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A Memorable Disc

Ivan Ilic plays Debussy -
reviewed by

'... superbly managed ...'

Debussy: Préludes pour piano - Livres 1 et 2. Ivan Ilic, piano. © 2008 Paraty

These twenty-four distillations from Debussy's abundant pianism suggest that such was his command of his very individual style he could have improvised another two dozen such pieces almost without thinking, and probably did. This is not to suggest the preludes lack character. Far from it; but the ingedients that go to their making, capable of distribution and combination in a myriad of ways, are comparatively few. And Ivan Ilic has so soaked himself in the idiom of this music that he doubtless dreams extra preludes in his sleep.

The titles Debussy appended to each prelude indicate a profound love of nature, a rich culture, and a playful sense of humour. Winds rustle and roar, snow all but silences the tread, sunlight glints on the waves. There are references to Shakespeare, Dickens, Baudelaire, Leconte de Lisle. And above all, minstrels are teasingly mocked, Samuel Pickwick is lovingly depicted, and General Lavine does his cake-walk. But how important are the titles? Some seem almost interchangeable, and it takes little ingenuity to come up with ready alternatives on occasion.

Ivan Ilic takes playful delight in steering Shakespeare's Puck through his capricious steps, perhaps devised in triumph once he has made Bottom an ass and Titania fall in love with him.

Listen -- Le danse de Puck
(track 3, 0:00-0:45) © 2008 Paraty

Dance, indeed, is another of Debussy's fascinations in the preludes, as is evident from the very different 'Danseuses de Delphes'. This is an evocation of a solemn scene on a Greek bas-relief, where female dancers perform their hieratic steps. In a similar situation John Keats declared that 'Heard melodies are sweet; but those unheard / Are sweeter'. Debussy ventured to disagree.

Listen -- Danseuses de Delphes
(track 8, 0:01-0:53) © 2008 Paraty

'La Puerta del Vino' celebrates the superb Alhambra at Granada (Debussy knew it only from a postcard), and incidentally a brief period in human history when Jew, Christian and Moslem lived in amity under the local Caliph. Debussy's seductive sarabande in Ilic's sensitive hands should be enough to still any latter-day political rumpus.

Listen -- La Puerta del Vino
(track 20, 0:49-1:49) © 2008 Paraty

At another extreme is the technical bravura of cascading rockets and whirling Catherine wheels in 'Feux d'artifice', superbly managed by Ivan Ilic at the end of a memorable disc.

Listen -- Feux d'artifice
(track 24, 0:35-1:49) © 2008 Paraty

Copyright © 3 August 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


Debussy: Préludes pour piano - Livres 1 et 2

PARATY 108.105 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 75'40" 2008 Paraty

Ivan Ilic, piano

Claude Debussy (1862-1918): Premier Livre (1909-1910 - Les collines d'Anacapri; Voiles; Le danse de Puck; Des pas sur la neige; La sérénade interrompue; Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir; Le vent dans la pleine; Danseuses de Delphes; Ce qu'a vu le Vent d'Ouest; Minstrels; La fille aux cheveux de lin; La Cathédrale engloutie); Deuxième Livre (1911-1912 - General Lavine - eccentric; Feuilles mortes; Ondine; Canope; Les tierces alternées; La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune; Hommage à S Pickwick Esq P P M P C; La Puerta del Vino; Brouillards; Bruyères; Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses; Feux d'artifice)


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