Many years ago, my teacher Cécile Ousset revealed to me that she is the owner of her teacher’s copy of Debussy’s Préludes. She was a student of Marcel Ciampi at the Conservatoire in Paris, who worked on this pieces with the composer himself.
This score is simply overwhelming: Remarks, phrasings, fingerings are written in different colors and layers over every note and every chord, with comments and remarks on even the tiniest details, and in some places there are fine, black letters almost impossible to decipher – apparently the handwriting of Claude Debussy.
For me as a young musician this has been an important lesson on how details need to be taken seriously. I have the feeling that especially the music of „Monsieur Croche“ unfolds only when this subtlety is being achieved. This might be the central reason why he is not widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of piano music – in my opinion a major mistake!
Not only that his influence on the development of modernity has been just as important as Schönberg’s, and for postmodern music probably even more. Also, his works challenge the performer in a manifold way: They are technically demanding, but in addition to virtuosic pianism, he requires an equally virtuosic handling of colors, shading and character. In 20th century music not a matter of course.
My recording session of the complete Préludes for Naive Classique is scheduled for Spring 2014. However, I’m very happy to present a selection of them already at Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, alongside with Brahms’ Händel Variations, and, of course, some Mozart.
And finally, for anyone interested in historic recordings, I’d like to recommend Debussy as a performer of his own works. While listening I can’t help but admire his unique sense of timing and his dazzling use of the upper register.