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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Claude Debussy - Préludes; Children's Corner; Images (Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli)


Information

Composer: Claude Debussy

CD1:
  • (01-12) Préludes - Book 1, L. 117
  • (13-18) Children's Corner, L. 113
CD2:
  • (01-12) Préludes - Book 2, L. 123
  • (13-15) Images - Book 1, L. 110
  • (16-18) Images - Book 2, L. 111

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano
Date: 1971 (L. 110, L. 111, L. 113), 1978 (L. 117), 1988 (L. 123)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4494382


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Review

It is of course disappointing that Michelangeli’s association with DG in the last 20 years of his life failed to produce a richer harvest, but given the nature of the man an abundance was probably never to be expected. Fallow periods were a feature of his career. In 1988, when the Second Book of the Debussy Preludes came out, it was his first studio recording for eight years. There were three Debussy issues from 1971 on, and DG have now comfortably reformatted them on to two CDs. They are also putting out an 11-CD set – “L’arte di Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli” – comprising all his DG recordings, plus some much earlier Schumann licensed from the BBC, but if you’re going to be selective I’ve no doubt that for a first choice it’s his Debussy you should go for.

What would the composer himself have made of him, I wonder? Of Debussy playing his own music Alfredo Casella said “he made the impression of playing directly on the strings of the instrument with no intermediate mechanism – the effect was a miracle of poetry”. This is not Michelangeli’s way. He can certainly be poetic and produce miracles but his manner is not ingratiating. Generalized ‘atmosphere’ doesn’t interest him. His superfine control is put at the service of line and movement, above all, and the projection of perspectives. It is as if he were intent on defining the space the pieces occupy. He gives you a sense not just of foreground and background but of many planes in between. Try “Feux d’artifice”, the last of the Second Book of Preludes(second disc, track 12), for instances of what I mean: the murmuring ostinato at the beginning (leger, egal et lointain) is ‘positioned’ with absolute precision, and as you’re drawn into the picture it’s as if you can see exactly where everything is coming from. This is perhaps most vivid at the very end, where Debussy wonderfully conveys the effect of activity petering out and a snatch of the Marseillaise floats in de tres loin to signal the ‘fin de spectacle’. A pianist does indeed need spectacular manipulative abilities to realize these last nine bars: how pleasing when a great player reminds you that they are humanly possible!

Michelangeli was capable of a transcendental virtuosity, not always noticed, that had nothing to do with playing fast and loud and everything to do with refinement, and it is well in place here – in many other Preludes and especially in the first two Images of the Second Book; also, less expectedly, in “The snow is dancing” fromChildren’s Corner. The clarity of texture and the laser-like delineation can sometimes be disconcerting if you’re accustomed to a softer, more ethereal style, but they have a way of making Debussy’s modernism apparent and, to my ears, thrilling. He sounds here as if he has had nothing to do with the nineteenth century.

I loved the Images and Children’s Corner when they first came out, in 1971, and still think them among the finest versions recorded. But I have reservations about some of the Preludes, particularly in Book 1. The sound is rather close and dry – maybe how Michelangeli wanted it. He uses as little pedal as he can get away with – Marguerite Long reported that Debussy, like Chopin, considered the art of the pedal as a “sort of breathing”, but you don’t get much sense of that here. In the Breton seascape “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” do you really want to hear every note?
The dryness also throws into relief the hardness of attack, and I do sometimes wish the etched quality of line-drawing could give way to something warmer. Character, in general, is on the chilly side. Although the teasing rubato in “La serenade interrompue” is spot on, this is playing which doesn’t often smile at you. “La danse de Puck”, slow and measured instead of light and capricious, would make anyone think Puck’s dancing days were over long ago. The plainness is all the odder in that the ‘aerial’ numbers – “Ondine”, for example, and “Les fees sont d’exquises danseuses” – are usually to be numbered among Michelangeli’s most successful.

There are people who regard Gieseking as unparalleled in this music, but after a quarter of a century I feel sure that the best of Michelangeli, similarly, will run and run. Today’s generation of Debussy pianists will be expected to work from a less corrupt text, quite rightly, and I dare say to be more scrupulous in their treatment of rhythmic detail; but they will have far to go before they can rival the penetrating qualities of Michelangeli’s Debussy at its best. He could take your breath away and he was illuminating in this composer in a rare way. What a pity he never recorded the Etudes.

-- Stephen Plaistow, Gramophone

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Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. Debussy 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 usage of atonality.

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Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (5 January 1920 – 12 June 1995) was an Italian virtuoso pianist, widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. He was famous for his flawless technique. Owing to his perfectionism, relatively few recordings were officially released during Benedetti Michelangeli's lifetime. As a teacher, his pupils included world-class artists as Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich and Ivan Moravec.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturo_Benedetti_Michelangeli

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Claude Debussy; Frédéric Chopin - Piano Works (Ivan Moravec)


Information

Composer: Claude Debussy; Frédéric Chopin

CD1:
  1. Debussy - Images (1ere série), L. 110: 1. Reflets dans L'eau
  2. Debussy - Images (1ere série), L. 110: 2. Hommage à Rameau
  3. Debussy - Images (1ere série), L. 110: 3. Mouvement
  4. Debussy - Images (2ème Série), L. 111: 1. Cloches à travers les feuilles
  5. Debussy - Images (2ème Série), L. 111: 2. Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut
  6. Debussy - Images (2ème Série), L. 111: 3. Poissons d'or
  7. Debussy - Des pas sur la neige
  8. Debussy - Estampes,  L. 100: 1. Pagodes
  9. Debussy - Estampes,  L. 100: 2. La soirée dans Grenade
  10. Debussy - Estampes,  L. 100: 3. Jardins sous la pluie
CD2:
  1. Chopin - Mazurka in F minor, Op .63 No. 2
  2. Chopin - Mazurka in A minor, Op. 68 No. 2
  3. Chopin - Mazurka in B-flat major, Op. 7 No. 1
  4. Chopin - Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 30 No. 4
  5. Chopin - Mazurka in B minor, Op. 33 No. 4
  6. Chopin - Waltz in A minor, Op. 34 No. 2
  7. Chopin - Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64 No. 2
  8. Chopin - Waltz in E minor, Op. posth.
  9. Chopin - Polonaise in C-sharp minor, Op. 26 No. 1
  10. Chopin - Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat major, Op. 61

Ivan Moravec, piano
Recording dates: 1982 (CD1) 1983 (CD2)
Label: Vox
https://www.discogs.com/Moravec-Plays-Debussy-And-Chopin/release/2905439

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Recorded in 1982/83, Ivan Moravec's Debussy and Chopin recitals for Vox count among the most attractively engineered piano recordings from the early days of digital. Max Wilcox's engineering does full justice to Moravec's luminescent tone and ultra-discreet mastery of the sustain pedal. The runs and arpeggios in Debussy's Reflets dans l'eau, Mouvement, and Poissons d'or flow so naturally and unmechanically that you don't immediately notice how precise and even they really are. The hushed, sustained atmosphere of Debussy's Des pas sur la neige and Estampes' exotic overtones come alive through Moravec's acute sense of timing and tonal application.

Although his less-heroic, more inward path through Chopin's C-sharp minor Polonaise and Polonaise-Fantasie contrasts with Artur Rubinstein's firmer swagger, the approach proves equally valid. And Moravec coaxes half tints and inner voices from his selected Mazurkas and Waltzes without unduly underlining them (the trio of the C-sharp minor Waltz, for instance). Even if you already possess Michelangeli's Debussy Images, Richter's Estampes, or Rubinstein's Chopin, Moravec deserves equal space in your collection. A bargain not to be missed. [2/26/2002]

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday

More reviews:

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Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. Debussy 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 usage of atonality.

***

Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric_Chopin

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Ivan Moravec (9 November 1930 – 27 July 2015) was a Czech concert pianist whose performing and recording career spanned nearly half a century. Moravec studied with Erna Grünfeld, Ilona Štěpánová-Kurzová and attend master classes in Arezzo with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Moravec had a reputation for attention to the condition of the pianos he played. Moravec's recordings for the Connoisseur Society were notable for their audiophile quality, and he also recorded for several other labels, including Vox, Nonesuch, Dorian, Hänssler, and Supraphon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Moravec

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César Franck; Maurice Ravel; Claude Debussy - Piano Music (Ivan Moravec)


Information

Composer: César Franck; Maurice Ravel; Claude Debussy
  1. Franck - Prélude, choral et fugue, M. 21: 1. Prélude. Moderato
  2. Franck - Prélude, choral et fugue, M. 21: 2. Chorale. Poco più lento
  3. Franck - Prélude, choral et fugue, M. 21: 3. Fugue. Poco allegro
  4. Ravel - Sonatine in F sharp minor: 1. Modéré
  5. Ravel - Sonatine in F sharp minor: 2. Mouvement de menuet
  6. Ravel - Sonatine in F sharp minor: 3. Animé
  7. Debussy - Préludes - Book 2, L. 123: 12. Feux d'artifice
  8. Debussy - Préludes - Book 1, L. 117: 10. La Cathédrale engloutie
  9. Debussy - Préludes - Book 1, L. 117: 5. Les collines d'Anacapri
  10. Debussy - Préludes - Book 1, L. 117: 4. Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir
  11. Debussy - Préludes - Book 2, L. 123: 7. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
  12. Debussy - Pour le piano, L. 95: 1. Prélude
  13. Debussy - Pour le piano, L. 95: 2. Sarabande
  14. Debussy - Pour le piano, L. 95: 3. Toccata

Ivan Moravec, piano
Date: 1962 (1-3), 1965 (7-11), 1969 (4-6, 12-14)
Label: Supraphon
http://www.supraphon.com/album/412-moravec-ivan-plays-french-music-franck-ravel-debussy


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 9

Formerly available from VAI, the items that Ivan Moravec has selected for reissue on Supraphon establish him as a worthy successor to Walter Gieseking in French repertoire, though Moravec's "velvet touch" comes with a surer technique than Gieseking ever commanded. The virtues of these performances are deservedly well-known. Franck's masterpiece seldom has sounded so cogently integrated, with a particularly seraphic Choral introducing a fugue in which Moravec offers optimal linear clarity without any compromise in richness of tone color. Ravel's Sonatine rivals Argerich's in prismatic delicacy as well as virtuosic projection of the music's considerable technical demands. 

The Debussy preludes include a glittering Fireworks, a grandly imposing Engulfed Cathedral, and a particularly exquisite Sounds and Scents Swirl in the Night Air (alongside marvelous versions of The Hills of Anacapri and The Terrace of Moonlit Audiences). In these, as in the Franck and the sparkling final toccata of Pour le piano, Moravec's prevailingly gentle touch never precludes surprisingly powerful moments and a wide dynamic range where necessary. Sensitive, ungimmicky remastering gives an excellent sense of the tone colors at Moravec's command notwithstanding the diversity of instruments and venues used over a wide span of time (1962-69), with only a light touch of hiss betraying the age of the master tapes.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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Ivan Moravec (9 November 1930 – 27 July 2015) was a Czech concert pianist whose performing and recording career spanned nearly half a century. Moravec studied with Erna Grünfeld, Ilona Štěpánová-Kurzová and attend master classes in Arezzo with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Moravec had a reputation for attention to the condition of the pianos he played. Moravec's recordings for the Connoisseur Society were notable for their audiophile quality, and he also recorded for several other labels, including Vox, Nonesuch, Dorian, Hänssler, and Supraphon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Moravec

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Maurice Ravel; Claude Debussy; Gabriel Fauré - String Quartets (Quatuor Ebène)


Information

Composer:  Claude Debussy; Gabriel Fauré; Maurice Ravel
  1. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: I. Animé et très décidé
  2. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: II. Assez vif et bien rythmé
  3. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: III. Andantino (Doucement expressif)
  4. Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10: IV. Très modéré - Très animé
  5. Fauré - String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121: I. Allegro moderato
  6. Fauré - String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121: II. Andante
  7. Fauré - String Quartet in E minor, Op. 121: III. Allegro
  8. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: I. Allegro moderato - Très doux
  9. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: II. Assez vif - Très rythmé
  10. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: III. Très lent
  11. Ravel - String Quartet in F major: IV. Vif et agité

Quatuor Ebène
Pierre Colombet, violin
Gabriel Le Magadure, violin
Mathieu Herzog, viola
Raphaël Merlin, cello


Date: 2008
Label: Virgin Classics


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Review

2009 Gramophone Award Winner - Best Chamber Recording and Record of the Year!

Among the many breathtaking moments on the Ebène Quartet’s CD, there is one in particular that keeps calling one back. It occurs at around 1’14” into the Ravel’s slow movement, the second set, which enters like a bittersweet memory before a literal recollection of the Quartet’s opening motif. Other subtle details of interpretation include the chord at 2’03” that underpins a transformation of the first subject before the same chord leads directly into the second subject – and when it does, utterly changing in character, turning warmer, more openly inviting. The ebb and flow of the passage at 5’29” where the second subject rides above an arpeggiated accompaniment, music that looks both forwards to Debussy’s own La mer and backwards to Rimsky’sSheherazade (or so it seems). There’s a fluidity to the Ebène’s playing of both works that suits the music’s character, a mood of wistfulness too that the Ravel especially benefits from. This improvisatory approach is hardly surprising from an ensemble that is also celebrated for its jazz performances.

It was a brilliant idea to include Fauré’s late Quartet which, in a sense, provides the linchpin for all three works, the Ravel having been composed in Fauré’s class to mark the 10th anniversary of Debussy’s Quartet, and which is dedicated to Fauré. An extraordinary work by any standards, ethereal and other-worldly, with themes that seem constantly to be drawn skywards, Fauré’s Quartet responds well to the Ebène’s sensitised approach.

Anyone requiring this particular trio of works won’t be disappointed, which makes the various pairings of the Ravel and Debussy quartets on their own seem somewhat less enticing.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Ravel-Debussy-Faur%C3%A9-String-Quartets/dp/B001BWQWKS

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Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. Debussy 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 usage of atonality.

***

Gabriel Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano. Fauré's music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with 20th century modernism.

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Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 – 28 December 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with Claude Debussy. Ravel was an exceptionally skilled orchestrator, as in his well known 1922 version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. His best known works include Boléro (1928), Gaspard de la nuit (1908), Daphnis et Chloé (1912).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Ravel

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Quatuor Ébène is a French string quartet formed in 1999 and based in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. In 2009, the quartet was named "Newcomer of the Year" by BBC Music Magazine for its recording of the Ravel, Fauré, and Debussy string quartets. The same album won the group Recording of the Year at the 2009 Classic FM Gramophone Awards. The group is known for its versatility and performs a variety of genres, such as classical music, contemporary music, jazz, and crossover. Since 2015, Adrien Boisseau replaced Mathieu Herzog as violist.

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