Internationally recognized French-Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin has an impressively extensive repertoire and an astounding discography of approximately 60 albums recorded on the Hyperion label. Hamelin originally developed a reputation as a virtuoso performer of little-known, and fiendishly difficult, late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century music. This CD showcases Hamelin’s masterful technical control and intriguing interpretive vision as he ventures into the world of Impressionism with a recording of Debussy’s Images (complete) and Préludes, Book II. Written between 1905 and 1907, the two volumes of Images feature Debussy’s six well-known favourites Reflets dans l’eau, Hommage à Rameau, Mouvement, Cloches à travers les feuilles, Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut and Poissons d’or. Suited to the composer’s rare moments of overt virtuosity, Hamelin executes the intricate passagework with fluidity and ease, exposing an array of subtle tone colours.
The first book of twelve Préludes was composed in 1909-1910, with the second set published three years later. Each Prelude has a descriptive title and the works are considered some of Debussy’s finest compositions for piano. Hamelin effectively captures the different moods of each piece, bringing a brooding quality to the dark Brouillards and Feuilles mortes, complexity to Ondine, and a subtle playfulness to the comic General Lavine. The final prelude Feux d’artifice (Fireworks), the most difficult of the set, catapults this beautiful album to a resplendent close.