yet he is also a sensuous player, and ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ (Estampes), ‘Mouvement’ (Images I) and ‘Poissons d’or’ (Images II) are thrilling for their brilliant articulation and gleaming sound quality. The recording is luminous, too. Jacobs remains indispensable, but because of the brighter, more transparent recording, Tiberghien’s disc establishes a new benchmark, especially since it includes an outstandingly wise performance of that miniature tone poem L’isle joyeuse. Arguably Debussy’s greatest single piano piece, it’s also a series of technical hurdles which have to be cleared in a spirit of heady elation, without apparent strain. That is just what Tiberghien accomplishes.