A highlight of the Debussy anniversary from Melnikov

Debussy: Préludes & La Mer

Alexander Melnikov & Olga Pashchenko (piano)

This is one of the most incredible CD releases that I have encountered this year and also one of the best of the Debussy centenary issues. The 45 year old Russian pianist, Alexander Melnikov performs Debussy’s Préludes – Book 2 on a ‘period’ piano (an Érard piano) in a manner that breathes new life into the work.

The piano, with its nimble action and veiled tones is simply perfect for playing Debussy and Melnikov creates such a range of colours and textures that you will be listening in disbelief! This release is not merely a curiosity, Alexander Melnikov plays these préludes with as much, if not more, imagination than most of the competition.

The orchestral masterpiece, La Mer is difficult to reduce to a four-handed piano piece, because no transcriber or pianist can conceivably realise satisfactorily such things as the shimmering strings and sonorous wind in the original work. In fact, Debussy disowned his transcription for piano with four hands, considering it “unplayable” and left it to André Caplet to prepare another version for two pianos. Alexandre Melnikov and Olga Pashchenko have taken up the challenge to prove that this version is not at all “unplayable”. They make a good job of it, although there are times when the work cries out for something stronger, like a Steinway.

You won’t buy this for the duet; it is simply not a great work in this form. However it is more than worth the purchase price for the préludes alone. Indeed this could be in the running for our CD of the Year!

iClassical rating: