Live Classics’ Natalia Gutman “Portrait” series continues with a second volume documenting the cellist’s work from her early career up to the present. A 1967 German radio broadcast of the Debussy Cello Sonata stands out for Gutman’s warm, expansive tone and strong, fluid support from pianist Alexei Nassedkin. A few moments of uncertain intonation and less-than-centered articulation in the second movement’s opening pizzicatos are a small price to pay for fine overall ensemble values. Gutman shines in the declamatory, slow-motion passages that dominate the outer movements of Schnittke’s First Cello Sonata, and throws herself head first into the central Presto’s roller-coaster arpeggios and ruthless clusters. A gripping performance, this: every bit as authoritative as Alexander Ivashkin’s with the composer’s widow Irina Scnittke at the piano. She’s a more sensitive colorist than Gutman’s solid yet comparatively monochrome Vassily Lobanov.
"…Recommended with enormous pleasure. " ~sa-cd.net
Three 20th-century orchestral scores, Bartók’s Two Pictures, Debussy’s Jeux and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, all dating from 1910-13 and all linked (as the detailed CD booklet explains), are brought to life in the hands of two exceptional French pianists. The central interest is the ballet Jeux. One of the world’s outstanding Debussy interpreters, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has added to his complete Chandos recordings with his own transcription for two pianos. Written late in Debussy’s life for Nijinsky, Jeux involves an emotionally erotic and harmonically daring game of tennis. Bavouzet and his well-matched partner, François-Fréderic Guy, play with nimble grace, capturing the works wit and mystery. This gripping album is dedicated to Pierre Boulez, guru and enabler, for his 90th birthday.
More than ten years after the Art of Noise left Trevor Horn's ZTT label to record on their own, original members Anne Dudley and Paul Morley reunited with Horn plus 10cc's Lol Creme to record another LP, organized around the work of French modernist composer Claude Debussy. With a guest list including John Hurt as well as Rakim, the album charts the artistic use of sampled breakbeats – pioneered by the Art of Noise themselves – with nods to '80s hip-hop plus their '90s equivalent, drum'n'bass. Though the Art of Noise doesn't sound quite as brash as they did in their '80s prime, The Seduction of Claude Debussy is an interesting showcase of what made the group great.
Études are primarily intended as exercises to train musicians in specific techniques, but since the Romantic era they have become associated with other miniature forms, such as the prelude and the intermezzo, and frequently regarded as evocative character pieces or tonal pictures. Garrick Ohlsson's album of piano études by Claude Debussy, Sergey Prokofiev, and Béla Bartók offers a brief survey of the genre in modern practice, and demonstrates the blending of pedagogy and poetry in these works. Ohlsson has become internationally known as an exquisite interpreter of the music of Frédéric Chopin, and much of the subtlety and atmosphere found in his previous recordings is present here. Ohlsson's finesse and humor are perhaps most evident in Debussy's Études, L. 143, which have a lighter character than Prokofiev's Études, Op. 2, which tend toward the sardonic side, and Bartók's Études, Op. 18, which are intensely virtuosic and mysterious. Hyperion's recording captures the nuances of Ohlsson's playing, and the piano is close enough to hear every detail, while the acoustics lend it a pleasant natural aura.
In many ways, Debussy’s piano music finds its rightful home on the harp. Apart from the distinctive textural and colouristic elements in the writing itself, we have contemporary accounts of Debussy’s piano-playing that refer to his ability to make you forget a piano even had hammers. Of course, this doesn’t allow for dreamy, “impressionistic” interpretations; rather, it makes clarity and precision absolute imperatives – which qualities we find in abundance in this recital by Xavier de Maistre and friends.
Debussy's Études are really the only set that deserves to be put beside Chopin's. What makes them so special? Like his, they are truly "practice pieces," systematically exploring various aspects of keyboard technique. But at the same time, they are poetic works of art, full of fantasy, charm, and musical invention. Uchida's recording is almost universally regarded as the finest version of these works to appear in modern times. Her playing combines effortless virtuosity with pianistic precision, keeping the music's artistic and pedagogical tendencies in a state of exquisite tension. This disc also established Uchida's claim to be recognized as one of the most interesting and talented pianists now active. You need to hear it.
The great contribution of Robert Shaw to choral music has brought the listener to expect that nearly any recording or live performance under Shaw's direction will be thoroughly stunning, refreshing and performed with remarkable musical insight…