Celestial Harmonies CD Reviews Extracts

Review (translation) BR-TV
This CD is a masterpiece; you can play it differently but not better. I recently heard a concert with the Munich Philharmonic and Thielemann; they played Debussy’s Images. It sounded somewhat good but boring with
no end in sight. I could not understand what it was that they were trying to tell me. How different this CD is: every note, every sound,every use of the pedals were put to good use and served a clear purpose, the purpose being to define the musical intentions of the composer. A musician cannot possibly be more humble and more sincere. A pianist cannot play more excitingly and more intelligently. I am entirely won over by this CD. Even before the concert with the Hamel premiere, I was convinced of Roger Woodward’s artistry - now I am enthusiastic and I want to celebrate the feeling. The sensational aspect of the concert on Monday was to experience his interpretation of
the Hamel cycle live. He played for us, with us, with the space, withthe instrument - what a blessing to have been able to be present.
—Wiedemann BR-TV.

THE INDEPENDENT         26 March 2010

In this masterful series of Debussy’s Preludes, RW perfectly evokes the composer’s intuitive musical spirit and his inimitable sense of quiet, measured exploration….   
A matchless recording. 
Andy Gill


I find myself in difficulties when writing about recordings which are so very good, it is hard to find a balance which describes a believeable truth as I hear it, without making a text which just ends up turning into sycophantic hyperbole.

Roger Woodward does not make me feel in any way sad and soulful though his playing – on the contrary, his performances are life affirming, a spiritual journey indeed and one which at times may move you to tears, but one which ultimately lifts one beyond the clouds

Roger Woodward breathes life into the notes at every turn.
The sonorities of the Bösendorfer suits La cathédral engloutie particularly well. Just listen to the notes from about 00:40 in: the most evocative distant bells I think I’ve ever heard in a recording. The build-up to the great bass chime at 2:38 is a truly cathartic moment, and the whole experience is a remarkable monument to Debussy’s pictorial imagination and modernist thinking.

Woodward takes 7:22 here compared to Ousset’s 5:46 but the difference is no indulgence, the sustaining power of the Bösendorfer strings making a lengthier exploration of this music all the more powerful.

What Woodward is prepared to do is allow Debussy’s curtains of sound full expression with his pedalling in something like Brouillards which begins Book II of the Préludes. His clarity is faultless to my mind, but washes of sound are allowed to grow and swirl like the spread of watercolours over damp paper.

This performance has everything: those washes of colour, and the sharp contrast of clarity in those notes which rise and sparkle through those improbably rich textures, those harmonic progressions pushed strongly by that chunky Bösendorfer resonance.

I’ve heard this piece on innumerable different instruments and in more than one hemisphere, but I’ve never heard it in as spectacularly a breathtaking performance as this.

This recording has been something of a revelation for me, crammed full with new discoveries in the potential of these pieces and of the piano as an implement for pure musical expression. I’m left lacking superlatives, and can only urge you to try this recording for yourself.

Dominy Clements

18 / 20 Georg Henkel   OHRENSCHMAUS   Musik an Sich Frankfurt
Die Préludes von Claude Debussy kann man bei Roger Woodward nicht zuletzt Dank des sensiblen Pedaleinsatzes in ungewohnter, aber faszinierenden Klang-Räumlichkeit erleben.
Auf seinem Bösendorfer 275 und unterstützt durch eine exzellente Klangtechnik (Radio Bremen) produziert der Künstler weitgestaffelte, fein austarierte Klänge, deren Spektrum von schwarz-samtig bis metallisch-glühend reicht, so dass die inneren Sinne auch ohne Kenntnis der Titel sofort anfangen, Bilder zu produzieren.
In der gleichsam „offenen“ Form der Stücke lässt der Pianist Landschaften, Szenerien, Personen oder Objekte erscheinen, die für einen Moment Kontur gewinnen, sich in etwas anderes verwandeln oder wieder verschwinden. Ganz organisch und frei von Hast entwickeln sich bei Woodward die hochverfeinerten Texturen der Musik. Deren zukunftsweisende Momente werden herausgearbeitet, ohne dass der einnehmende Traditionsbezug dafür geopfert würde. Die enigmatischen Feen tanzen einen zarten Reigen, der Charme des Mädchens mit den Flachshaaren nimmt für es ein. Die Nebel wogen in subtil artikulierter Harmonik, die Versunkene Kathedrale ruht geheimnisvoll in profunder Düsternis. Ein Ohrenschmaus, der Geist und Fantasie gleichermaßen anregt.


Woodward exhibited an instrumental mastery of virtuosity that took one’s breath away”  Trieste Festival 1990