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Pagodes (Pagodas) are Asian temples, often quite large, notable for their curved roofs and graceful structures. The Japanese colored woodblock prints were the most avidly collected of all prints, and Debussy enthusiastically embraced the French fascination regarding the Orient and Japan in particular, ‘Le japonisme.’ (It was at this time that the famous French pickup line appeared: “Would you like to come up and see my Japanese prints?”) Debussy incorporates the pentatonic scale as well as bells, gongs, and gamelans, all suffused with a luminous atmosphere, stylized delicacy, elegant dance movement, and rhythmic counterpoint.
II. La soirée dans Grenade (Evening in Granada) is one of Debussy’s three Spanish piano pieces. His uncanny insight into the Spanish soul is particularly remarkable considering that he never even visited his neighboring country. It employs his novel compositional technique of alternating and juxtaposing various musical ideas rather than developing them, thereby creating a very modern and almost cinematic sense of splicing, fragments presented without transition. Tied together with the Habañera dance rhythm made so famous in “Carmen,” the strumming guitars, castanets, flamenco melodies, smoldering passion, and into intoxicating languor magically create a sultry scented summer evening in Spain.
Total time: 01:09:12
Mixed and mastered on Legacy Audio speakers
|Original Recording Format|
Horus, Merging Technologies
Daniel Shores, Tom Caulfield (DSD 256 & DSD 512)
Steinway Model D #590904
Sono Luminus Recording Studio in Boyce, Virginia on July 7-8, 2014
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||January 1, 2016|
Gapplegate Classical Music Review
The piano works of Claude Debussy are among the most beautifully lyrical music ever written. The same might be said of his contemporary Maurice Ravel. They gave modernism a long look at the increased possibilities of tonality in an era when the cutting edge of the music was about to turn elsewhere for a time. And because they and Satie created new music that was not fully followed up upon, we see them today as not only a lovely conclusion of an epoch but harbingers of the new radical tonality of the present.
Pianist Michael Lewin gives us on Starry Night: Preludes Book I & Other Works (Sono Luminus 92190) an especially brilliant reading of some of Debussy’s most lyrical works.
A special treat is “Nuit d’etoiles (Starry Night),” Debussy’s first published work, completed in 1880 when Claude was only 18. It was originally written as a song for soprano and piano. This is the first recording of Koji Attwood’s version for solo piano alone.
It is in good company with Debussy’s “Estampes,” the “Preludes, Book I,” and a few additional shorter works.
Michael Lewin is not out to impress you with technique. These works are not so much about that, though they do make technical demands at times. Foremost they call for a beautiful touch and a sure sense of phrasing which Lewin provides consistently and poetically. He is in no hurry to get through these works, but rather often lingers over them with a kind of artistic relish, a clear love of the sensuous properties of the tone combinations and a mastery of the rubato potentialities of phrasing. It is music that can be extraordinarily pellucid. Lewin makes of those possibilities something quite moving and transformative for the listener.
These are some of the most moving performances of these works I have heard. The sonics are wonderful–as is mostly the case with Sono Luminus releases. If you are familiar with the standard Debussy readings, you will no doubt find the superior sonics and poetics of the Lewin versions here much to your liking. Don’t know Debussy’s piano works much? Start with this one, by all means.
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