Debussy: L'Isle Joyeuse; Images Book 1; Etudes Book 2; Estampes

Nelson Goerner

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Debussy: L'Isle Joyeuse; Images Book 1; Etudes Book 2; Estampes Review

by James Manheim

Argentine pianist Nelson Goerner isn't known for French music, although he does perform Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuse in recital sometimes. This beautifully recorded release from the Linn label, however, gives the lie to the idea that pianists necessarily have a specialty, like vocalists, outside which they don't perform well. The album was recorded at the Teldex studios in Berlin, which have rarely if ever been better exploited than by Linn's engineers here. They capture the delicacy of Goerner's mists, the full resonance of the bacchanalian finale of L'Isle Joyeuse. Nearly equally good are the performances themselves. Goerner has lots of competition in these familiar Debussy works, but his versions are worth considering not only for their lovely, subtle palette of textures but also for the unique sound world he coaxes out of each work. Try the rather pan-Asian concept of Pagodes, from the Estampes set at the beginning: the title is East Asian, but the musical inspiration is Indonesian, and the work has rarely sounded more like the cyclical layers of a gamelan echoing in a Javanese night. Each of the Etudes comes to life in its own technical-poetic space. Goerner's program is not organized chronologically nor by complete set; instead it follows an internal poetic logic, and by the end it has become profoundly hypnotic. Very, very fine playing.

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