WORKS: Préludes, Book 1; Preludes, Book 2; Fantaisie for piano & orchestra
PERFORMER: Jean-Rodolphe Kars (piano); LSO/Alexander Gibson
CATALOGUE NO: 468 552-2 ADD Reissue (1968-71)
The Debussy Préludes were recorded in 1970-71 and the sound is weak and muddy. Which pretty well disqualifies this reissue because the playing, though scrupulously controlled, is mostly dull and lifeless. ‘Feux d’artifice’, for some reason, is an exception, and precisely etched, and Kars does pack a punch in ‘Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest’. But evocative qualities are hardly evident elsewhere, as if Debussy’s musical language were long since dead, his scores a cryptic text to be revered but hardly understood.
Oddly enough, Kars comes to life in Messiaen (he won the Messiaen Competition at Royan in 1968, the year the last three tracks here were recorded) and he dances through the crazy ‘Regard de l’esprit de joie’ from Vingt regards with real fervour and energy. He also sounds completely at home in the naturalistic landscape of ‘Le merle bleu’. The Messiaen recordings are much clearer and brighter than the Debussy, for which my benchmark is the matchlessly acute Paul Jacobs. Adrian Jack