There can be little argument relative to Thiollier's remarkably heady technical prowess, as he seems to take every opportunity to make us aware of the fact, and if utilized in the service of the composer, his complete set of Preludes might well have been a prime contender, especially contained on one CD; but sadly, and most unfortunately, the pianist, at the same time, seems equally oblivious or merely insensitive to Debussy's dynamic markings, tempo indications and critical score-related issues. At first blush, the listener is simply overwhelmed by the power infused here; yet, there is a certain hesitation in judgment, no doubt caused by the innate feeling that something is amiss. What is innate soon becomes overt: Thiollier's approach borders on ferocity. Nuance, atmosphere, mystery are literally crushed beneath his distortedly percussive, unimaginative, measured intensity. Whether the cause is wanton disregard or ill-chosen display, or both, the Preludes cannot sustain such mistreatment. This celebrated music requires the utmost in evocative penetration, the subtlest of coloring and a sublime understanding of delicate tonal balance. To say these elements must be in constant equilibrium and symmetry, but must appear entirely natural and spontaneous, would be an understatement. Impressionism hinges on exactly this. Realizing that Thiollier possesses the capacity to manifest these twenty-four pieces with great distinction, but rather chooses pyrotechnical self-aggrandizing display instead, is no minor disappointment because there is some fascinating pianism here, however erratic, that teases expectation into ultimate dismay.
[Running time: 70:23]