“The Unbroken Line” = DEBUSSY: Images I; Preludes II; RAMEAU: Selection from Castor et Pollux; Selection from Nouvelles Suites – Jeffrey LaDeur, piano – MSR Classics MS 1654, 69:39 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
An interesting concept that rings quite true.
Jeffrey LaDeur is a widely performing artist who is also the founder of the noted Delphi Trio and Founder and Artistic Director of the New Piano Collective, a consortium of internationally renowned pianists. Debussy is somewhat in his blood as he returns to Weill Hall in 2018 to commemorate an ongoing survey of the composer’s music in the anniversary of the year of his death.
Here he attempts to make, in very erudite album notes, an association of Debussy’s admiration for the music of Rameau, and even his musical construction based upon some of that of the earlier artist. He certainly is correct when asserting that Debussy was interested in maintaining and developing the “pure” French tradition, especially when opposing it to the then pervasive—and some would say, persuasive—influence of Wagner. But I am afraid that the concept fails to emerge in a formidable manner on this disc, simply because there is not enough Rameau here to make the case. Even though the delightful arrangement of “Tristes apprets” from Castor et Pollux do indeed remind one of “Hommage a Rameau” from Book I of the Images, and the marvelous—and brilliantly played—“Gavotte et six doubles” from Nouvelles suites de pieces du clavecin ties into the eleventh piece of Book II of the Preludes, I wish for a more thoroughly musical exploration of this very important and realistic thesis. Unfortunately, there is just not enough disc space, though perhaps there could have been room for one more Rameau.
That aside—and do pay close attention to LaDeur’s notes—his Debussy, especially the Preludes, is of a whole cloth, richly delineated, dark, mellifluous, and immersed in clarity. These are performances by a pianist who has given a lot of thought to his performances, and his communicative abilities are top notch. Couple that with MSR’s unique way with recording a piano, and you get a release of profound worth, something a little different, yet seeming to be simply the way that things should sound.