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DEBUSSY // The 24 Preludes

Philippe Bianconi,

Philippe Bianconi has achieved recognition as one of France’s most accomplished instrumentalists despite his reluctance to embrace the capital. The interpretion of French music has always been of great importance in his repertoire.

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“Debussy has always been part of my life” says the pianist about the composer so close to his heart.
Discophiles have been impatiently awaiting his recording of the towering Préludes, but Philippe Bianconi has taken his time before entering the studio to capture what he calls “the quintessence of Debussy’s art”. Beneath his fingertips, which conjugate a profound attention to detail with an irresistible poetic imagination, the art ofClaude de France reveals all its riches and its startling modernity.

The enchanting sonorities and the density of Philippe Bianconi’s interpretation make his new CD a major addition to the list of great versions of the Préludes, enhanced by the exceptional sound quality of the recording itself, to which the pianist has devoted particular attention.

24 PRELUDES (Books I & II)

  • Danseuses de Delphes 2’46
  • Voiles 3’32
  • Le vent dans la plaine 2’05
  • Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir 3’31
  • Les collines d’Anacapri 3’05
  • Des pas sur la neige 3’45
  • Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest 3’23
  • La fille aux cheveux de lin 2’18
  • La sérénade interrompue 2’37
  • La cathédrale engloutie 6’00
  • La danse de Puck 2’53
  • Minstrels 2’23
  • Brouillards 2’42
  • Feuilles mortes 2’52
  • La Puerta del Vino 3’15
  • Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses 2’56
  • Bruyères 2’34
  • Général Lavine – eccentric 2’35
  • La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune 4’17
  • Ondine 3’01
  • Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq PPMPC 2’25
  • Canope 2’31
  • Les tierces alternées 2’36
  • Feux d’artifice 4’23


« GREAT! » - Fanfare

Since winning the silver medal at the 1985 Van Cliburn competition, the French pianist Philippe Bianconi has enjoyed an active international career and, along the way, collected impressive praise from music critics and audiences alike. Although this is my first encounter with his artistry, I have no trouble understanding Bianconi’s success: He has a refined, luminous sound that never turns

A lyrical artist whose personality never attracts attention to itself, Bianconi is at his best in Debussy’s contemplative works—most notably “Voiles,” “Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir,” “Des pas sur la neige,” “Feuilles mortes,” and “Les terrasse des audiences du clair du lune.” In these works, Bianconi clarifies Debussy’s mysteries but, correctly, never quite resolves them, and impresses with his hypnotic pacing, intelligent pedaling, and remarkable control of dynamics. I am equally impressed with his somewhat unorthodox take on “La Puerta del Vino” and “Feux d’artifice,” which are delivered with uncommon refinement and sensitivity. My only reservation concerns Bianconi’s treatment of some of the most extroverted scores, for instance “Les collines d’Anacapri” or “La danse de Puck,” where a certain sense of whimsy and humor appear to me to be missing. Put differently, ever the serious artist, Bianconi seems slightly out of his element here.

The quality of the recorded sound is excellent. Bianconi plays a beautifully-voiced Yamaha concert grand. Pianos made by this Japanese maker have a lot of detractors, but the best of them are no doubt world-class instruments. While he will not displace my affection for Samson François, Steven Osborne, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, and Sviatoslav Richter, Bianconi obviously has much to say about this repertoire. I doubt that anyone who hears this disc will forget his insights.

Since his success at the Van Cliburn International Competition in the 1980s, Philippe Bianconi has made an international career, pursuing his musical itinerary and patiently carving out his path far from media hype.

A pupil of Simone Delbert-Février at the Conservatoire in Nice, where he was born, Philippe Bianconi is the only major French pianist to have entered the international competition circuit without previously studying at the Paris Conservatoire. His prizes at the Jeunesses Musicales International Competition in Belgrade, the Robert Casadesus International Competition in Cleveland, and notably the Van Cliburn Competition were his launching pads for a brilliant career in North America. He appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1987, and went on play with many of the leading North American orchestras, including Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Montreal. His career then took on a worldwide dimension and from Berlin to Sydney, Beijing to London, Paris to San Francisco, he has received high praise for the poetry of his playing and the beauty of his tone.

The release of his disc of Debussy’s Préludes on La Dolce Volta was one of the major recording events of the year 2012, winning a deluge of international distinctions and a nomination at the Victoires de la Musique Classique in the category ‘Recording of the Year’.

From 2013 to 2017, Philippe Bianconi was the director of the American Conservatory of Fontainebleau. Founded in 1921 to introduce the best American music students to the French musical tradition of teaching, composing and performing, it has included on its faculty the most prestigious names: Maurice Ravel, Marcel Dupré, Robert, Gaby and Jean Casadesus, Jean Francaix, Henri Dutilleux, Betsy Jolas, Leonard Bernstein… From the first, Nadia Boulanger devoted her talent, energy, knowledge, and influence to the American Conservatory of which she was Director from 1949 to 1979.

Since October 2018, Philippe Bianconi teaches at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris-Alfred Cortot.

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