LABELS: Piano Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Hubert Rutkowski Performs Debussy: Early Piano Works
WORKS: Nocturne; Suite bergamasque; Rêverie; Arabesques Nos 1 & 2; Ballade; Danse bohémienne; Valse romantique; Images oubliées; Sarabande; Mazurka
PERFORMER: Hubert Rutkowski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PCL 0091
Playing Debussy’s early piano music on an 1880 Erard has some justification, in that this would have been the make he played as a Conservatoire student. But although he did play Erards from time to time thereafter, among French pianos he favoured Pleyels. In his very detailed note Hubert Rutkowski notes the contribution of the Erard’s ‘aliquot’ resonating strings, as found also on Debussy’s Blüthner, but sadly here, in the louder, fuller passages, this feature – partly due to a close microphone placing – frequently contributes to an unacceptable harmonic jumble. Also the case for any ‘historical’ piano performance is further weakened by the fact that Debussy always preferred new pianos.
Rutkowski has a splendid technique and the lighter passages can bring a smile to the lips, as with his delightfully crisp ornaments in the second Arabesque. But he is too cavalier with the composer’s instructions. The first five bars of the Mazurka, for example, begin with a staccato quaver in the left hand followed by a quaver rest; how can one justify pedalling through these? Elsewhere piano and pianissimo markings are routinely ignored. Listeners should also note that in the three 1894 Images the positions of the last two have been interchanged. Roger Nichols