Préludes (Books 1 and 2)
It is quite an undertaking to perform – and indeed to listen to – both books of Debussy Préludes in a single recital, but undoubtedly a rewarding one. Pierre-Laurent Aimard is certainly one of the very few musicians who would be equal to the task, at least in any sense more meaningful than simply despatching the notes. Clichéd reputations tend to die hard in the world of musical performance, but anyone expecting an overtly modernistic reading would have been surprised, at least had he listened rather than merely flattered his prejudices. True, this was no mere catalogue of hazy, allegedly ‘impressionistic’ effects, though who plays this music like that any more, if indeed anyone ever did? What struck me throughout, despite and indeed through the variety of perspectives Aimard adopted with respect to the preludes as small works in themselves, was the underlying crucial importance of harmony. Upon that, quite rightly, everything else was founded.