Andrew Palmer, Group Editor

Classical Music: Debussy Piano Duets

Debussy Piano Duets
Louis Lortie & Hélène Mercier
La Mer; Six Épigraphes Antiques; Marche écossaise sur un thème populaire; Andante cantabile; Ballade slave; Première Arabesque; Le Fille aux cheveux de lin; Petite Suite.

Chandos CHAN 20228
https://www.chandos.net/

Released 9th September


Regular duet and two-piano partners Hélène Mercier and Louis Lortie present this all-Debussy programme, starting and ending on the water. It features duets written by the composer himself - such as the familiar and popular Petite Suite, the Six Épigraphes antiques and the Marche écossaise sur un thème Populaire.

The duo characterise Debussy’s impressionism well with playing that is sensitive and charming. Each vignette clearly portraying the sense of the title as Lortie & Mercier depicts imagery on their musical canvas.

The magical opening that comes through from the beginning of the wonderful Petite Suite immediately transports the listener to a skiff as it’ glides merrily over the dreaming water’.The interpretations are alluring and for this more familiar reperotire the duo still pull the listener into Debussy's world.

In the Six Épigraphes antiques they manage to create ambience through attention to the dynamics making these delightful gems enjoyable. In the second'Pour un tombeau sans nom' the interpretation 'triste et lent' makes the listener wonder about the unmarked grave as it plods to its conclusion. The enchanting fourth and fifth, 'Pour la danseuse aux crotales' and 'Pour l'Égyptienne' are delightfully conveyed through their punctilious approach to the score.

Recorded in the concert hall at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, using a pair of Bösendorfer 280 VC grand pianos, the acoustic picks by the resonance needed for most of the repertoire.

The album ends with André Caplet’s monumental arrangement of Debussy’s best known orchestral work, La Mer. Stripped of its orchestration, this two-piano version allows the listener to more easily appreciate Debussy’s ground-breaking harmonic innovation.

It is wonderfully played and interpreted as the duo use the piano’s percussiveness to conjure up all different sentiments in the three-movement work. Mercier & Lortie’s chemistry is superbly demonstrated with their astute synchronisation as they steer through La Mer with energetic changes in colour and tempi and, as the waves rise and fall, it gives them an opportunity for animated and virtuosic playing that certainly makes a splash.

Safely back on land one can enjoy this lovely recital byMercier & Lortie’s four brilliant hands.