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Debussy: Preludes; Liszt / Jorge Federico Osorio

Release Date: 07/10/2007 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 98   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz LisztClaude Debussy
Performer:  Jorge Federico Osorio
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Préludes: Bk. 1; Bk. 2. LISZT Années de pèlerinage, Book I: Vallée d’Obermann; Book II: 3 Sonetti del Petrarca; Book III: Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este Jorge Federico Osorio (pn) ÇEDILLE 98 (2 CDs: 119:34)

Read more /> Until this two-fer arrived in the post, the name Jorge Federico Osorio was all but meaningless to me. I knew the name vaguely through the Çedille catalog, but had not heard a note. Looking at his concert activity, there is only one reference to performance with a U.K. orchestra (the Royal Philharmonic), so perhaps it is unsurprising that I have not encountered him. One of the great joys of reviewing is to hear discs that would not normally come one’s way, and what an eye-opener this one was!

Çedille has recorded Osorio in the best possible light. The piano sound has presence and depth and is faithfully reproduced over the entire frequency range. This fidelity is important in music such as is featured here, as both the Debussy and the Liszt demand quicksilver tonal responses from the pianist. The instrument itself is beautifully prepared.

The layout of the two discs, too, is carefully considered. Liszt bookends the recital, with the Petrarch Sonnets first and the Années pieces at the end. The works chosen are all of a lyric bent (although all make technical demands that Osorio rises to magnificently). Andrea Lamoreaux’s booklet notes (extensive and always relevant) quote the original texts of the sonnets for the first two pieces, usefully. Osorio puts us under the spell of Liszt’s seemingly infinite invention. His rendition of Lisztian recitative in No. 104 is never less than spell-binding. He can melt phrases into one another most affectingly and his lines can speak conspiratorially (something very marked in No. 123).

Despite the harmonic differences between the Liszt pieces here and the Debussy (emphasized in the liner notes), there seems to me to be a strong link between the two composers’ depiction of fantasy. Both, in their individual ways, take their inspirations and spin webs of sound over them, internalizing them. Having dwelt on the differences, it is a measure of the care with which this set was put together that the “Danseuses de Delphes” emerges perfectly naturally from the Liszt pieces, sounding like slightly altered late Liszt before one fully orients oneself. Osorio’s weighting of chords is beautiful to experience, as is his “placing” of key moments.

The quiet buzzing that opens “Le vent dans la plaine” is expertly controlled (it is of exactly the same expressive weight as the opening of “Des pas sur la neige,” but in the latter case just with the notes slowed down, interestingly; the buzzing also returns at the end of the complete cycle, in the virtuoso “Feux d’artifice”). It is just this quiet assurance that marks Osorio’s Debussy as special. The “West Wind” is beautifully balanced and even, forming a turbulent contrast to the flaxen-haired one, while the “Submerged Cathedral” is unhurriedly revealed, its plainchant-inspired climax carrying full weight. Osorio can also invoke orchestral instruments when needs be (try the horn calls in “Puck”). On the debit side of things, I wish he could do slinky a little more sexily in “Les collines d’Anacapri,” or suggest a raised eyebrow more in “Minstrels.”

The second disc presents the composer order in reverse, starting with the second book of Debussy Préludes. The first two pieces, “Brouillards” and “Feuilles mortes,” are just the sort of atmospheric soundscapes Osorio excels in. His opening to “La puerta del vino” is robust, while his “Général Lavine—eccentric” proves he can mix this robustness with comedy (the selfsame comments apply to “Hommage à S. Pickwick, Esq. P. P. M. P. C.,” with its wonderful quotes from “God save the Queen”).

The return of Liszt is managed in an inspired way. “Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este” emerges out of the silence of “Feux d’artifice” perfectly naturally, yet its proto-Impressionism could only be from the pen of its composer. No attempt is made to slide it forward in time, and as a result the piece stands magnificently on its own merits. The loneliness that “Vallée d’Obermann” paints is in many ways the perfect way to end, leaving questions unanswered in what is surely a reflection of the ambiguities that lie at the heart of Debussy’s magnificent set of preludes.

Recently, Steven Osborne on Hyperion joined the pantheon of great Debussians ( Fanfare 30:4), a place where Gieseking (EMI 67262) and Krystian Zimerman (DG 435773) reign supreme. Osorio does not quite scale these heights, but there is no doubting his high ranking in any Debussian pecking order.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Années de pèlerinage no 3, S 163: no 4, Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Jorge Federico Osorio (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867-1877; Rome, Italy 
Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Petrarca Sonnets (3) for Piano, S 158 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Jorge Federico Osorio (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1839-46; Hungary 
Length: 19 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Préludes, Book 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jorge Federico Osorio (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Préludes, Book 2 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jorge Federico Osorio (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Années de pèlerinage, première année, S 160 "Suisse": no 6, Vallée d'Obermann by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Jorge Federico Osorio (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848-1854; Weimar, Germany 
Length: 13 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Weimar, Germany (1848 - 1854). 

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