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These Gieseking Debussy Preludes were originally recorded in 1953/54 for EMI and are released here in newly attractive sound from Pristine. Gieseking’s cool, objective and abstract style is especially idiomatic in Debussy’s music, as it was in Scarlatti, as the American writer Marianne Moore noted in her poem The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing, (1944), describing the mind as being ‘like Gieseking playing Scarlatti.’ Moore also referred to ‘the inconsistencies of Scarlatti,’ and might well have also referred to the inconsistencies of Gieseking, who as a Nazi collaborator obediently dropped Debussy and all other non-Germans from his repertoire in 1939 in response to Nazi directives. After the Second World War, Arthur Rubinstein stated that Gieseking had announced to him in 1938 that he was a Nazi, and thereafter Rubinstein shunned him. Today’s piano lovers might simply reflect that great pianists are not always admirable people.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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