Starry Night containing the Debussy Preludes Book I & Other Works is Michael Lewin’s fourth recording for Sono Luminus and provides listeners with a companion to his previously released and critically praised Beau Soir containing the Debussy Preludes Book II & Other Works. The Grammy winning pianist has been praised for his brilliance of technique and artistic intelligence and you will surely agree after hearing this splendid double disc set of Claude Debussy’s esteemed works.
Disc One opens with the three movement work “Estampes” that Debussy wrote in 1903. Lewin plays its three movements: Pagodes, La sorée dans Grenade and Jardin sous la pluie; with stylized delicacy and rhythmic counterpoint. Lewin performs Debussy’s compositional technique of alternating and juxtaposing various musical ideas to perfection during La sorée dans Grenade (Evening in Grenada) and seamlessly ties them together with the Habanera dance rhythm. Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the Rain) reveals another aspect of Lewin’s virtuosity as he plays the various trills, arpeggios and other musical metaphors used to depict the light rain, and furious downpour of the rainstorm and the ultimate rainbow after the storm.
Debussy wrote Arabesque No. 1 in E Major in 1888 when he was 26 and heavily influenced by Frederic Chopin. Here, Lewin plays its beautiful melody and flowing triplets with sweet, gentle beauty and grace. Golliwog’s cake walk is the final piece from Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” Suite and is a jazzy cakewalk dance with syncopated rhythms and dynamic contrasts that are similar to ragtime. Michael Lewin’s interpretation of this composition is assured, dexterous and versatile. At times it is comical with its grace notes and overall, certainly captures the juvenile feeling of the suite.
“Les soirs illumines par l’ardeur du charbon” is Debussy’s final piece for the piano and was literally unknown until 2002 when it was discovered. Lewin plays it with reverence and sincerity before ending Disc One with Debussy’s first published work, the beautiful Nuit d’etoiles (Starry Night). This track is the Koji Atwood arrangement for solo piano and is the first recording of this arrangement.
Disc Two features Debussy’s Preludes, Book I written in 1910. The 12 preludes on this disc conjure up fragrant musical dreams, mysterious and quiet glissandos, intoxicating sounds, melancholic tonalities, the comic and romantic mayhem of Puck, the mischievous elf of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the calm tenderness of his popular Prelude La Fille aux cheveus de lin.
Overall, Michael Lewin succeeds where other pianists of his generation have fallen short when performing the works of Debussy. His virtuosity cannot be underestimated and with this offering, his splendid interpretations continue to distinguish him as an abundantly gifted pianist whose command of Debussy’s repertoire remains unmatched.