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4.4 out of 5 stars
Debussy : 12 Etudes, Images Sets 1 & 2
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 24 April 2004
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.
Highly recommended.
TT 75'06"
Scott Morrison
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on 22 September 2008
I own several fine recordings of Debussy's Images, but this one by Aimard is very special. This is a reading that seeks to present Debussy as the great modernist he was. Mr Aimard dispenses with hazy clouds to present instead a thoroughly musical and very finely nuanced portrait of Debussy's art. Other pianists have sought to "clear the mist" away from Debussy before, perhaps most famously Michelangeli; I have always been less than enamoured of Michelageli's supposedly definitive interpretations - yes, we have the clarity, but where is the poetry? No such problems with Aimard's versions. There is something so rich and full-bodied about this Debussy: the piano rings and shines with the amazing ideas in the composer's soundworld - these harmonies are truly extraordinary when you consider they were published 1905-1907, and Mr Aimard never lets us forget that. This is Debussy playing that makes you listen with renewed awe and respect to a composer whose daring and innovation have never ceased to astonish.
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on 10 May 2014
I heard about this excellent pianist last year at the Edinburgh Festival where his solo playing of Debussy was getting 5 star reviews. I already have his recording of Debussy's Preludes Books 1 and 2 for DG that he did in 2012 which are excellent. Much earlier in 2002 he recorded some of Debussy's Images and Etudes.They too are beautifully and sensitively played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and are very well recorded by Warner Classics.
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on 2 February 2005
Sadly I don't have the detailed musical knowledge or insight of some of the reviewers here, but as a relative newcomer to classical music I must recommend this particular recording as being an excellent choice. The recording is amazing - it's like being in an intimate concert hall with the pianist, and although once again I feel unqualified to judge and was previously unfamilar with the pieces, the performance is captivating.
The music itself is instantly loveable and accessible, but has plenty of depth to keep the interest for a long time to come. This is the highlight of my (albeit small for the time being) classical collection.
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on 24 March 2011
Pierre-Laurent Aimard is a wonderful player and has given me an excellent insight into a lot of music both on disc and in concert. However, I am rather disappointed with this recording.

I find that Aimard uses the pedal where I don't think there should be pedal, he doesn't emphasize the melodies (or jagged barbs of melodies) that sometimes occur in the etudes. The Images, similarly, suffer from being under-emphasized in many places. This could be due to the sound recording.

It would be impossible to say that this is a bad CD but given the number of classical recordings of excellent calibre that are available on the market (including of these masterworks) I really can't recommend it. Aimard seems to make little of the music's possibilities, the amazing highs and lows, the flashes of light and shades of dark that Debussy put into the score.

I knew all of Debussy's other piano music when I bought this CD but this was the first time that I had heard the etudes. I believe that other recordings will give greater pleasure and greater understanding of these beguiling works.
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