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Briefly Noted: Debussy for Four Hands

available at Amazon
Claude Debussy, Piano Duets, Louis Lortie, Hélène Mercier

(released on September 9, 2022)
Chandos CHAN20228W | 81'24"
Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier have released a new recording of charming music for piano, four hands, by Claude Debussy, both originals and some delightful arrangements. The Québécois piano duo, both of whom also have solo careers, have a long-standing partnership: Washingtonians last had the chance to hear them play live at the Library of Congress in 2018. With some pieces for one piano, four hands, and others for two pianos, Mercier and Lortie (primo-secondo) play on two Bösendorfer Concert Grand 280VC instruments.

Along with the most familiar Debussy four-hands piece, Petite Suite, is found more unusual selections like the Six Épigraphes antiques, modal enigmas played with quiet mystery. The list of works Debussy wrote for two pianists is rounded out by an Andante cantabile and a four-hands version of Marche écossaise sur un thème populaire. The latter was a commission from General Meredith Read, at one time United States Consul General in France, who asked Debussy to write a piece on a Scottish tune owned by his family, the Counts of Ross, in 1890.

Arrangements and transcriptions complete the program, including some Debussy favorites that would make perfect encores, like Arabesque No. 1 and the prelude "La fille aux cheveux de lin," both in versions made by Léon Roques. Gustave Samazeuilh published a version of the sumptuously beautiful Ballade (formerly "Ballade slave") for four hands, here performed on two pianos. The triumph of the disc is a striking rendition of Debussy's three symphonic sketches titled La Mer, transcribed for two pianos by André Caplet shortly after the work's premiere, supplanting the less satisfying four-hands arrangement made earlier by the composer himself.

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