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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Claude Debussy, Reflets, Piano Music, Eliane Rodrigues

After spending some time with the recording at hand, I realized it very much needed a review. And so, readers, I dutifully make my morning appearance fully prepared to embrace the music as I embrace the spring now long established outside my door (and inside, as moths etc., have made themselves at home in my inner sanctum, as is their wont). I see it will not actually be available until June 6th, but that is a mere week away as I write this.

And so I tell you of pianist Eliane Rodrigues's recording of some select Debussy solo piano music, Reflets (Navona NV 6164). I have lived with this music in multiple recordings over the years, some made famous in time, so why bother with a new one? I might have asked that question myself a few weeks ago, yet now that I have listened closely to Eliane Rodrigues have her way with this music, I realize that I might have missed a whole dimension of the music had I not heard these versions. Part of that is how a particular performance can after many listens become a base node of comparison but also in some ways stultify your conception of the music in its pliability. If nowhere else solo piano works can have enormous latitude. Especially in this aspect of Debussy, where rubato can give you so much possibility or, in some unfortunate examples, perhaps run off the rails in a sort of self-indulgence? Speed and variability of temporal momentum are key factors, as of course is the infinitude of touch possibilities and dynamics, of phrase shading. As to the negative side of such possibilities I do not have a particular performance in mind, I think only of a general situation where artistic freedom is at a maximum. To have freedom does not guarantee that an artist takes good advantage of such a thing.

So the good news is that Rodrigues takes great advantage of the freedom to give us fresh, sparkling, even brilliantly pianistic readings of some very wonderful Debussy. Like her recording of Chopin's Nocturnes (Review on these pages. Type Debussy or Rodrigues in the search index box above to find that one.), we hear the executive and imaginative abilities of Eliane put to excellent use.

She has her way with some lyrical gems--the "Suite Bergamasque," the "Ballade," "Pour le Piano," "Arabesque No. 1" and "Images, Book 1 and Book 2." After a few listens you come to appreciate the bright state-of-the-art recording and Eliane Rodrigues' special freshness. It gives the music new life, or it does for me anyway. I do not doubt it would do the same for you. It is the musical equivalent of comfort food to me, a meatloaf and mac and cheese inside a grand piano! Get it and feel good for a change!

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