Old friends, where have you been? I listen to these early 1970s Debussy and Messiaen solo performances anew, and it's not just a happy reunion between the once wide-eyed student and two of his long-lost records, but a rekindled love affair. Sonically, they've aged pretty well, notwithstanding a slightly metallic edge at climaxes. Both books of Debussy Preludes stand out for tempos that often are slower than the norm yet are beautifully and convincingly sustained via Jean-Rudolphe Kars' masterful hands. Danseuses de Delphes carries its acquired girth with full-throated gorgeousness while the murmuring figurations in Le Vent dans la plaine and Brouillards emerge with unusual clarity without bogging down or losing shape. True, at more thanRead more eight minutes, La Cathèdrale engloutie teeters on the edge of immobility (especially in the middle section, where Paul Jacobs rightly accelerates as Debussy did in his piano roll performance), but you'll be pulled into Kars' gripping, multi-layered dynamics in Des pas sur la neige.
By contrast, the Messiaen pieces stand out for the pianist's almost Lisztian extroversion and ability to transform the composer's modular, sectionalized style into liquid, forward moving entities. What an amazing sense of color and instinct for voicing Messiaen's rapid textural shifts Kars possesses! Le Merle Bleu's upward arpeggios are cases in point, and the two Vingt Regards selections simply quiver with fervency. Wow! Debussy's early Fantasy is sensitively shaped and well recorded for its late-'60s (I believe) vintage. However, its soft-grained parameters (particularly in the final section) yield to more incisive modern competition such as the sizzling, ravishingly detailed Zoltan Kocsis/Iván Fischer/Budapest Festival Orchestra rendition on Philips. The solo selections, though, should be heard by anyone who loves these works.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestraby Claude Debussy Performer:
Jean-Rodolphe Kars (Piano)
Sir Alexander Gibson
London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1889-1890; France