Volume I in this series was a sensation when launched in 2004, embraced by both critics and audiences. That very special hand Austbø has with the sonorities and structures in Debussy’s music makes this double CD with both the Preludes and the Etudes stunning ventures into the depths beyond the surface.
Préludes books I & II
The famous 24 sound-images, with the well-known titles shown in parenthesis after the piece in the printed music, show the mature style of the composer. A completely new style with free-floating rhythmical structures (but not only…) and modal harmonic progressions (or lack of progressions). Austbø opts for a clean and non-sentimental set of preludes, finding doors and passageways in this landscape that few others know.
Etudes books I & II
The set of etudes where written as a homage to Chopin’s, and vivid titles referring to objects and moods are substituted with pure technical references – perhaps bringing us closer to ‘absolute music’? The smaller cycles and single pieces here also include a premiere recording of ‘Les soirs illuminé par l’ardeur du charbon’. Debussy gave this piece of music as payment for coal in the freezing Paris winter of 1917, and it did not surface again until 2001.
A second version of The Sunken Cathedral
Austbø’s studies of sources around and behind the complete piano music of Debussy, especially with the help of Claude Helffer, have brought forth a few dilemmas. On a Welte-Mignon pianola roll from 1913 the composer plays the 10th prelude in book I with tempo changes different to those written in the score. This of course sheds an interesting light on how Debussy performed his own music. Austbø has recorded a 2nd version of this piece, respecting the tempo changes of the performer Claude Debussy.