LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Debussy
WORKS: Images oubliées (1894); Estampes; Six épigraphes antiques (trans. piano); Berceuse héroïque; Nocturne; Pour le piano; La plus que lente etc
PERFORMER: Alain Planès (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901947-48
With this two-disc set Alain Planès completes his survey of Debussy’s solo piano music. It is an ideal final instalment in that it typifies the erratic nature of this curious series which has been spread across the best part of a decade. For one thing, whereas earlier volumes have used Bechsteins dating from Debussy’s time, for this was the composer’s preferred make of piano, Planès has now switched to an undated Steinway. The rich, warm recorded sound is initially attractive, but it is an indulgence that soon frustrates as details become lost in a woolly mush. Relatively sedate vignettes, such as the ‘Nocturne’, suffer as much as the rapid-fire antics of ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ from ‘Estampes’ or the ‘Prélude’ from Pour le piano.
The performances here generally show Planès at his best, charming in the solo piano transcription of the Six épigraphes antiques, and capricious in the Danse (originally published as Tarentelle styrienne). He is genial in the Mazurka and the uneasy stillness of ‘Pour que la nuit soit propice’ is exquisite. Nothing is out of place, but there are few revelations, little that marks this out from the considerable competition. For once, Gieseking (EMI) is only partially instructive, for he did not record many of these works, but the comparison is almost cruel in Pour le piano. Noriko Ogawa (BIS) has greater poise in what Planès calls the Images inédites and everyone else calls Images oubliées, and her vivid control of timbre in Estampes leaves Planès sounding flat. Christopher Dingle