Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien - Symphonic Fragments:-The Court
of Lilies; Ecstatic Dance and Finale from the first Act; The Passion The
Live Performance: 20th September 1982
Modest Petrowitsch MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition - orchestrated by Maurice RAVEL
Live performance 21-23 February 1999
by Günther Wand
RCA Red Seal/BMG 74321
72788 2 [54:31]
Günther Wand is, of course, justly famous as a great Brahms and Bruckner
interpreter, so it comes as something of a surprise to hear him reading these
French and Russian scores.
Wolfgang Seifert in his very full and very interesting notes (a model of
their kind and excellently translated by Graham Lack) tells us that Wand
"first conducted Debussy's Martyre de Saint Sébastien in 1967
From then on this beautiful music would not leave him alone.
Again and again he gave tender and loving performances of the work, preparing
it with a sure sense of its more subtle nuances, but never neglecting its
powerful sound world." The work is scored for a large orchestra yet, here,
Debussy uses his orchestral palette sparingly yet tellingly. Le Martyre
de Saint Sébastien, was conceived as a kind of mystery play cast
as a musical revue for the famous dancer, Ida Rubinstein. Debussy's unusually
rich score had parts for soloists and choruses. "By intentionally commingling
elements of a Christ-like figure with those surrounding the Adonis cult,
and by employing a half-naked female dancer to represent Saint Sébastien,
the composer caused a major scandal, leading to the work being banned by
Wand captures, perfectly, the strange beauty of this often ethereal music
that reminds one of Parsifal and the sound world of Debussy's
Pelléas et Mélisande.
Wand was also greatly intrigued and impressed with Mussorgsky's Pictures
at an Exhibition, and with Ravel's wonderfully colourful orchestrations.
This reading shows Wand's immense care to breathe life into these pictures,
and not forgetting the promenades between the paintings so that, in Wand's
hands, they give us an impression of the visitor's reactions to them as he
passes from one to another. Wand is concerned with atmosphere and detail,
and portraiture and drama. Listen to the little nuances in 'The Tuileries
Garden', for instance; these are real children's games -- a charming portrait.
The crippled gnome of the opening picture seems sinister indeed while the
great Gate of Kiev sounds suitably huge and impregnable.
A most impressive album
See also review by Colin Anderson