Debussy: Piano Music, Vol. 3

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WORKS: Piano Music, Vol. 5: Suite bergamasque; Pour le piano; Nocturne; Ballade (Slave); Rêverie etc
PERFORMER: Noriko Ogawa (piano)

Anyone familiar with Noriko Ogawa’s Debussy cycle may experience a sense of déjà vu on listening to this fifth volume. The extremely leisurely opening to the Arabesque No. 1 has much the same spirit and sound as the beautiful performance of Reflets dans l’eau from the start of the first volume of the series. It turns out that this is not so surprising as they were actually recorded the same year, this latest disc being recorded way back in January 2000.
Apparently the reason for the lengthy delay was a desire to release the larger cycles first. Ogawa is an exceptionally fine advocate for this music; as with volume one, the piano sound is gorgeous. Her playing is never less than sensitive and beautiful, the melting texture she extracts at the end of the Suite bergamasque’s ‘Passepied’ being just one of myriad exquisite moments. Ogawa’s sense of colour combines with clarity of line and a genial charm that brings alive not only the better known works, such as Pour le piano and the Suite bergamasque, but also less characteristic pieces such as the Danse bohémienne.
Ogawa’s approach to the First Arabesque is initially disconcerting in its languor. She appears to apply the tempo marking differently to most pianists, but with equal justification. Whether the same can be said for the placement of the returning theme at the end of the Arabesque No. 2 is more questionable. Nonetheless, these are small caveats in another enjoyable contribution to a very strong cycle. Christopher Dingle