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Víkingur Ólafsson

Debussy-Rameau (CD)

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.

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862–1918)
1 La Damoiselle élue L. 62: Prélude

Pièces de clavecin , 1724
2 Le rappel des oiseaux
3 Rigaudons I, II & double
4 Musette en rondeau
5 Tambourin
6 La villageoise. Rondeau
7 Gigues en rondeau I & II

8 Estampes L.100: 3. Jardins sous la pluie
Children’s Corner
9 3. Serenade for the Doll
10 4. The Snow is dancing

Pièces de clavecin , 1724
11 Les tendres plaintes. Rondeau
12 Les tourbillons. Rondeau
13 L’entretien des Muses

14 Préludes, Book 1, L. 117: Des pas sur la neige

Pièces de clavecin , 1724
15 La joyeuse. Rondeau
16 Les Cyclopes. Rondeau

17 The Arts and the Hours

18 Préludes, Book 1: La fille aux cheveux de lin. Très calme et doucement expressif
19 Préludes, Book 2, L. 123: Ondine. Scherzando

Pièces de clavecin en concerts, 1741
20 Cinquième concert (Fifth Concert): La Cupis
Quatrième concert (Fourth Concert):
21 L’indiscrète
22 La Rameau
Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin, 1726/27
23 La Poule
24 L’Enharmonique. Gracieusement
25 Menuets I & II
26 Les Sauvages
27 L’Égyptienne

28 Images, Book 1, L. 110: Hommage à Rameau