Musical arrangement is an art in itself and presupposes a sincere love of the material one is dealing with. This quality is palpable in Images oubliées by pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard and cellist Stéphane Tétreault. The album they offer contains a selection of rarely played works by Claude Debussy, arranged by the two musicians for their respective instruments.
It is a fortunate decision: this departure from the “canon” gives us the opportunity to discover a neglected part of the French composer’s output, the richness of which amply justifies its re-reading. Originally written for one or two pianos, the pieces chosen are treated with deference, emphasizing their textural nature to better magnify their effect.
The Sonata for Cello and Piano, the only work performed in its original version, offers here a valuable perspective on the way Debussy’s writing intersects with and enhances that of the two arrangers. It is clear that the mission Hébert-Bouchard and Tétreault had set themselves, namely to “amplify the atmospheres suggested” in the music, is highly successful. We also appreciate the fact that they signed the liner notes of the recording; this work of mediation between musicians and audiences is too rare and constitutes an important showcase for the poetic approach of the two artists.
The addition of two emblematic works from Debussy’s output – “Rêverie” and “Clair de lune” – to complete the set, a risky gamble, is also rewarded. This choice even reinforces the album’s purpose. One should neither snub the fringe repertoire nor sulk at the pleasure of listening to a piece that has been played over and over again. When talented musicians treat the text with such care, great things are possible.