Vikingur Olafsson – Debussy – Rameau (2020) Deutsche Grammophon

Fresh from his hugely acclaimed and multi -award-winning album Johann Sebastian Bach, Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s third Deutsche Grammophon recording pairs works by two revolutionary French composers separated by a century and a half: Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claude Debussy.

Debussy is most often called an impressionist. “People get lost a little bit in sound for the sake of sound”, Ólafsson comments. But the composer was also “a real perfectionist… there is this incredibly refined structure at work.” Rameau, “the bad boy of the French baroque”, likewise combined a strong sense of structure with a fondness for breaking conventions: “He broke the rules and paved the way for new ideas, new creativity, new spontaneity.” What unites the two composers, Ólafsson comments, is “a kind of freedom and discipline, juxtaposed”. The album Debussy & Rameau alternates music by the two composers, creating an enthralling dialogue between them. Works are drawn from across both composers’ careers, with the Debussy selection including well-known miniatures such as La Fille aux cheveux de lin as well as the less familiar Prelude to La Damoiselle élue arranged for piano solo.

Rameau’s works are mainly drawn from his Pièces de clavecin collections of between 1724 and 1741. One of the album’s centrepieces is Ólafsson’s own Rameau arrangement The Arts and the Hours. Ólafsson’s album concludes with a piece that connects the two composers directly: Debussy’s Hommage à Rameau from Images book 1, a moving sarabande written as a tribute from one rule -breaking composer to another.

Tracklist:

01 – La damoiselle élue, L. 62 : Prélude
02 – Le Rappel des oiseaux
03 – 6. Rigaudons 1, 2 & Double
04 – Musette en rondeau
05 – Tambourin
06 – La Villageoise
07 – Gigues en rondeau 1 & 2
08 – Estampes, L. 100 : 3. Jardins sous la pluie
09 – Children’s Corner, L. 113 : 3. Serenade for the Doll
10 – Children’s Corner, L. 113 : 4. The Snow Is Dancing
11 – Les tendres plaintes
12 – Les tourbillons
13 – L’entretien des Muses
14 – Préludes / Book 1, L. 117 : 6. Des pas sur la neige
15 – La joyeuse
16 – Les Cyclopes
17 – The Arts and the Hours
18 – Préludes / Book 1, L. 117 : 8. La fille aux cheveux de lin
19 – Préludes / Book 2, L. 123 : 8. Ondine
20 – Cinquième concert : 2. La Cupis
21 – Quatrième concert : 2. L’indiscrète
22 – Quatrième concert : 3. La Rameau
23 – La Poule
24 – L’Enharmonique
25 – Menuets 1 & 2
26 – Les Sauvages
27 – L’Égyptienne
28 – Images – Book 1, L. 110 : 2. Hommage à Rameau

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