First of all, thank you so much for the detailed commentary!
I was not aware that the Debussy Etudes have "made it" into the mainstream repertoire. I've always related to them as rarely played works, because of their technical difficulty but more because of their puzzling musicality. It was Debussy in his last "phase", when he creating more abstract and rarefied music for solo piano and chamber combinations.
While I initially also found Jerome's comment about them to be quite an overstatement, a few things should perhaps be said. First of all, he's been teaching at Julliard since the early 90's, and he certainly has a very good insight to what repertoire get the attention of the students of the school. At least one of his students performed the entire set of 12 etudes (as a whole, in concerts). Second of all, it's important to remember that these pieces really were sadly neglected for a very very long time - they were called overly intellectual or refined, dry (!), boring etc...and while many pianists I know still think they are, there are also many more pianists playing them now than, say, 40 years ago. HOWEVER, I still believe that Jerome exaggerated quite a bit by saying that they're nowadays played "sort of by everyone". In fact, I'd say there are only TWO out of the twelve etudes that tend to be played by students - the first one, and nr 11, for arpeggios (both of which Horowitz performed, by the way. Interestingly, he also played the much lesser heard study for sixths, and very beautifully, too). It is still rather rare to hear them, either in part or as a set, in concert, however. The most recent winner of the Sydney International Piano Competition did play the whole first book, however. Here in Finland, I only know of one pianist who has played the entire set...which would make me the 2nd one, once the remaining three studies from book 2 have been learned
Nice to hear your comments on the performance. I got the criticism from a younger pianist (who had never heard the pieces before) that he felt a general lack of pulse. My approach was probably a bit more free when playing for him, but especially the 4ths study is quite far from metronomic music, to my ears. It's even far from being pure "piano music" to my mind - the opening and closing sections seem to me as though they should evoke the impression of being played on an instrument with no hammers.