Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli plays Debussy (2CD)

Deutsche Grammophon
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Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

"Michelangeli opened my ears, and showed me what a truly great pianist can deliver. He played Debussy's "Images" and "Children's Corner", and I can still hear almost every note. He was devastatingly impressive."

- Record Review / Christian Zacharias, BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. July 2013

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Debussy: Préludes - Book 1 (12, complete)
1. Danseuses de Delphes
2. Voiles
3. Le vent dans la plaine
4. Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir
5. Les collines d'Anacapri
6. Des pas sur la neige
7. Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest
8. La fille aux cheveux de lin
9. La sérénade interrompue
10. La cathédrale engloutie
11. La danse de Puck
12. Minstrels

Debussy: Children's Corner
1. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
2. Jimbo's Lullaby
3. Serenade For The Doll
4. The Snow Is Dancing
5. The Little Shepherd
6. Golliwogg's Cakewalk

Debussy: Préludes - Book 2 (12, complete)
1. Brouillards
2. Feuilles mortes
3. La puerta del vino
4. Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses
5. Bruyères
6. General Lavine - eccentric
7. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
8. Ondine
9. Hommage à S. Pickwick, Esq., P.P.M.P.C.
10. Canope
11. Les tierces alternées
12. Feux d'artifice

Debussy: Images pour piano - Book 1
1. Reflets dans l'eau
2. Hommage à Rameau
3. Mouvement

Debussy: Images pour piano - Book 2
1. Cloches à travers les feuilles
2. Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fût
3. Poissons d'or

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Michaelangeli, the pianist's pianist, combined superlative technique with poetry in this classic 1971 recording.


I've had this record in my vicinity since it first appeared in 1971, when I was a piano student in my (very) early teens. Back then it was an LP, complete with a fold-out black and white poster of Michaelangeli for you to blu-tack onto your bedroom wall next to Che Guevara and Mick Jagger.

The above discs were issued when the pianist died in 1995, but the recording keeps turning up. It is currently available in DG's Debussy Complete Works box (commemorating the centenary of the composer's death.)

Michaelangeli was a frustrating musician. His technique was so astonishing that his recitals were packed with his professional peers (especially if Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit was on the program), but if he wasn't in the mood his playing could be offhand and brusque. He spent regrettably little time in the studio, especially in later years when sound recording had improved, but his way with Debussy remains a highlight. Every detail is perfectly clear, but so are the 'pictures': the ripples of "Reflets dans l'eau" ("Reflections in the water"- Images, Book 1) feel completely natural; the perpetual motion of "Mouvement" never loses its subtle momentum. In the Children's Corner Suite, the fingerwork in "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum" flows with supernatural ease, and if "The Golliwog's Cakewalk" doesn't have much of a ragtime feel it certainly suggests a rag doll. Very special.