Francesco Piemontesi plays Debussy

'In a crowded field with many classic performances, Piemontesi brings a new perspective'

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Préludes, Books 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Francesco Piemontesi (piano)


You may not like this. If you think the score is a comprehensive set of closed instructions to the performer or if you subscribe to the view that there is one true way to perform Debussy’s Préludes, you will find all sorts of things here that deviate from that path. Francesco Piemontesi recalls his teacher, Cécile Ousset, showing him the copy of the Préludes that belonged to her teacher, Marcel Ciampi, its pages thick with annotations, including some in Debussy’s hand. He cites a lot of detail, and, like the majority of recent accounts, Piemontesi’s performance is based on Durand’s scholarly edition. His playing, though, is neither finicky nor a dryly literal playback of the score, but using both types of evidence as a springboard for an original and convincing approach.

La cathédrale engloutie is a case in point, for Piemontesi’s conception of building the texture essentially sidesteps any debate about how Debussy’s idiosyncratic notation should be understood. As with deliciously insouciant lingering in the preceding La sérénade interrompue, it is surprising, yet seems absolutely right. Without resorting to mannerism, Piemontesi is hard to predict, remaining steady in the opening Danseuses de Delphes yet bringing a breezy lyricism to La fille aux cheveux de lin. Defying the slightly constricted recorded sound, he has the deftness of touch to create the necessary colours for Feux d’artifices or the half-shadings of Brouillards. In a crowded field with many classic performances, Piemontesi brings a new perspective.


Christopher Dingle