DEBUSSY Suite bergamasque etc (Lugansky)
Finally the perfect illustration of what my Ukrainian teacher used to require for playing quiet passages: as if walking through water without disturbing it. Curiously, similar imagery – of herons floating over the Florida Everglades – features in the Clair de lune sequence of Disney’s Fantasia which didn’t make it to the final cut. Far from being a mere incidental bonus, Lugansky’s Suite bergamasque, its mercurial nostalgia for the past perfectly captured, is the crown jewel of the disc, a real tour de force of poetic pianism and worthy of lending its title to the recital as a whole.
Lugansky finds ways to ravish the ear without ever letting us settle into monotony (a criticism to which Jean-Yves Thibaudet, for one, is open). Dreamlike and hypnotic, his accounts of some of Debussy’s greatest piano hits never deviates into the over-indulgent, effete or simpering. From the porcelain-like fragility of ‘Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut’, to the energetic yet pristine clarity and spontaneity of L’isle joyeuse, to the intoxicating and lush sensuality of La plus que lente, his ‘déguisements fantasques’ (as Verlaine put it in his ‘Clair de lune’ poem) are exquisitely judged.
Beneath the shimmering surface colours, Lugansky is alive to structural clarity without ever becoming impersonal or matter-of-fact: a danger Angela Hewitt does not avoid (Hyperion, 11/12). In this vein, and given the nonchalant simplicity he brings to the most complex harmonies and textures, he can stand comparison with Gieseking (EMI), even if no one has quite matched the latter’s magical affinity with Debussy (take, for example, the muffled opening of ‘Jardins sous la pluie’, where Lugansky is a touch too real).
As with previous anniversary-year Debussy instalments from Harmonia Mundi, the sound quality is flawless.