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This disc is Roge’s first complete recording of the Preludes (I presume from the liner notes that he had recorded a selection in the analogue era) and that this marks the start of a complete Debussy cycle. To that I say “bring it on, Pascal”.

I have heard Gieseking (two versions), Jacobs, and Zimerman in both books, as well as Arrau, Dino Ciani, and countless other pianists in one book or in selections from both. The set by Paul Jacobs was the benchmark to which I compared all other performances (I found Zimerman wimpy, and some rhythms simply misread – more on that later.)

And for me this Roge set outshines them all.

If you wish to buy Zimerman, you must do so with TWO separate full-price DG discs, one for each book. Here Onyx squeezed both books on one full-price CD, a considerable saving. But price is the least reason why I prefer this set.

Roge displays individual touches throughout the cycle. And he dares to play “La cathedrale engloutie” the way Debussy himself played it, NOT the way it was printed. He differentiates between 3/2 and 6/4 meters, with the half note or quarter note the beat unit where appropriate. He’s not afraid of rubato, even if excessive (some places in “Minstrels” for example, for reasons of humor.) In the liner notes he talks of his study with Marguerite Long, and her corrections to the printed text.

Perhaps this explains the “missed rhythm” that Zimerman plays at the very end of the second page of “La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune” – Roge does the same thing. The three quarter notes in 6/8 time are played as three eighth notes in 3/8 time. These two are the only pianists whom I have heard play this measure this way. It sounds reasonable, but it’s not what’s on the page, and both play it as quarters when the theme recurs later in the prelude. Did Debussy change this measure in printed copies? Both of these musicians are “too fine a musician” to make such a gross note-reading error in such a standard and familiar piece. “La terrasse” is an important piece in my repertoire, and I would like to solve this puzzle.

Roge even seems to breathe life into the preludes I tend to dislike, such as “Danseuses de Delphes” and my absolute least favorite Debussy piece, “Des pas sur la neige”. His subtle rubato helps make clear the despair Debussy wished to portray.

I won’t say that if you must own only one set, it should be this one, however. Mainly because there is much to enjoy in the sets by Zimerman and Jacobs, and of course Gieseking still commands respect. But this is an excellent set, “in modern sound”, and may be preferable to Zimerman for the novice because of the difference in cost.

This set makes me impatiently await the remainder of the cycle.

-Rick Robertson, amazon.com

DOWNLOAD:
Pascal Rogé-CLAUDE DEBUSSY’s PRELUDES I & II (2005)
320kbps

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