DEBUSSY Complete Piano Works, Vol 4 – Bavouzet
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s flexible virtuosity and innate grasp of Debussy’s style and sound world yields ravishing, freshly minted interpretations of the Images and Etudes that proudly rank with (and sometimes surpass) the catalogue’s reference versions. The Images gain welcome nourishment from Bavouzet’s portfolio of ravishing colour shadings and articulations, while easily absorbing such pianistic liberties as playing one hand before the other, à la Michelangeli. His headlong, impulsive “Hommage à Rameau” contrasts with similarly nuanced yet more austere readings. In “Poissons d’or”, he sneaks a few piranhas into the fishbowl as he modifies Debussy’s aussi léger que possible directive with volatile dynamic hairpins and witty accents. “Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fût” also rivets your attention via his seductive legato and three-dimensional textures.
Although I’m not familiar with Bavouzet’s earlier Etudes edition on Canyon Classics, his Chandos remake may well be the best I’ve heard. Mitsuko Uchida’s steely precision, Florent Boffard’s luscious tone, plus Ju-Ying Song’s poise and clarity all roll into one and beyond in Bavouzet’s respectful yet imaginative hands. As you follow the intelligently contoured left-hand counterlines of “Pour les tierces” you almost don’t notice the fluency and easy evenness of Bavouzet’s right-hand double notes. On the other hand, in “Pour les huit doigts” and “Pour les degrés chromatiques” he favours melodic inflection and linear motion over Aimard’s and Uchida’s smoother, scintillating surfaces. The difficult leaps of “Pour les accords” have rarely sounded less like technical feats and more like music, and “Pour les arpèges composés” rivals Horowitz’s 1965 reading for harmonic pointing and sexiness.
Bavouzet precedes this étude with a full-bodied, emotionally generous performance of its recently rediscovered earlier version, Etude retrouvée. I can guarantee readers that this attractively engineered release will reveal more and more details to savour with each rehearing. If you haven’t yet ordered it, what are you waiting for?