Debussy: Piano Music/Ferber

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 6

Albert Ferber (1911-1987) was a Swiss pianist based in London who recorded extensively during the 1950s and ’60s. Some piano collectors may be familiar with his output for the Saga label, including the three “name” Beethoven sonatas, Balakirev’s piano sonata, and music by Fauré, or perhaps the Schubert Impromptus he recorded for Hyperion in 1981. The present four-disc budget boxed set comprises the first integral CD reissue of Ferber’s 1953-56 Debussy cycle for the French Ducretet-Thomson label.

Sensitivity and breadth characterize most of Ferber’s interpretations, together with his warm sonority, nuanced touch, subtle dynamic gradations, and astute ear for textural variety. You may not get Gieseking’s shimmer and tonal magic, nor the virtuosic edge distinguishing Gulda’s contemporaneous Decca Debussy recordings, yet Ferber’s best playing is worth hearing. His multiple textural strands in the Images and sexily-tapered phrases throughout the more introspective Préludes and Études cast a convincing spell. At the same time, Ferber’s slightly sec articulation perfectly enlivens Pour le piano’s Toccata, Estampes’ Jardins sous la pluie, Suite bergamasque’s outer movements, and similarly animated selections such as Danse and L’Isle joyeuse.

It should be noted that Ferber’s Debussy survey is not quite complete; Danse bohémienne and Le petit negre are missing, for example. Still, all the important works are here, and the close-up, intimate microphone placement does alluring justice to Ferber’s artistry and what seems to be an unusually dulcet and well-regulated concert grand. Although loud passages sometimes distort with overmodulation, EMI’s transfers happily do not contain the moments of wow, flutter, and pitch instability present in my ancient, scratched-up LP pressing of the Children’s Corner Suite and Estampes. Jean-Charles Hoffelé’s thoughtful and extensive booklet notes are in French only.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bavouzet (Chandos)

CLAUDE DEBUSSY - Piano Music

  • Albert Ferber (piano)
  • EMI - 083380 2
  • CD

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