As Lubimov explains in typically intelligent booklet note, he is not claiming historical fidelity, but simply exploring the timbres of the early 20th-century piano. And what an exploration it is, for the instruments allied to Lubimov’s individuality bring the pieces alive in ways that are by turns mesmerising, thrilling, beguiling and playful. […] Lubimov’s imaginative responses to Debussy, captured wonderfully by ECM, are endlessly fascinating. There are a few exceptional recordings of the Préludes in which the enjoyment in exploring Debussy’s pianistic palette remains undimmed on each listening. Lubimov’s set joins that select company.
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine
Everything Lubimov plays is thought through in depth and mature, musicianly detail, so that the performance never sounds intellectualised or manicured. To the two books of Préludes he brings a variety of nuance that is the very opposite of processed piano-playing, and the colours of the music are enhanced by his choice of instruments – a 1925 Bechstein for Book One and a 1913 Steinway for Book two.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times
The textures are intense and immediate, the blend of the instruments beguiling as Lubimov is joined by Alexei Zuev for Trois Nocturnes for two pianos.
Anna Picard, Independent On Sunday
Alexei Lubimov here uses a 1925 Bechstein for the first book of Preludes and a 1913 Steinway for the second, and pairs them for performances of two-piano arrangements of the orchestral Nocturnes and Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune with Alexei Zuev.
The older instruments tend to produce a mellower tone that’s less even in finish than their modern equivalents, and they’re apt to sound more stressed under pressure. You might think of the effects as hand-finished rather than machine perfect. Even more fascinated are the textures and sonorities from the two together.
Michael Dervan, Irish Times
Lubimov presents vividly-characterised, spacious readings on two different period instruments that seduced [him] and breathed fresh life into the music’. Essential listening for anyone waiting to hear these works in a new light, for the first book he chooses a 1925 Bechstein and for the second a wonderfully sonorous 1913 Steinway found lurking in Poland’s Belgian embassy. Half archaeology, half artistry; all pleasure!
Guy Weatherall, Classical Music
Theoretically, the hook of this release is the fact that Lubimov used early 20th-century pianos in this recording. [...] But what about the actual performances? That’s where the real magic is. Both the solo and duet works are fresh and finely wrought. Lubimov brings great clarity to the Préludes; there are no soapy washes of sound here, even in the most ruminative and dreamy portions, like La fille aux cheveux de lin or Canope. Every dynamic marking is finely rendered, from the softest pianos to the most clangorous fortes, and Lubimov handles Debussy’s changes of mood and temper just as skilfully. [...] An excellent record – and very highly recommended.
Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR.org
[...] The two pianos are heard together in Ravel’s trancription of the ‘Trois Nocturnes’ and Debussy’s own transcription of his famous orchestral ‘Prélude’. In other words, if you want both books of the ‘Préludes’ together, don’t hesitate: these two relatively uncommon arrangements are the cherry on top. In addition, I very much like ECM’s minimalist cover, excellent presentation and sound quality, lending the whole release a satisfying integrity.
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
Deze cd verdient de hoogste waardering. Lubimov speelt op twee vieugels uit Debussy’s tid, benut alle mogelijkheden die deze instrumenten bieden twerwijl zij spel bovenal persoonlijk klinkt en absolut niet historisch of modern.
Emanuel Overbeeke, Luister
In seiner 2011 entstandenen Aufnahme vertraut Alexei Lubimov für Band 1 einem Bechstein von 1925, für Band 2 einem Steinway von 1913. Abgesehen von der herausragenden klanglichen Qualität dieser Produktion liefert diese Einspielung eine ideale Möglichkeit zum Vergleich, hier der im Diskant bezaubernde Bechstein, dort der im Bass kernigere, insgesamt zu mehr Brillanz neigende Steinway.
Christoph Vratz, Fono Forum
It is Debussy put across the way he would have appreciated. Not too sentimental, not too bravura, not too romantic, and with a good projection of the work as the innovative, boldly new music it was at the time. This is a near ideal realization of the masterpiece-landmark it is, a highly sympathetic reading of the extraordinary fertile and subtly expressive vehicle of brilliance it remains today. A reveling, a revelation, a revealing, a finely detailed performance. This is a version to live with like a comfortable piece of furniture, exquisitely made yet designed to become ever more integrated with your life the more familiar with it you become, the more you use it, so to speak. Ravishing performance!
Grego Applegate Edwards, Classicalmodernmusic.blogspot.com
The Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov has been recognised as a brilliantly insightful interpreter of classical and baroque music over the years, as well as a champion for new music. This last point was dramatically brought home when he premiered the works by such composers as Terry Riley and John Cage inMoscow, way back in 1968. More recently, he has worked with Arvo Part, among many others.
All this comes together in a very special way over the course of the two discs that comprise his homage to Claude Debussy on Preludes.
[...] Preludes is a remarkable achievement in every way. The musical choices and presentation are outstanding, and it is one of the finest of ECM’s New Series line I have heard this year.
Greg Barbrick, Blogcritics