Debussy: Piano music, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Piano music, Vol. 4: 12 Études
PERFORMER: Pascal Rogé (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Onyx 4056

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After Roger Nichols’s coruscating diatribe in these pages prompted by Pascal Rogé’s recent Poètes du Piano collection, I wish I could say that this new Debussy disc is an impressive riposte. Unfortunately that is not possible, for this falls some way short of both the music and the competition.

As with the other discs in this complete Debussy survey, Rogé draws some lovely sounds from the piano. There are some mildly cheeky moments, but there’s little to ruffle the nice and relaxed atmosphere.

It is not necessary to believe there is only one true way to the heart of this music to feel that Rogé’s soft-focus, pastel-shaded, easy-listening approach is a one-dimensional portrayal of Debussy’s art.

In a richer interpretation, Rogé’s exceptionally slow readings of ‘Pour les agréments’ and ‘pour les sonorities opposées’ might seem daring; but, with the edges knocked off the spikier Etudes, they come across as merely self-indulgent.

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The climaxes to the more exuberant pieces, such as ‘pour les octaves’ and ‘pour les accords’, are distinctly underwhelming. These are no mere exercises, but extraordinarily rich and varied pieces. If you need any convincing, try listening to Mitsuko Uchida’s classic account (Philips). Or Aimard… or Ogawa… or Bavouzet… or Pollini… Christopher Dingle