I must mention that this CD represents my first encounter with Pierre-Laurent Aimard's craftsmanship. I've never listen to him neither in the concert hall, nor on his praised recordings. His fame of brilliant technician of the keyboard with a special appetite for contemporary music preceded this encounter and raised the bar of expectations very high. There is one more reason I opted for this recording: when it comes to French music I prefer a French interpreter. This could be a mere preconception, but I think that the French piano school can offer a better understanding of Saint Saens, Debussy, Ravel, Severac, Satie, Messiaen et comp... The tradition of the French piano school - in my opinion - is utterly valuated in playing on small entities, in finesse of the detail, in all those impressions conjured up from the keyboard, so appropriate to the music of the first decades of the XXth century.
It is the case here, as Aimard approaches in a very personal manner to Debussy's two books of Preludes. It is a robust amount of musicianship required for one to convey all the facets of such a music. If the interpreter is in no sympathy with it the result can be annoying and very far from what one could expect from it and what it was intended as. Aimard goes on the direction of exploiting each detail of the score, articulates firmly on the keyboard, converses with the composer in a dignified manner. Pierre-Laurent reminds us that the interpreter, as the composer himself, is in a comparable way responsible for the final result of a work, for what is heard by and is transmitted to the listener. Maybe Nelson Freire Freire's version of the first book of Preludes is a warmer one, maybe Maurizio Pollini's architectural vision of the same scores is a more sober one... and maybe one can find other versions valuable at the same extent.
However, this recent release by Aimard stands as a consistent and inspired sample of what impressionism in music is about, assuming there is none in the world able to supply a unique recommendable recipe to perform Debussy.