BBC Music Magazine - - Instrumental -

Images I & II; Chil­dren’s Cor­ner; Suite Berga­masque;

L’isle joyeuse Seong-jin Cho (pi­ano)

DG 479 8308 72:47 mins

This recital is full of prom­ise. Here is a pi­anist with a fine tech­nique, es­pe­cially adept at sculpt­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous lines within a tex­ture, a fea­ture so cru­cial in play­ing De­bussy. The bells in ‘Cloches à travers les feuilles’ each have their own sonor­ity, with none over­pow­er­ing the oth­ers.

His chord­ing, too, makes for an un­forced res­o­nance, par­tic­u­larly happy in ‘Et la lune de­scend’, while his stac­cato in the ‘Menuet’ of the Suite berga­masque is as del­i­cate as De­bussy could have wished for.

The prob­lems – and I’m afraid they are legion – come in the realms of rhythm and f low. If, as De­bussy does at the start of ‘Ref lets dans l’eau’, a com­poser writes ‘tempo ru­bato’, then he must, in my view, take what comes. But the con­tin­ual habit, so wide­spread these days, of ‘mark­ing’ changes of tex­ture or con­tent with a pre­lim­i­nary pause is here some way beyond ir­ri­tat­ing, equalled only by the ral­len­tan­dos that ruin what should be throw­away end­ings, as in the ‘Passepied’ of the Suite berga­masque. I as­sume this pi­anist has never lis­tened to the record­ing of ‘Pois­sons d’or’ by Ri­cardo Viñes, who gave first per­for­mances of both sets of Images: Viñes is not only a lot quicker, fol­low­ing De­bussy’s mark­ing (3:18 against 4:23), but plays the piece with no ru­bato what­ever. Time spent emot­ing in front of Monet’s paint­ings might have been bet­ter di­rected to study­ing his­tor­i­cal sources. Roger Nichols PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

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