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Debussy: L'isle Joyeuse, Images Book I, Estampes / Nelson Goerner

Debussy / Goerner,Nelson
Release Date: 09/24/2013 
Label:  Zig Zag   Catalog #: 326  
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Performer:  Nelson Goerner
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Estampes. Études: Book 2. Images: Book 1. L’isle joyeuse Nelson Goerner (pn) ZIG ZAG 326 (62:05)

Goerner’s discography, so far, contains a lot of Chopin, and his recording of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto is one of the best there is. This appears to be the Argentine pianist’s first recorded foray into the French repertory, and it’s Read more strikingly good. The booklet notes are an essay by Dominique Jameux with “interventions” from the pianist, and in them, he reminisces that Debussy was “a presence” from very early in his formative years, and that, already around the age of 12, he played the Deux arabesques and the “inevitable” Clair de lune . Indeed, the works on this CD sound as if he has been living with and in them for some time. He didn’t just whip them up because Zig-Zag Territories wanted him to record a Debussy CD.

The first word that comes to mind in hearing these readings is “objective,” although that shouldn’t be taken to mean “under-interpreted.” Goerner, in fact, is very sensitive to atmosphere. What makes these readings different is that he eschews the gauzy, even muffled sonorities that sometimes are applied to Debussy’s music. He does not over-pedal, and he allows himself a very wide dynamic range. His finger-work is exceptionally clear too. The repeated figures in “Mouvement” ( Images ) are articulated with wonderful clarity, and the repeated notes that give the third of the Études its name are as crisp as anyone’s. I once read that L’Isle Joyeuse is the most difficult piano work in the repertory. I’d take that statement with a grain of salt—difficult for whom?—but Goerner’s version contains details that many pianists obscure (by choice or by necessity) and more sharply-etched outlines. It builds to an undeniably joyful climax, thanks to Goerner’s clarity and dynamic reserves. Not content with allowing it to be a recital-capping showpiece, Goerner makes L’Isle Joyeuse into a real tone poem.

In the Estampes , he is sensitive to the Asian influences in “Pagodes,” the Spanish influences in “La Soirée dans Grenade,” and, in “Jardins sous la pluie,” insistent French rain, which again benefits from the evenness and the variety of his touch. (Just because the rain is insistent doesn’t mean that it is monotonous!) The second theme is played with beautiful tenderness, and when the opening material returns, Goerner plays it with renewed color and imagination. This is first-class Debussy, certainly as good as any that has been recorded, although not similar in style to greats such as Gieseking and Casadesus, who favor more rounded and blurred contours than Goerner.

A photograph of the recording venue, the Teldex Studio in Berlin, reveals a fairly large and high-ceilinged room, with the piano in the middle. The sound, then, is not dry, but has an agreeable patina of reverberation that surrounds it.

This is a perfect CD to cozy up with on a cool, overcast October afternoon…which are the conditions outside as I am writing this review! Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

L'isle joyeuse by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Nelson Goerner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; France 
Images for Piano, Set 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Nelson Goerner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; France 
Etudes (12) for Piano, Book 2 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Nelson Goerner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Estampes (3) for Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Nelson Goerner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Great Summer Listening! June 29, 2014 By bess holloway (Boulder, CO) See All My Reviews "Or anytime. Both the performer and the label are new to me, though the music is familiar. The review provided by ArkivMusic was helpful in making the selection. I'm extremely pleased with this recording by Nelson Goerner." Report Abuse
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