DEBUSSY: Preludes, Books I & II – Terry Lynn Hudson, p – MSR Classics MS 1620 (2 CDs), 85:16 ****:
MSR Classics has made a habit of scouring the under-the-radar territory for artists that while, not normally considered “front rank” like all the names we are so familiar with, are nevertheless top notch in their technical abilities, and ofttimes even better than the “stars” featured by the more famous companies. Such proves the case here. I had never heard of Terry Lynn Hudson, currently Associate Professor of Piano at Baylor University (after receiving undergraduate, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees at James Madison University, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and University of Texas at Austin, respectively), but she certainly has the measure of Claude Debussy’s immortal Preludes.
Most of these themed pieces, composed in 1910 and 1913, are familiar to piano music lovers everywhere, with many of them easily excised for inclusion on recital programs. More accessible and immediately gratifying than, say, his thornier Etudes, Debussy’s inspiration drew from folk music, popular tunes, the simple, the complex, the historical, and the poetic. More than any of his other keyboard pieces, these perhaps are most deserving of the appellation he didn’t especially like, Impressionism. But, as they say, if the shoe fits …
Since the composer was not considered a particularly fine pianist, the way he draws almost orchestral-like color from the instrument is quite astounding. And though he labels each of these works with a descriptive title, I can’t say that The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, just to take one example, brings to my mind the intended image, if indeed one really is intended. Okay, The Engulfed Cathedral does, somehow, seem descriptive of the event, but these associations do not always hold true. Nevertheless, associations or not, the music proves wildly descriptive from a musically intuitive point of view and affects our emotions whether we are cognizant of the composer’s original inspiration or not.
As mentioned, Hudson know this music very well and approaches it with a fine, graded, and intimate sensibility. There is a smoothness to her method that is enhanced by the warm and equally intimate sound that MSR provides, caught at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon, New York, a real pleasure on the ears. Easily recommended then, even as a first choice in this repertory.