Claude Debussy, who died 100 years ago in March 1918, is one of history's greatest composers and the most influential of all French composers. A father of modern music, Debussy lived in the early days of the recording era.
Achille-Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel were the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, although Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed. Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent use of nontraditional tonalities. The prominent French literary style of his period was known as Symbolism, and this movement directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.
Debussy Centenary Discoveries offers new insights into a captivating, inventive and influential musical genius. Each recording on these 3-CDs is in some way a first: Chanson des brises and Diane aux bois make their debut appearance in any form; the unfinished opera La Chute de la Maison Usher is heard just as Debussy left it; the Chansons de Charles d'Orléans appear in their original version, while Debussy's transcriptions of his own Jeux and Khamma, and of works by Schumann, Raff and Saint-Saëns, are also new to the catalogue. Pianists Philippe Cassard and Jean-Pierre Armengaud are among the musicians who lead this fascinating voyage of discovery.
This stunning and generous collection belongs right at the top of the heap in its respective repertoire. The Debussy is still a comparative rarity in concert if not on disc, a remarkable fact given that it's wholly gorgeous from first note to last. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's excellence as a Debussy pianist already has been acknowledged by just about everyone who has heard him, and needs no further advertisement here. The performance is outstanding, sensitive to every nuance, but also very French in its clear-eyed sensibility and understanding that focused rhythm and supple tempos prevent the music from turning excessively sentimental or blandly pretty. And in Tortelier, Bavouzet has a conductor who seconds him every step of the way. A similar sensibility informs these swift, razor-sharp, and utterly thrilling accounts of the two Ravel concertos. That for the left hand seldom has sounded so exciting, or in its jazzy central march section, so sinister. Listen to the bite that both soloist and orchestra bring to that descending scale theme, and notice the way Bavouzet shapes his cadenza so as to preserve the illusion of multiple parts played by multiple hands–all without slowing down at the tough passages. It's really an amazing performance by any standard. Even the dark opening, often merely murky on other recordings, has shape and urgency, the buildup to the initial entry of the piano creating incredible tension.
These classic performances belong in the collection of anyone who cares about Debussy's piano music. Certain creators and re-creators become synonymous. Beethoven and Schnabel, Chopin and Rubinstein at once spring to mind. Yet in the entire history of performance I doubt whether there has ever existed a more subtle or golden thread than that between Debussy and Demus. French jibes about the reduction of Debussy’s clarity to a charming but essentially decorative opalescence are little more than the bitter fruit of envy, of an exclusivity, that finds an Фгыекшфт pianist’s supreme mastery of their greatest composer’s elusive heart and idiom hard to stomach.