Debussy Préludes, Book I; Satie Gnossiennes; Gymnopédies
Fazil Say (piano)
Warner Classics 9029570567 65:48 mins
Some 60 years ago there were critics who relished Toscanini’s moans in La bohème as indicating emotional involvement. Perhaps they did, but I confess to being one of those who would rather have been without them. I can’t say that Fazil Say’s moans, fairly generously distributed throughout this disc, destroy his interpretations, because sadly so much else is at fault.
Say is one of those performers who feel free to say to themselves, ‘Well, I know Debussy wrote a diminuendo here, but I prefer a crescendo; and here he writes “en animant”, but I shall slow down.’ Add to these factors a cavalier way with pedalling (at the end of ‘Voiles’, the pedal is plainly marked to be released leaving the major third stranded), with the length of rests and with tempos (‘Minstrels’ is preposterously slow), and I begin to fear something on the lines of an ‘anniversary curse’, promoting a bandwagon that attracts performers who may not be wholly sympathetic to the composer in question. The Satie pieces come over slightly better, though there is no case for ignoring the difference between the sharply contrasted dynamics in the first two Gymnopédies and the hairpins in the third one. In one or two places the editing has been inelegant, with one particularly clumsy moment in bar 37 of the first Gymnopédie.