The relevance of Debussy's "Etudes" and the dimension that seems to attract most important pianists is that they were the last statement of "diatonic" music, Debussy knew something was in the air of dodecaphonic 12 Tone thinking but he really had no way, no pathway into utilizing it or developing it. So we have these 12 elegantly rendered "etudes", the genre of "Etude" has found great vigour in recent history with Cage's " Etudes Australes", and Gyorgy Ligeti"Two Books". This Debussy neither looks backwards nor frontways, these are pieces that sum up his life, with a refined sense of complex structure, where these "etudes" reiterate materials only at great expense to the content of the music. They do develop the"etude" as finger study to its utmost as the last one on"oppositions", it is incredibly difficult to keep incessantly throwing yours hands in opposite directions, it is more a physical feet than intellectual. Pollini brings his sensitivity to the modern, all the modernist repertoire he enjoys playing finds itself here,his concept then is that Debussy looked forwards with technical innovation. The"etude" genre seems quite suited to this agenda in that there is not much one can do within the "diatonic" system as well as not really engaging in "tonality" long past the post-romantics, so the "materials" then are texture,timbre,register,density and placement,juxtaposing your materials as you proceed, linear development a richer one, in that the ideas reiterate themselves over time, small segments of time, for Debussy knew that each "etude" could only inhabit a small durational frame to be effective.The "diatonic" ideas here for etude "spends" themselves very quickly, and in most he introduces secondary ideas, some never to return.The "lightness" of touch was also Debussy way, and another favorite is the repeated=note etude. If you have ever heard actual recordings of Debussy at the piano, he had a very light timbral piano. My favorite is the "chromatic" etude, where you have find delicate moving "smears" of lines moving crossing, overlapping each other. The "Fourths" as well almost sounds like a Japanese folk song, has a "mystery" about it, the "First Etude",is a skewed tribute actual sarcasm here to the school of Czerny,and the finger dexterity of vacuous contemplation, still the fingers need to move fast continusously, perhaps some music content would help, as well. I prefer Uchida's interpretations,she brings a little more passion than Pollini's blazingly bright resonance, not overbearing,simply bright.
The Berg Sonata here as well, is a work really overplayed,and it really is not that fascinating a piece,it really does nothing new nor innovative for piano timbre as Webern(his latter "Variations") and Schoenberg(Opus 11, or the "Five Pieces" had done. Hanns Eisler's(the unacknowledged Schoenberg student) "First Sonata", is indeed more interesting.