Ms. Quilico begins with Claude Debussy's "Preludes Book Two," When pulled out of the flow of Debussy's output ad placed on a less cluttered display where it can be more impactful for its singularity, when performed so expressively and filled with life as it is here, you are reminded of just how advanced this music was and, indeed, still is. All eight movements are bursting with narrative color and fire, from the opening mystery of "Mists/Fog" to the declamatory "Fireworks." Of course this music to be played well takes a lot of technique and equally a good deal of imagination. Ms. Quilico has both in abundance and so gives us the kind of dynamic reading that stretches our musical understanding.
As it does all that, it within the album's chronological sequence forms the bedrock for French Modernist piano, as well it deserves to do. As such it sets us up for the next step, Messiaen's bold, strident "Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant Jesus" in its beautifully advanced seven movements. Rhythmically supercharged, harmonically-melodically edgy, filled with Messiaen's special vitality in its original mature form (1944). I listen with a feeling of great presence and musical wisdom.
To make the full trip into High Modernism we get two wonderful Pierre Boulez works, "Premiere Sonate" and "Troisieme Sonate Pour Piano," both helping define Serialism for good and all, with brilliance and poetic verve, but too with a Frenchness that has a sonically deep footprint. The performances as with the Messiaen and the Debussy mark an undoubted high point in the pianistic personality of Chrstian Quilico. Her readings are technical triumphs but then always with the utmost musicality, which marks it all as pretty much definitive.
All the things that in this way define this program as special--performance, composition choice, etc., establish this as indispensible listening for New Music enthusiasts or acolytes alike. Get this and dive in!