‘Bavouzet plays even such neglected gems as the Ballad and Valse romantique as though he were suspended in a dream-world, revelling in the music's multi-layered sonic terracing with a captivating range of keyboard touch and micro-pedalling.... Playing that takes us through new realms of experience.' International Record Review
Debussy won the Prix de Rome in 1884 at the age of twenty-one and through it tasted institutional life for the first and last time. It was one of the most miserable periods in his life. Quite aside from having to leave his Parisian mistress, Debussy was never comfortable with the demands of public situations, and all through these works we find a tension between public and private utterance. Opening the album are three early works, the Ballade, Valse romantique and Danse, which Debussy offered to his publisher as a group. They show how far he was prepared to go to please the elite, but also the extent to which he was determined to follow his own path, and from this point on he took more control of his writing.
In his dedication of the three Images of 1894 to Yvonne Lerolle, Debussy makes explicit reference to the tension he was feeling: ‘These pieces would feel extremely nervous entering ‘the brilliantly lit salons' regularly patronised by people who don't like music. They are rather ‘conversations' between the Piano and Oneself.' They are complemented here by Estampes, which represent a kind of retreat by Debussy into his private world after the premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande and his being decorated as Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1902. It shows the first real sign of his bending the piano to his will. Completing the recording are three smaller works written in the years 1903-04, Masques, L'Isle joyeuse and ...D'un cahier d'esquisses. Debussy's works have been central to the performance repertoire of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet for many years but with this series he records his interpretations of them for the first time. As The Sunday Times noted, ‘Bavouzet has taken his time before committing his interpretations to disc but here he announces himself a peerless Debussyiste... Bavouzet's command of touch, colour and rhythmic vitality are all that one could ask for... This is essential Debussy, immaculately realised'. About Volume 1, Gramophone wrote, ‘Bavouzet commands all the shading, nuance and timbral sensitivity one expects in Debussy, together with virtuoso flair and characterful spontaneity...' This series is very much a personal project for Bavouzet who has been involved in all aspects of the recording.
For lovers of Debussy, and great piano playing, this is essential listening.