Marc-André Hamelin

Debussy: Images; Préludes II

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It may be that some listeners still think of Quebec-born pianist Marc-André Hamelin as a specialist in the likes of Alkan and Godowsky, not in the comparatively technically manageable Debussy. But this fine Debussy recital, with nary a conventionally virtuosic work in sight, shows how wrong they are. Actually those who apply the virtuoso label (a term he personally dislikes) to Hamelin may have a point: one could say he finds the virtuosity in Debussy with all the shades and subtleties of articulation that he applies. But a better way of putting it comes from Hamelin himself, who has said that he has never encountered a greater mixture of intellect and sensuality than in Debussy's music. Hamelin's Debussy is so detailed as to be emotionally intense. The only thing missing might be the humor in a piece like Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C. (track 15), but the incredibly intricate pictures that emerge in the two groups of Images more than make up for it: Debussy hasn't been this sharply etched before, and it works. Hyperion provides admirably clear engineering support in London's Henry Wood Hall. This is a Debussy recording that everyone ought to hear.

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