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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
The World Of Claude Debussy
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Cleveland Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Petite Suite (piano duet version)
Katia & Marielle Labèque
La plus que lent (orchestral version)
Montreal Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
Claire de lune (from Suite Bergamasque)
Pascal Rogé (piano)
Fêtes (from Trois Nocturnes)
Montréal Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
Préludes (Premier livre): No. 8 La fille aux cheveux de lin, No. 10 La Cathédrale engloutie, No. 12 Minstrels
Pascal Rogé (piano)
Le matin d'un jour de fête (from Ibéria)
Montreal Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
Sonata for flute, viola & harp: finale
Mélos Ensemble
Pelléas et Mélisande: Mes longs cheveux
Colette Alliot-Lugaz, Didier Henry
Montreal Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
La Mer: Dialogue du vent et de la mer
Cleveland Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Rec Decca, 1961-1996
DECCA 470 123 2 [72.25]

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Decca has repackaged its famous LP series, 'The World of . . . ', for the CD age; but whereas the previous incarnation usually brought prospective purchasers a collection of representative complete pieces, now the trend is towards movements culled from their home, la Classic FM. Reason enough to dismiss the enterprise out of hand, you might think. And it is tempting to get on one's high horse and do just that. Except, of course, that all listeners have to start somewhere, and who knows where that might be. At an appealing price this compilation does give an intelligently chosen selection of key works by Debussy, in performances which sound splendid and are given by major artists.

It's all a matter of who will enjoy less than the complete pieces. Had Debussy wanted these movements to be played separately, he would have written them as individual works . . . .

That said, there are some distinguished performances here, and of complete pieces too. Ashkenazy's Cleveland performance of the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is particularly atmospheric and satisfying, and the finale of La Mer is exciting, though half the point is lost since the culmination of the piece derives from material which had originated in the first movement, which does not feature here. The worst problem of this kind is the extract from Ibéria, Le matin d'un jour de fête, which doesn't work well at all as just a small chunk, even if the Montreal Orchestra is on top form.

The generally recent recordings all sound well, and even the odd one out from the early sixties remains thoroughly satisfactory. This is the finale of the Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, taken from a famous interpretation by the Melos Ensemble.

Pascal Rogé gives intelligent, shapely accounts of three Préludes and Claire de lune, while the Labèque Sisters are on quite marvellous form in the piano duet version of the early Petite Suite. Make no mistake, there are fine things to be found among this compilation.

Terry Barfoot


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