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CHAN 10545
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CHAN 10545

Debussy: Complete Works for Piano, Volume 5

The Classical Shop
release date: November 2009

Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz
album available as a Studio Master
Originally recorded in 2009


Jean-Efflam Bavouzet



Potton Hall Studio, Westleton, Suffolk


Ralph Couzens


Ralph Couzens

Record Label



Total Time - 64:23
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Khamma (1910-12)

  Légende dansée  
  Le Grand-Dieu Amun-Ra  
  Le Grand-Prêtre  
1 Prelude 1:03
2 Scene 1. The Inner Temple of the Great God Amon-Ra 3:49
3 Scene 2 2:41
4 First Dance 3:28
5 Second Dance 1:35
6 Third Dance 1:42
7 Suddenly, Khamma notices… 1:49
8 Scene 3 3:28

Jeux (1912-13)

9 Prelude. The curtain rises… 2:05
10 Two timid, curious girls… 1:01
11 One of the girls dances… 1:14
12 The young man can be seen… 1:14
13 They dance together. He asks… 2:09
14 The young man follows… 2:07
15 Wrapped up in their dance,… 1:40
16 However, the young man… 1:34
17 Now all three of them… 3:04
18 A tennis ball falls at… 0:42

La Boite à joujoux (1913)

19 Prelude. The Box Sleeps 11:56
  First Tableau. The Toy Shop  
20 Second Tableau. The Battlefield 8:05
21 Third Tableau. Sheepfold for Sale 5:07
22 Fourth Tableau. After the Fortune Is Made 2:50
Just after winning a Gramophone Award for his Volume 4 in this series, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet reaches the climax of his multi award-winning complete works for piano, with an album of solo piano transcriptions of three ballets from the same period.

Sir Charles Stanford subjected all music to what he called a ‘piano test’: if it didn’t stand up to being played on the piano, then it wasn’t to be taken seriously. In the case of Debussy, all of the French composer’s scores went through a notational stage which, if not specifically designed for piano, could be given a reasonably accurate performance on that instrument. Where ballets were concerned, obviously the choreographer had to rehearse the dancers to the accompaniment of a piano score that conformed to the rhythms and structure of the final orchestral product. The three piano versions recorded here were therefore intimately related to both the compositional and production processes.

Khamma stems from a commission in 1910 for an Egyptian ballet, originally entitled Isis. The project was troubled from the start when Debussy refused to reduce the orchestra from 90 to 40 players. He never heard the work, which was first given its concert performance in 1924. Bavouzet writes, ‘I discovered almost by chance in a Parisian music store, a version for piano of Khamma. This had previously escaped me so what was my surprise when I saw the richness and originality! The virtuosity required is much more subtle than the more obvious. It must give the illusion of more perfect sound levels corresponding to each specific instruments group.’ In the midst of the negotiations over Khamma, Debussy wrote his second ballet Jeux, a highly complex and incomprehensible piece for two hands. Bavouzet notes, ‘In several places what Debussy wrote in the reduction for solo piano is really unplayable. The text is so thin and poor that a small part of the richness of the orchestral version is realised. It was indeed this frustration that prompted me to write some years ago, a version for two pianos today published by Durand. But for this disc I had to make a version for two hands to do justice to the score. I can say that this is probably one of the most difficult works that I have played.’Two months after the Jeux premiere, Debussy began work on his last ballet, La boîte à joujoux, based on an illustrated children’s story. Debussy embraced the plot, busy ‘extracting secrets from [his daughter] Chouchou’s old dolls and learning to play the side drum’. Within a month the first tableau was done, and he claimed he had ‘tried to be straightforward and even “amusing”, without pretentiousness or pointless acrobatics.’ The following month the piano score was complete.

Jean-Efflam concludes, ‘In my opinion the transcriptions can offer greater clarity and organisation of musical discourse. Young conductors have told me that they understood the score of Jeux better after hearing the version for two pianos… for those who do not know these three ballets in their orchestral version, this disc may give them the curiosity to explore the works further.’

Review for the  Debussy series  CHAN 10421, 10467, 10443, 10497 & 10545
"...Debussy playing does not come any better than this, and anyone starting to collect this excellent Chandos series need not really look any further. The CDs are available separately each in turn was given a ’Gramophone Award..."

The Pengiun Guide – 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

’ Supersonic’ - Pizzicato

Remy Franck

Pizzicato Magazine - February 2011

Nominee - Instrumental Category - Gramophone Awards 2010

“…I am convinced  by his [Bavouzet] performances that this is all legitimate piano music by one of the 20th Century’s great masters, heretofore almost unkown, and now presented with Chandos’s top production values and recording techniques. There is not another pianist more suitable or capable of bringing this music to light.”

James Harrington


American Record Guide - March/April 2010


Stephane Friederich

de Classica - March 2010

“This splendid appendage to Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s much-praised Debussy series is in man ways the most revelatory of all. In bringing together these three contemporaneous ballets, in the detailed versions for solo piano that Debussy wrote as short scores before orchestration, Bavouzet casts fresh light on a little-known area of this composer’s output.” “…The recorded sound is excellent, as with all these volumes. Enthusiastically, if superfluously, recommended.”

Tim Parry

International Piano Magazine - March/April 2010

“…this is a marvellous disc and the climax in so many ways of Bavouzet’s complete Debussy cycle. “

Gary Higginson 

MusicWeb International - 10 February 2010

“The fifth volume of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s survey of the complete piano music of Claude Debussy is at least as fine as the previous four, and perhaps even more interesting. Throughout this series, Bavouzet has shown himself to be not only a stupendous virtuoso -- nothing in the Études or the Préludes is technically beyond him -- but also an exemplary Debussy pianist. He knows how to blend, balance, shade, and shadow so that the music always sounds like it is by Debussy and no other composer. In this volume, Bavouzet takes on three works rarely programmed or recorded in any form and plays them in their nearly unknown piano versions: the ballets Khamma, Jeux, and La boîte à joujoux. Though the piano versions were intended only as aids for dance rehearsal and not as a substitute for the full scores, they prove wholly persuasive in these performances. Bavouzet tosses off the most challenging passages as easily as if they were five-finger exercises, but more importantly, he makes compelling cases for these rare pieces, revealing each as a fully worthy work, something at which many conductors have failed. Though no fan of the composer should be without the orchestral versions of these scores, this disc should be of interest to anyone who loves Debussy. Chandos’ digital sound is warm, deep, detailed, and colorful.”

Jim Leonard - February 2010

“…This is an unusual  and valuable capper to one of the two or three greatest Debussy piano cycles on disc – not to be missed.”

                                  Artistic Quality - 10    Sound Quality 10

  Jed Distler - 27 November 2009

“These three works are piano versions of ballet music intended for full orchestra; Debussy never finished orchestrating Khamma and its completion was left to Charles Koechlin. But with performances on solo piano of such vivid colours, such superbly voiced textures and such flair nuance and richness of atmosphere, who needs orchestras anyway? It’s magnificent playing.”

*** Editor’s Choice ***

Jesssica Duchen

Classic FM MAgazine - December 09

“A marvellous conclusion to Bavouzet’s absolutely essential Debussy series” “Altogether, a remarkable achievement, and the disc is every bit as essential – perhaps more so for the rarity of the repertoire – as previous instalments”

**** Editor’s Choice ****

Harriet Smith

Gramophone - November 2009

Performance ****    Recording ****

Christopher Dingle

BBC Music Magazine - December 2009

“Jean-Efflam Bavouzet concludes his stellar traversal of Debussy’s complete piano works with the composer’s rarely heard ‘short scores’ of his three late ballets.
Debussy devotees will already own the orchestral versions of these works, but I highly recommend Bavouzet’s accounts. He approaches the pieces on their own terms, seems to know the orchestral versions intimately and realizes every bar of the music imaginatively and effortlessly. Other versions might be competitive, but they are few and far between. What Bavouzet provides is a perfect conclusion to his complete five-disc Debussy, a remarkable achievement that I have followed from the beginning and now consider the best of all presently available. The recorded sound is exceptional and the booklet notes by Roger Nichols are, as always, concise and informed."

Charles Timbrell

International Record Review - December 2009

“His [Bavouzet]accounts of all three pieces are graphic and meticulous.”

Paul Driver

Sunday Times - 22 November 2009

“Bavouzet’s survey of Debussy’s piano music seemed to have come to a natural end with his outstanding disc of the two books of Images and the complete Studies, released by Chandos a year ago. But this collection of three scores that are far better known in their orchestral versions … is an unexpected bonus. In all three works, Bavouzet’s exceptional control, variation of touch and keyboard colour regularly provide new insights.”

Andrew Clements

The Guardian - 20 November 2009

S Mchanwell