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Debussy: Preludes Books 1 & 2

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 9, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Passion that is undoubtedly the word that best sums up Pierre-Laurent Aimards attitude to Debussys Preludes. A clear delight can be read in his features, and it also finds expression in his words as he talks about how ideally realised these pieces are, how indefinable and divorced from all rules and norms. At the same time they are very demanding and very rich. They are wonderful labyrinths in sound. The idea of recording them came to him only slowly. He felt no overwhelming need to do so, but a desire to record them gradually imposed itself upon him.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard can never tire of talking about the Preludes. For him, they evoke above all exceptional memories of pianists of the past who played them in such marvellous ways. In his eyes, this is also music that is infinitely colourful and infinitely orchestral in character, requiring the interpreter to conjure up all the instruments of the orchestra. Aimard praises the power of Debussys sonic imagination. It is an imagination that stimulates our own. Our fingers exist to recreate this marvellous realm of fancy.

The Preludes, he believes, also appeal in large part to the intuition. Almost humbly, he insists that they do not demand any great degree of virtuosity. Technique is necessary only to produce the different kinds of tone colours, he says, stressing the cultural context of these pieces. Debussy was a man supremely well versed in the arts, for which he clearly had a permanent thirst. And I think that one can give a lot more to each piece if one tries to understand the sort of artistic environment in which the composer lived.

For Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the Preludes are a reflection of what Debussy saw and read and felt. But they are also reactions to poetic texts. Or else they reveal him amusing himself with literary or historical figures or sights he may have seen. It is a way of distilling moments of life as seen through different filters. Here lies one of the difficulties of this music. Sometimes we know the sources, which may even be very obvious. But at other times it's not clear at all, so we do not know exactly where Debussy is leading us, and this was no doubt intentional. He transforms what inspired him. He was a very secretive man, very turned in on himself, Aimard explains, emphasising just how demanding Debussys music is. And yet it is not necessarily demanding for its listeners. For the latter, Aimard believes, this is above all music that affords pleasure pleasure of both great subtlety and great profundity.

Review

Some of Aimards very first musical memories are of being "overwhelmed at hearing Debussys music... --Record Review / Tom Huizenga, NPR (Washington) / 22. August 2012

It is always a pleasure to hear an outstanding native player in these pillars of the French piano repertoire. With his brisk but never breathless tempi, Aimard fits all 24 of the Preludes onto a generously filled disc . . . his superbly controlled crescendos evoke the edifice rising majestically out of deep. He relishes the jazzy syncopations of the cake-walk numbers, while the watery cascades of Ondine and the sparkling explosions of Feux d artifice scintillate in his hands. --Record Review / Hugh Canning, The Daily Telegraph (London) / 09. September 2012
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 9, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • Run Time: 4786 seconds
  • ASIN: B0085T1SCC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,727 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Adrian on October 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD
I must mention that this CD represents my first encounter with Pierre-Laurent Aimard's craftsmanship. I've never listen to him either in the concert hall, or on his praised recordings. His fame of brilliant technician of the keyboard with a special appetite for contemporary music preceded this encounter and raised the bar of expectations very high. There is one more reason I opted for this recording: when it comes to French music I prefer a French interpreter. This could be a mere preconception, but I think that the French piano school can offer a better understanding of Saint Saens, Debussy, Ravel, Severac, Satie, Messiaen et comp... The tradition of the French piano school - in my opinion - is utterly valuated in playing on small entities, in finesse of the detail, in all those impressions conjured up from the keyboard, so appropriate to the music of the first decades of the XXth century.

It is the case here, as Aimard approaches in a very personal manner to Debussy's two books of Preludes. It is a robust amount of musicianship required for one to convey all the facets of such a music. If the interpreter is in no sympathy with it the result can be annoying and very far from what one could expect from it and what it was intended as. Aimard goes on the direction of exploiting each detail of the score, articulates firmly on the keyboard, converses with the composer in a dignified manner. Pierre-Laurent reminds us that the interpreter, as the composer himself, is in a comparable way responsible for the final result of a work, for what is heard by and is transmitted to the listener. Maybe Nelson Freire Freire's version of the first book of Preludes is a warmer one, maybe Maurizio Pollini's architectural vision of the same scores is a more sober one...
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I'm not an expert on classical music but I love Debussy. This is an excellent set and very well recorded. I can't help but remark on how FRENCH looking Aimard is in the cover photo. There are a lot of excellent Debussy sets out there though perhaps not so many that limit themselves to the Preludes. I always liked Peter Frankl's though I suppose it is no longer available. I won't try to rate them, but this one has the advantage of up to date sound. You really get a feeling for the splendor of Aimard's piano, the beauty of tone and the dynamics.
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His playing is superb but it was over-shadowed by his very loud - and in some cases way too often - inhaling. a real shame. Ruined The Sunken Cathedral for me.
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