Classical CD Reviews

DEBUSSY: Preludes, Book 2 [TrackList follows] – Hristo Kazakov, piano – self

Hristo Kazakov concludes a brace of fine Debussy Preludes albums.

Published on August 27, 2014

DEBUSSY: Preludes, Book 2 [TrackList follows] – Hristo Kazakov, piano – self

CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Preludes, Book 2 [TrackList follows] – Hristo Kazakov, piano – self, 43:43 ****:

Achille Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) did not like the word “impressionism” associated with his music. Critics and friends began using the term after La Mer (1905). And though he continued to use titles with highly visual connotations (e.g. Feuilles mortes {dead leaves}, Feux d”Artifice {fireworks} – among this collection), he took to placing those titles in small type at the end of each Prelude.

He saw the visual arts as almost on a higher plane than music. One of his few piano students, Mademoiselle Worms de Romilly, wrote that “he always regretted not having worked at painting instead of music”. His first French biographer Louis Laloy wrote in 1909 that “He received his most profitable lessons from poets and painters, not from musicians”.  And he told the composer Edgar Varése “I love pictures almost as much as music.”

This is the third self-produced recording by Bulgarian pianist Hristo Kazakov (b. 1974). The first consisted of Bach: Goldberg Variations, and received very good reviews. The second ( Amazon: B00CFNYZNK) is an album of Debussy’s Images – Books I & II  paired with the 24 Piano Preludes by Alexander Scriabin, a Russian contemporary of Debussy.  It was released almost simultaneously with this collection of Debussy’s Book 2 Preludes, which is front-ended by the war-horse Clair de Lune from Suite Bergamasque, and Pagodes from Estampes.

Kazakov’s playing is wonderful in both Debussy recordings, but the differences are interesting. The Debussy Preludes recording was done a year earlier at a live performance in the Gotheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, a building with marvellous acoustics. All applause and other audience noise has been removed. Live recordings are always an adventure – and apparently Kazakov felt that one piece of the adventure – Prelude XI - Les tiercesalternées – did not go well, so he left it off this recording without explanation.

The pianist went back to his home country, to the Bulgaria Hall in Sofia for the Debussy/Scriabin recording, The external, visual imagery of Debussy’s music is in strong contrast with the interior, more melancholy aesthetic of Scriabin. Kazakov has marvellously strong hands and he is able to cover the dynamic range of both composers with ease. Kazakov is preparing a recital tour that will include Bach, Chopin, Debussy and the complete Beethoven sonatas cycle. I hope he gets to North America soon.

I only have a few minor reservations about Kazakov‘s album of Debussy Preludes Book 2. I felt a bit short-changed with the length of the recording. Since he threw in a couple of selections to begin – including one of the title pieces – he could have given us another 15–20 minutes of his marvelous playing. The album packaging is similar on both Debussy recordings, with a little write-up on the performer, nothing on the music, and the playlist almost illegible.

TrackList:

1. Brouillards 2:29
2. Feuilles mortes 3:31
3. La puerta del vino 3:50
4. “Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses” 3:20
5. Bruyères 2:53
6. “General Lavine” – eccentric 2:33
7. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune 4:44
8. Ondine 3:29
9. Hommage à S. Pickwick, Esq., P.P.M.P.C. 2:39
10. Canope 2:32
11. Les tierces alternées 3:15
12. Feux d’artifice 4:33

—Paul Kennedy




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