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Debussy: Piano Works Vol. 4

Notes & Reviews:

Pascal Rogé has established a reputation as the world’s foremost interpreter of the French piano repertoire. His recordings of the music of Erik Satie are unsurpassed after years in the catalogue, and his series for Onyx continues with a fourth volume featuring the twelve Études, considered to be among the composer’s fi nest masterpieces. Gramophone said of Rogé’s recording of the Preludes, “this disc has all his improvisatory warmth and charm, qualities that can take you to the very heart of the composer’s evanescent world.”

""I've invested a lot of passion and faith in the future of the Études. I hope you'll like them, both for the music they contain and for what they denote." Written by Debussy to his publisher, these words serve as a timeless note for all pianists and listeners. Composed in 1915, three years before his death, the 12 short pieces contain some of Debussy's most adventurous and exploratory piano music, but they are also the distillation of a lifetime's achievement in the medium - in effect, as Roger Nichols puts it, "his final testament to piano literature".

Only recently have the Études begun to be valued as the gems that they are. Although teeming with delights, it is probable that the surface-level academic nature of these "studies" (dedicated to Chopin, a previous master in making mesmerising music out of ostensible exercises) was a factor in their neglect. Another may have been their huge technical demands (Debussy himself admitted struggling to play some passages) - but this is certainly not a problem for Pascal Rogé, who gives fluent and often dazzling performances on this new Onyx release, the fourth volume of the complete Debussy piano music.

An acclaimed specialist in this repertoire, this is Rogé's second recorded Debussy traversal, following his 1970s and 80s Decca series. If there is more sense of consideration in these new readings, which can sometimes lack spontaneity, there is also greater depth and authority. Unlike some pianists, Rogé's Debussy is rarely soft-grained or sepia-tinted; every note counts and is clearly enunciated. This may occasionally come across as over-deliberate, but the music frequently benefits from clarity, and there is no shortage of nuance or character.

In Prelude No.1, which pays playful homage to Czerny, Rogé scampers up and down the keys brilliantly; the immaculate rapid runs of the short-and-sweet No.6 are even more breathtaking. No.8 is wonderfully delicate and wistful, but still purposefully driven; the tranquil, shimmering No.10 is atmospherically charged; and No.11 engagingly contrasts lively animation with dreamily floating charm.

Such is the richness and diversity of these pieces that there can be no "last word" in performance. Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Decca offers an excellent alternative, more suave and vibrant than Rogé, but this release is packed with remarkable insights that will entrance connoisseurs of the Études and win them many new admirers."-BBC Music

"These would be essential for any pianist learning them, just to hear the remarkable phrasing and voicing. He also has a variety of articulation that holds the interest in almost every bar...Piano sound and booklet notes are very good...I will definitely return to this recording."-American Record Guide

The Guardian
Rogé has little time for the common perception of Debussy as an "impressionist" composer, all pastel shades and dewy outlines. His playing is bold, muscular when it needs to be, and above all concerned at all times with formal and textural clarity...he is a sure guide to the musical worlds the Études inhabit, and to the moments when they transcend their technical function.

BBC Music Magazine
As with the other discs in this complete Debussy survey, Rogé draws some lovely sounds from the piano.

Sunday Times
Rogé brings to every piece a refined sensibility, his pacing, colouring and voicing beautifully judged.

Graham Rogers, bbc.co.uk
This release is packed with remarkable insights that will entrance connoisseurs of the Études and win them many new admirers.


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