Franck’s Piano Quintet and Debussy’s String Quartet make an apt and unusual coupling, each work its composer’s only, unsurpassable, contribution to the genre. Both receive authoritative performances from Marc-André Hamelin and the Takács Quartet.
Pianist Marita Viitasalo’s solo album on Ondine is a program focused on works by Claude Debussy (1862–1918). Préludes, Book II was composed during 1912–13 and represent the composer’s late style. Suite bergamasque, published in 1905, is one of the most well-known pieces in classic piano literature. It inclundes Claire de lune, possibly Debussy’s most famous piano piece. Marita Viitasalo studied first under Professor Timo Mikkilä in Helsinki. She continued her studies in Rome (Rodolfo Caporali) and in Vienna (Dieter Weber). Viitasalo is award-winning concert pianist and respected accompanist who has performed, among others, in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, London, Edinburgh and New York.
This Pierian CD, advertised in the May 2012 Naxos catalog as an “also available” disc, is the label’s first issue from 2000 featuring the complete recordings of Debussy as pianist. All of his records were made in two sessions, a series of four short 78-rpm sides with soprano Mary Garden (his first Mélisande) at the Paris G&T studio in 1904 and 14 Welte-Mignon piano rolls recorded on November 11, 1913. Both are famous groups of recordings, restored and reissued over the decades, but this release is the best I’ve ever heard them.
The listener may be forgiven for not knowing that any Debussy "Edgar Allan Poe Operas" existed, for neither of the works recorded here was ever completed. Moreover, and you don't learn this unless you read the notes or have investigated for yourself, one of them was hardly begun. After the success of Pelléas et Mélisande in New York, Debussy was encouraged to adapt a pair of Poe's short stories for a new American production. Debussy needed little encouragement and quickly produced a pair of scenarios, but other projects intervened, and the operas were never finished. The more complete one is La chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher), for which there are substantial sketches and several full realizations including the one here by "creative musicologist" Robert Orledge.
Steven Osborne has already made a name for himself in French music with a disc of Alkan and a profoundly moving performance of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards. Here he reaches between those two to tackle one of the pinnacles of the piano repertoire—Debussy’s two books of Préludes. These works have been central to Steven’s repertoire for many years and he brings them to the studio after many public performances and much reflection. He has worked from the most up-to-date Urtext edition which clarifies Debussy’s thought in many places, particularly with regard to tempo relationships within La cathédrale engloutie and a missing bar in Les tierces alternées. In a crowded field Osborne need fear no comparisons: the pianism is exquisite and the interpretations are of a rare depth and subtlety—a recording to rival the very best!
Of the compilations released to mark the 150th anniversary of Claude Debussy's birth this year, this is the most treasurable. As a survey of the music of perhaps of the greatest 20th-century composer it could hardly be bettered, especially within recordings from a single label, or rather, a single group of labels, for as well as Deutsche Grammophon recordings it also includes material from Philips and Decca, which are all now part of the Universal stable.
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.
Two books of Debussy’s piano preludes were composed in 1910 and 1913, respectively. Unlike similar opuses by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and others, they had no tonal sequence, and each piece was conceived as an individual work. In whole, the cycle is a sort of concise encyclopedia of the great French composer’s music with its fanciful and sophisticated, but so imperceptibly attractive combination of romanticism and impressionism, centuries-old traditions of piano music and cultural paradoxes of the 20th century. The titles Debussy gave to each of the preludes (they are sooner poetic metaphors) are put in the end rather than in the beginning of the notes and not intended to impose a certain character on the listener. Instead, they seem to ask riddles as if they check whether the mood of a piece is caught correctly. Debussy’s preludes found a fine and thoughtful interpreter in the person of Alexei Lyubimov.