Debussy is a composer that I have enjoyed playing far more than listening to. But then, you have to have a serious mood disorder not to relish practising something like Jardins sous la pluie.
Recently, though, I find myself listening to the later works – the violin and cello sonatas, and the études. I'm struck by the degree to which Debussy has left behind the world of romantic music and is forging a whole new idiom. This new appreciation was fuelled in no small measure by the playing of Monique Haas, a pianist born and steeped in the gallic idiom, but also by Noriko Ogawa, who seems to come to the music unhindered by the accumulated 'lore' of Debussy playing. Like Haas, she plays clean and cool rather than smudgy and schmaltzy.
This is a live recording of the études, taken at a concert in Wigmore Hall, London, in 2012. I appreciate the degree to which the individual pieces seem to knit together here, resonating back and forth, revealing a broader picture, a sense of the whole.
And you get an encore: Takemitsu's last piano piece, which he wrote in memory of Olivier Messiaen: the second rain tree sketch. Almost too perfect a choice.
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