Monday, 15 March 2010

CD Review (The Straits Times, March 2010)

Music for Two Pianos
Decca 478 1090

This album handily juxtaposes music for two pianos by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and his rival Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Frenchmen often described as impressionists. Debussy’s output here is far less familiar; after all, how often is En blanc et noir (In Black and White) performed? Three movements dedicated to friends lost in the Great War, these are elusive in melody yet subtly contrast light and shade amid dazzling fingerwork. Even more obscure are the brief Lindaraja, a short dance in habaƱera rhythm, and Jeux (Play), his underrated 1913 ballet transcribed by award-winning French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

Ravel provides further atmosphere and sonority in the clangourous Entre Cloches and Rapsodie Espagnole, both bathed in infectious ostinato rhythms. The tumultuous sweep of the popular La Valse closes the programme with great aplomb. This well-known father and son duo have been recorded dryly, allowing for much musical detail to be discerned but with a loss of aural brilliance. If the programme entices, do not hesitate.

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