It's hard to believe, listening to this CD, that Debussy's music waswritten almost hundred years ago. One reason for this is that Aimard seemsto have re-invented the Debussy sound according to his own modernistlights. We've had early recordings by the likes of Cortot who playedDebussy as a classic with little emphasis on the hammerless blur of sound,and then more recent ones by folks like Arrau or Gieseking who did theopposite and tend to make Debussy sound soft-edged. Aimard hasre-emphasized his ferocity, especially in the Études. Even in the 'Images'that include such impressionistic favorites as 'Reflets dan l'eau' and'Poissons d'or,' he tends not to stick around and glory in the hazy washof sound usually associated with Debussy. That sound is not present in allthat Debussy wrote, and it is a mistake to play it all that way. Aimardunderstands this. At times, especially in the Études, he sounds almost asif he were playing a modern like Prokofiev. I will admit my bias: I likethis approach. Maybe all these decades of hearing mushy Debussy,hyper-atmospheric Debussy, has led me to this stance, but there you are.At any rate, Aimard brings something fresh to his approach. But it is notall of a piece. Sometimes, for instance as in 'Hommage à Rameau' he getsprecisely the right balance of rhythmic precision and harmonic overlap. Inothers, like the études 'Pour les notes répétées' and 'Pour les sixtes,'fierce clarity gives us an almost Ligetian modernity. He gives all heplays rhythmic point and backbone.
The Études have always been step-children in the Debussy canon. Many majorpianists simply ignored them. Others openly disdained them. Fortunatelyrecent pianists, like Michiko Uchida, have placed them high on their list.It is clear that Aimard has done the same, and for me these are the bestoverall recordings of them I've ever heard.