Classical reviews

> Debussy: 12 Etudes. Pascal Roge (piano). Onyx CD.

This is Volume 4 in Debussy's complete piano music series recorded by Roge for Onyx. The dozen Etudes were Debussy's last important works for solo piano, written in 1915. They were divided in two books, especially to train pianists' technique.

Each raises difficulties and emphasises finger dexterity, and then focusses on scale passages, being appropriately labelled. Most demanding are Etude No.5, a test piece with running octaves and No.12 (chords) that is a romantic virtuoso solo.

Roge is beautifully recorded but this reveals a touch a little heavier than the impressionist lightness of pastel shades usually linked with Debussy (although he disliked that label).

With such technical studies, listeners may still seek exceptionally high degrees of playing, seeming to approach perfection.

Highlight: Roge's masterly precision on the keys.

> Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5. NZ Symphony Orchestra. Naxos CD.

Here is the second volume (after Symphonies 1 and 3) in the Sibelius series recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Pietari Inkinen for Naxos.

The young Finnish conductor here tackles two of his compatriot's most contrasting symphonies.

Symphony No.4 is full of ominous brooding and a bleak landscape, while No.5 is expansively heroic.

The works are surely played, capturing the appropriate anguish in No.4 and a certainty of purpose in the other. Sibelius said of the much revised Fifth: "It is as if God the Father had thrown down mosaic pieces from heaven's floor and asked me to put them back as they were."

Recording dates were 2008 and 2009, with the NZSO in excellent form.

Highlight: Swan theme circling in massive finale of Symphony No.12

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