Saturday, February 25, 2017

Yvonne Lefébure Plays Debussy & Emmanuel

Strangely enough, before writing the text to accompany this disc, I re-read something Debussy wrote and found it disturbing : "I think that the nervous stress and strain of the last months are the reason why I cannot write anything worthwhile. I have tried everything, but the result is pitiful".
A harsh judgement ; at that time (July to December 1901) the young but brilliant career of "Mr. Anti-Dilettante Quaver" had come to a stop, leaving Debussy — musician, writer and critic — fully exposed to the anguished preparations of Pelléas.
I do not have Debussy's stylish pen, but I must write something about him, in spite of the enormous difficulty I have in getting to the heart of what I feel about him ; I feel weighed dow by so many ideas, accumulated during the long years I have spent playing and loving these works by our great French composer, perhaps the greatest and, I would even say, the greatest of the 20th century (with apologies to Stravinsky, Ravel, Fauré and so many others...).
My first experience of Debussy's style — Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the Rain) — is linked with an unforgettable memory : when I was about eleven or twelve, my Mother took me to his home on the Avenue du Bois (the introduction was thanks to a friend of his, Roger Ducasse) ; it was snowing, I was greatly intimidated, and moved, to be playing to the Master (though he was obviously more interested in my hair than my fingers...). l can still see him clearly — his dark suit, swarthy complexion, the lock of black hair falling on an extremely curved forehead that gave an enigmatic, unfathomable quality to his expression. His gait was slow and proud, already marked by illness ; the luxurious surroundings, the Bechstein piano, so hard to play because its sound was damped by the thick Chinese silk and the many precious objects that covered it. Everything comes to life again now when I recall this visit. His hands — on the keyboard they were fascinating, showing me how the chords of the last two pages of "Jardins sous la pluie" should sound ; the left hand passed over my head and attacked the chords with a force and precision that I admired, watching avidly "how he went about it". His large, beautiful hands arched, fingers stretched out straight up to the last joint, kneeded the keys closely, producing a sound  that was mellow but powerful and projected well. He used to say : "Hands should get into the keys, not float in the air over them". His fellow students all agreed that Debussy was a pianist "quite unlike others", not a virtuoso but possessing an enchanting sonority. His touch was famous. Touch — contact with the keyboard — is a special gift, rather like a fingerprint, unique to each individual. When, many years later, I set about playing (almost) all Debussy, with the right sonority as my first priority, I held my hands rather differently from the position they used to teach in the preparatory class at the Conservatoire — curved fingers and joints, good articulation. Now with Debussy, it is the pressure of the touch that matters, not the percussive force of the strike...
Yvonne Lefébure, February 1983 (translation by Gerald Glynn) from the booklet

Yvonne Lefébure
Plays
Debussy
Emmanuel

Tracks

Claude Debussy
(1862-1918)

Images (1er LIvre)
1 Reflets dans l'eau 4:37
2 Hommage à Rameau 5:51
3 Mouvement 3:35

4 Masques 4:49

Images (2ème Livre)
5 Cloches à travers les feuilles 3:31
6 Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut 4:30
7 Poissons d'or 3:58

8 L'sle joyeuse 5:20

*
Maurice Emmanuel
(1862-1938)

Sonatine IV
9 I. - 2:26
10 II. - 3:31
11 III. - 2:40

Sonatine III
12 I. - 2:58
13 II. - 2:48
14 III. - 2:01

Sonatine VI
15 I. - 2:11
16 II. - 1:45
17 III. - 2:11

*

Yvonne Lefébure - p

Recorded in Paris ; January 24, 1983 [# 1-4] ; December 20, 1982 [# 5-8] ; & October 22/24, 1974 [# 9-17]

5 comments:

Melanchthon said...

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Anonymous said...

Thank you MM, excellent music.

Pedro del Castillo Alonso said...

Hi,
Thank you very much Mel!
Very nice..
Pedro

george said...

Many thanks, Mel!

Gil said...

Merci beaucoup.