“les sons et les parfums” = CHOPIN: Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op. 57; Etude in A-flat Major, Op. 25, No. 1; Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52; Grande Valse brillante in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2; Prelude in C Major, Op. 28, No. 1; Nocturne in F-sharp Major, Op. 15, No. 2; Barcarolle in F-harp Major, Op. 60;  DEBUSSY: Clair de lune; Etude XI; Preludes: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air de soir; Danseuses de Delphes; La terasse des audiences du clair de lune; La plus que lente; L’isle joyeuse – Javier Perianes, piano – DVD: “Deux chercheurs d’absolu,” film by Josp Molina 9:55 – Harmonia mundi HMC 902164, 71:24 (10/28/13) *****:

Pianist Javier Perianes (rec. November 2012) juxtaposes two “Gallic” masters of the keyboard – allowing Chopin his French identity to reign over his Polish roots – and Claude Debussy, who claimed to have imbibed his love of Chopin through his teacher Madame Antoinette Maute. Virtually each instance of Debussy reveals its direct influence or quotation from Chopin.  In the brief film on DVD dedicated to Two Seekers of the Absolute, the two opening pieces – the Chopin Berceuse and Debussy’s Clair de lune – receive dark and shadowy visuals to accompany the liquid renditions of the music.  The latter piece – also in D-flat Major – enjoys the advantage of selective lighting, to create the effect of a full, half, or new moon in which the keyboard utters its haunting song.

For the mainstream program, Perianes alternates one composer against the other, placing the ravishing A-flat Major “Aeolian Harp” Etude against the seamless performance of Debussy’s “Pour les arpeges composes” Etude in A-flat Major, one of the finest renditions on record. Debussy hasn’t a powerhouse piece to counter Chopin’s muscularly wrought and contrapuntal  F Minor Ballade, so Perianes proffers a synaesthetic prelude from which the album draws its eponymous “perfumed sounds.”  The one truly slow waltz of Chopin, in A Minor, finds its correspondence in Debussy’s La plus que lente, with its written dynamic, con morbidezza as an intimation of mortality. Perianes has two ‘first’ preludes collide: the Chopin C Major with its uncanny, fearful symmetry, and the sensuous Delphic Dancers from Preludes, Livre I, which quotes literally from the Chopin original.

Perianes invokes the night – that magical phenomenon celebrated by Novalis – in Chopin’s F-sharp Major Nocturne and Debussy’s prelude in the same key that invokes an Eastern enchantment while exploiting a chromatic melisma directly from the Chopin into its luminously elusive texture. Perianes’ sonority rings crisp and clear, often reminiscent of the cold luminosity we had in Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. The grand 1846 Barcarolle of Chopin finds its counterpart in Debussy’s A Minor evocation of The Embarkation for Cythera fromWatteau, L’sle joyeuse, each a plastic tone poem in haunting Neapolitan colors. Here, in this final musical “confrontation,” the force of each composer’s command of the tonal palette and keyboard imagery seems an apotheosis of texture and musical strategy, the trill liberated in each composer to achieve an anguished moment of expressivity. Perhaps not since Ivan Moravec have we heard a keyboard musician with such an intimate, innate grasp of these two composers’ distinctive, yet kindred personalities.

—Gary Lemco