I am one of those strange people who are utterly convinced that the some of the greatest (if not the greatest) piano music of the 20th century is represented by the middle and late works of Debussy...
The Etudes (1915), which im listening to today, are incredible in everyway. I have known these pieces for years and years but they're still fresh to my ears. They are timeless works- the first etude in particular, with its dark humor, warmth and brilliance, feels contemporary, as if born from post-minimalism. There is such richness and gorgeous music here,sharp irregularities and striking contrasts.
These works are quite deceptive; the technical difficulty can be substantial, though, like ballet, it always seems so simple and refined. There are all kinds of unusual things the pianist has to perform, patterns and tricks of all sorts that the pianist has get used to- there are all types of challenges, including a piece composed in a manner that essentially forces you to do Debussy's bidding - to play with only 8 fingers. This is radical stuff, Debussy produces un-heard of sounds out of the piano which are still quite new to the ears today- you don’t hear many pianos produce these sounds! There is lyricism, concentrated and fragmented musical ideas and intense emotions scattered about. In short, these etudes kick ass.
Did this man ever go wrong? really.... did he?
Season wrap-up at the Met and NY Phil
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