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Claude Debussy – The Complete Works For Piano (Gieseking) [1997])

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Claude Debussy – The Complete Works For Piano (Gieseking) [1997]

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Disc: 1
1. Préludes Book I: I. Danseuses de Delphes (Lent et grave) - Walter Gieseking
2. Préludes Book I: II. Voiles (Modéré) - Walter Gieseking
3. Préludes Book I: III. Le vent dans Ia plaine (Animé) - Walter Gieseking
4. Préludes Book I: IV. Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Modéré) - Walter Gieseking
5. Préludes Book I: V. Les collines d'Anacapri (Trés modéré) - Walter Gieseking
6. Préludes Book I: VI. Des pas sur la neige (Triste et lent) - Walter Gieseking
7. Préludes Book I: VII. Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest (Animé et tumultueux) - Walter Gieseking
8. Préludes Book I: VIII. La fille aux cheveux de lin (Trés calme et doucement expressif) - Walter Gieseking
9. Préludes Book I: IX. La sérénade interrompue (Modérément animé) - Walter Gieseking
10. Préludes Book I: X. La cathédrale engloutie (Profondément calme) - Walter Gieseking
11. Préludes Book I: Xl. La danse de Puck (Capricieux et léger) - Walter Gieseking
12. Préludes Book I: XII. Minstrels (Modéré) - Walter Gieseking
13. Préludes Book II: I. Brouillards (Modéré) - Walter Gieseking
14. Préludes Book II: II. Feuilles mortes (Lent et mélancolique) - Walter Gieseking
15. Préludes Book II: III. La Puerta del Vino (Mouvement de Habanera) - Walter Gieseking
16. Préludes Book II: IV. Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses (Rapide et léger) - Walter Gieseking
17. Préludes Book II: V. Bruyéres (Calme) - Walter Gieseking
18. Préludes Book II: VI. General Lavine - eccentric (Dans le style et le mouvement d'un Cakewalk) - Walter Gieseking
19. Préludes Book II: VII. Le terrasse des audiences du clair de lune (Lent) - Walter Gieseking
20. Préludes Book II: VIII. Ondine (Scherzando) - Walter Gieseking
21. Préludes Book II: IX. Hommage à S. Pickwick, Esq., P.P.M.P.C. (Grave) - Walter Gieseking
22. Préludes Book II: X. Canope (Trés calme et doucement triste) - Walter Gieseking
23. Préludes Book II: XI. Les tierces alternées (Modérément animé) - Walter Gieseking
24. Préludes Book II: XlI. Feux d'artifice (Modérément animé) - Walter Gieseking

Disc: 2
1. Pour le piano: I. Prélude (Assez anime et tres rythme) - C. Debussy
2. Pour le piano: II. Sarabande (Aved une elegance grave et lente) - C. Debussy
3. Pour le piano: III. Toccata (Vif) - C. Debussy
4. Estampes: I. Pagodes (Moderement anime) - C. Debussy
5. Estampes: II. La soirée dans Grenade (Mouvement de Habanera) - C. Debussy
6. Estampes: III. Jardins sous la pluie (Net et vif) - C. Debussy
7. Images, Set I: I. Reflets dans l'eau (Andantino molto) - C. Debussy
8. Images, Set I: II. Hommage à Rameau (Lent et grave) - C. Debussy
9. Images, Set I: III. Mouvement (Anime) - C. Debussy
10. Images, Set II: I. Cloches à travers les feuilles (Lent) - C. Debussy
11. Images, Set II: II. Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (Lent) - C. Debussy
12. Images, Set II: III. Poissons d'or (Anime) - C. Debussy
13. Children's Corner: I. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (Moderement anime) - C. Debussy
14. Children's Corner: II. Jimbo's Lullaby (Assez modere) - C. Debussy
15. Children's Corner: III. Serenade for the Doll (Allegretto ma non troppo) - C. Debussy
16. Children's Corner: IV. The Snow is Dancing (Moderement anime) - C. Debussy
17. Children's Corner: X. The Little Shepherd (Tres modere) - C. Debussy
18. Children's Corner: VI. Golliwogg's Cakewalk (Allegro giusto) - C. Debussy

Disc: 3
1. 12 Etudes: I. Pour les cinq doigts (d'apres Monsieur Czerny) (Sagement) - C. Debussy
2. 12 Etudes: II. Pour les tierces (Moderato, ma non troppo) - C. Debussy
3. 12 Etudes: III. Pour les quartes (Andantino com moto) - C. Debussy
4. 12 Etudes: IV. Pour les sixtes (Lento) - C. Debussy
5. 12 Etudes: V. Pour les octaves (Joyeaux et emporte, librement rythme) - C. Debussy
6. 12 Etudes: VI. Pour les huit doigts (Vivamente, molto leggiero e legato) - C. Debussy
7. 12 Etudes: VII. Pour les degrés chromatiques (Scherzando, animato assai) - C. Debussy
8. 12 Etudes: VIII. Pour les agréments (Lento, rubato e leggiero) - C. Debussy
9. 12 Etudes: IX. Pour les notes répétées (Scherzando) - C. Debussy
10. 12 Etudes: X. Pour les sonorités opposées (Modere, sans lenteur) - C. Debussy
11. 12 Etudes: XI. Pour les arpèges composés (Dolce e lusingando) - C. Debussy
12. 12 Etudes: XI. Pour les accords (Dedide, rythme, sans lourdeur) - C. Debussy
13. Masques (Tres vif et fantasque) - C. Debussy
14. D'un cahier d'esquisses (Tres lent-sans rigueur) - C. Debussy
15. L'Isle joyeuse (Quasi una cadenza - Tempo : Modere et tres souple) - C. Debussy
16. La plus que lente (Lent - Molto rubato con morbidezza) - C. Debussy
17. Le petit negre (Cakewalk. Allegro giusto) - C. Debussy
18. Berceuse heroique (Modere - sans lenteur) - C. Debussy
19. Hommage à Haydn (Mouvement de Valse lente) - C. Debussy

Disc: 4
1. Suite Bergamasque: I. Prélude (Moderato - tempo rubato) - C. Debussy
2. Suite Bergamasque: II. Meneut (Andantino) - C. Debussy
3. Suite Bergamasque: III. Clair de lune (Andante tres expressif) - C. Debussy
4. Suite Bergamasque: IV. Passepied (Allegretto ma non troppo) - C. Debussy
5. Danse bohémienne (Allegro) - C. Debussy
6. Rêverie (Andantino sans lenteur) - C. Debussy
7. Mazurka (Scherzando - assez anime) - C. Debussy
8. Valse romantique (Tempo di valse - Allegro moderato) - C. Debussy
9. Deux Arabesques: I. Andantino con moto - C. Debussy
10. Deux Arabesques: II. Allegretto scherzando - C. Debussy
11. Nocturne en re bemol majeur - in D flat - Des-dur - C. Debussy
12. Danse (Tarentelle styrienne) (Allegretto) - C. Debussy
13. Ballade (Andantino con moto) - C. Debussy
14. Fantaisie For Piano And Orchestra: I. Andante - Allegro - C. Debussy
15. Fantaisie For Piano And Orchestra: II. Lento e molto espressivo- - C. Debussy
16. Fantaisie For Piano And Orchestra: III. Allegro molto - C. Debussy

Walter Gieseking – piano

Recorded 1951-55 in London and 1951 in Frankfurt. Digitally remastered 1995.

 

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 Gieseking. 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 a German pianist's supreme mastery of their greatest composer's elusive heart and idiom hard to stomach.

Gieseking's insight and iridescence in Debussy are so compelling and hypnotic that they prompt either a book or a blank page — an unsatisfactory state where criticism or assessment is concerned! So let me, in the limited space available, shuttle from the general to the local or particular and vice versa. First and foremost, there is Gieseking's sonority, one of such delicacy and variety that it can complement Debussy's witty and ironic desire to write music "for an instrument without hammers", for a pantheistic art sufficiently suggestive to evoke and transcend the play of the elements themselves ("the wind, the sky, the sea ..."). Who but Gieseking could conjure such stillness in the closing bars of "Reflets dans l'eau" (Images, Book 1)? Here the ripples move outward from the centre, a haunting and mysterious memory of former hyperactivity (dans une sonorite harmonieuse et lointaine). From Gieseking "Des pas sur la neige" (Preludes, Book I) hints at an ultimate negation, of someone who can both poignantly and impassively regard "the nothing that is not and the nothing that is" — a true mind of winter. Lack of meticulousness seems a small price to pay for such an elemental uproar in "Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest", and Puck's elfin pulse and chatter (pp aerian) are caught with an uncanny deftness and precision. The final Debussian magic may not lie in a literal observance of the score, in the unfailing dotting and crossing of every objective and picturesque instruction, yet it is surely the start or foundation of a great performance. Listen to the start of "Canope" (Preludes, Book 2) and you will note Gieseking's fidelity to pianissimo, piano and hairpin decrescendo, piet piano, hairpin decrescendo and pianissimo, all within five bars, complemented by a finespun texturing of chords that penetrates to the very core of this mysterious, near minimalist utterance.

More domestically, no one (not even Cortot) has ever captured the sense in Children's Corner of a lost and enchanted land, of childhood reexperienced through adult tears and laughter. Gieseking's moderee in "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum" ensures that everything has time to 'tell' or signify. Here, Chouchou is presented as a serious little girl concerned with playing beautifully rather than getting through her practice as soon as possible. "Jimbo's lullaby", too, is no mere heavyweight, but a wistful animal lost in reflection (his lot as a woollen rather than a real elephant, perhaps?).

In the seemingly slighter and evanescent early works — in Danse bohemienne, with its touch of vaudeville, Reverie and Mazurka — there is a luminous fragility and pinpoint delicacy that lift such music on to a plane that would have surely astonished Debussy himself. And here, in particular, Gieseking's magic lies in infinitesimal shadings rather than in heavy-handed rubato or distortion. His Suite bergama.sque is a true pastoral idyll with a "Clair de lune" as shimmering and entranced as any on record (listen to the section commencing tempo rubato at 104" and you will hear chording balanced and textured from the top to perfection).

"Pour les tierces", from the Etudes, may get off to a shaky start but, again, in Debussy's final masterpiece, where pragmatism is resolved into a fantasy undreamed of even by Chopin, Gieseking's artistry tugs at and haunts the imagination. Try "Pour les sonorites opposees", the nodal and expressive centre of the Etudes, and you may well wonder when you have heard playing more subtly gauged or articulated, or the sort of interaction with a composer's spirit that can make modern alternatives, by Pollini for example, seem so parsimonious by comparison.

So here is that peerless palette of colour and texture, of a light and shade used with a nonchalantly deployed but precise expertise to illuminate every facet of Debussy's teeming and insinuating imagination. An added bonus, a 1951 performance of the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra (an ecstatic and scintillating work, played here with a lifeaffirming chiaroscuro) completes an incomparable set of discs. Andrew Walter's transfers are a triumph, with an immediacy much less obvious in the originals. These records should be in every musician's library, be they singer or conductor, violinist or pianist, etc. If Gramophone believed in a starring system they would deserve a heavenful of stars. --- Gramophone [6/1996]

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