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Debussy: Complete Works For Piano Vol 5 / Bavouzet

Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10545   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The three ballets Debussy composed during his final decade have a checkered history. He prepared piano versions for Khamma and La boîte à joujoux, yet did not get around to orchestrating past the beginnings of each work. While the composer completed Jeux, of course, the premiere was not a success, and the score took decades to find its way into the orchestral repertoire. As Jean-Efflam Bavouzet explains in his helpful booklet essay, while La boîte à joujoux's keyboard version easily stands on its own, the piano scores for Khamma and Jeux range between thinly utilitarian to literally unplayable. For this reason Bavouzet prepared his own editions that brilliantly merge
Read more orchestral intention with pianistic viability, as well as correcting note errors in the original printed editions. More importantly, Bavouzet plays them stunningly.

In this gifted pianist's hands, La boîte à joujoux's playful quotations from French folk tunes, Mendelssohn's Wedding March, Gounod's Soldier's Chorus, and even Debussy's own Le Petit Nigar sound completely natural and unforced, as do Jeux's intricate multi-textural layers (sample Track 13's effortlessly and clearly interweaving clusters, trills, melodies, and murmuring soft runs, to cite one example).

Dating from 1910-12, Khamma anticipates the more epigrammatic and harmonically adventurous elements of Debussy's Études and the two-piano suite En blanc et noir, as well as absorbing the air around his younger colleague Stravinsky. Color and sensuality oozes from Bavouzet's fingers, yet nothing is blurred or vague. Much of Scene Two's extensive bass-register passagework can be muddy and indistinct, yet Bavouzet's exactitude of touch and timbre imbues them cogency and shape. In addition to Bavouzet's aforementioned notes, Chandos includes excellent annotations on the works themselves by Roger Nichols. The engineering counts among this cycle's best, which is to say it's as top-of-the-line as Bavouzet's artistry. This is an unusual and valuable capper to one of the two or three greatest Debussy piano cycles on disc--not to be missed.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Khamma by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1912; France 
Jeux by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
La boîte ŕ joujoux by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 

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