I am a big admirer of Seong-Jin Cho’s piano playing and Debussy’s spectacularly beautiful piano music. As recorded by DGG, this new recording of both may be a perfect musical match.
Cho is the recent laureate of the International Chopin Piano Competition . I followed his progress with great interest on the MediciTV live webcasts. His runner up, Canadian Charles Richard-Hamelin gave him great competition, but ultimately, Cho won over the jury with his exquisite touch and innate musicality. When you reach that far in the world's best piano competition, it's assumed you have the technical chops. Cho does.
Cho was signed quickly by DGG, a label synonymous with the greatest pianists, and with some heavy duty Debussy recordings already in its catalogue. His first recording, Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1; Four Ballades released in 2016 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted Gianandrea Noseda, was given a rave by me in these pages.
This Nov 2017 release includes:
Images I & II
I have two references for Debussy piano recordings, Zoltan Kocsis’ CDs on Philips and the legendary box set on DGG by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Both are benchmarks of style and interpretation—Kocsis the more muscular, Michelangeli the more poetic. Both will amaze with the quality of recording and pianism.
You can add this splendid new DGG to the benchmark fold somewhere between the Kocis and Michelangeli—Cho captures the majesty and ingenuity of Debussy's masterpieces.
Debussy would say of his piano pieces, 'they terrify your fingers'. No terror for Cho. His pristine technique is equal to any of Debussy's pianistic machinations. Your ears will prick at the glacial moods Cho sets, especially in reflective impressionism like Reflets dans l'eau (Reflections in the water) or Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (Descent of the moon upon the temple that is no more), both from Images. Very famous works like Clair de lune, from Suite Bergamasque and L'isle Joyeuse receive intensely passionate performances. You won't be transported to a child's recital. Cho is firmly in the virtuoso category, and he has the musical ability to challenge and caress your ears.
Another gem from this brilliant South Korean. Very highly recommended.
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