Wednesday, 22 February 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, February 2017)

Complete Music For Piano Duo
Massimiliano Damerini 
& Marco Rapetti, Piano
Brilliant Classics 94448 (3 CDs) / ****1/2

It may come as a surprise that the works for piano four hands by French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) amount to well over three hours of music. In this chronological survey dating from 1880 to 1915, one will discern his stylistic evolution from ambitious teenager to that of an established master. 

Some works will be familiar to general audiences, as the pretty Petite Suite (1886-89) for piano duet and the more modernistic En Blanc et Noir (1915), his last but greatest work for two pianos. And then there are the faithful but monochromatic transcriptions of orchestral favourites, Prelude to The Afternoon of the Fawn (1894) and La Mer (1905).

The music to be found in the first two discs is virtually unknown. There is a single-movement Symphony In B minor (1880), Diane Overture (1881), The Triumph of Bacchus Suite (1882), First Suite for Orchestra (1883) and Divertissement (1884), early works which were never orchestrated. These stylistically belong to the bygone French Belle Epoque, and hard to identify as classic Debussy. 

With Printemps (1887), Marche Ecossaise (Scottish March, 1891) and the Spanish-flavoured Lindaraja (1901), his more distinct voice begins to emerge. The Italian duo of Damerini & Rapetti give sympathetic and best possible accounts of the obscure pieces, and the performances more than satisfy the appetite for undiscovered semi-precious gems.   

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