Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov, recognised as an outstanding advocate of post-Soviet composition - performing Schnittke, Part, and Silvestrov amongst his acclaimed ECM New Series recordings - now turns his talents to Debussy in the year of the 150th anniversary of his birth. On this 2-CD set Lubimov plays both books of Préludes and, with his young student Alexei Zuev, the Trois Nocturnes in Ravel's two-piano transcription as well as a two-piano arrangement of Debussy's seminal orchestral masterpiece, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.
Debussy decried the concept of musical impressionism because he feared, rightly, that superficial refinement would degenerate into musical mist, concealing the subtleties of a new musical idiom and its structural logic. So, for example, instead of heading his 24 Préludes with programmatic titles, he appended them at the bottom of the individual pieces. Even though their popularity makes it almost impossible, perhaps listeners ought simply to forget about the titles and recall something else that Debussy once said: "Music is a free art gushing forth, an open-air art boundless as the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea." It is in this manner - sans rigeur, as Debussy repeatedly marked his music - that Lubimov performs the Préludes.
Searching for an inspiring special sound - he wanted to hear Debussy in a different timbral guise, cloaked in early 20th-century colours - Lubimov "stumbled on two excellent pianos that truly seduced me and breathed fresh life into the music. The stunning beauty and nobility of their sound and their highly distinctive voices prompted me to find new solutions and gave me new levels of pleasure. I decided to record the two volumes of Préludes on two different pianos: a 1925 Bechstein (clear, sharply etched, translucent and light, even in complex textures) and a Steinway from 1913 (divinely soft in pianissimo, resonant and marvellously suitable for unexpected colours). It is said that the great Polish pianist Paderewski chose this Steinway and played it in his recitals."
Personnel: Alexei Lubimov, Alexei Zuev (piano)