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DEBUSSY (1862 – 1918) Jeux – poème dansé [19:22] Préludes – arranged for orchestra by Colin
MATTHEWS(b. 1946): Danseuses de Delphes (book 1, No.1) [2:58] La Sérénade interrompue (1,9) [2:43] Des pas sur la neige (1,6) [4:22] Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses (2,4) [3:45] Voiles (1,2) [4:18] Hommage à S Pickwick Esq, PPMPC (2,9) [2:41] Le terrasse des audiences du clair de la lune (2,7) [4:28]
Bruyères (2,5) [3:20] Ondine (2,8) [3,8] Les collines d’Anacapri (1,5) [3:40] Feux d'artifice (2,12) [5:00] La cathédrale engloutie (1,10) [8:28]
Colin MATTHEWS Postlude: Monsieur Croche [3:46]
rec. 4 May 2008 (Des pas sur la neige); 20-21 June 2007,
The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. DDD HALLE CD HLL 7518
I have known Jeux for more years than
I care to remember but I am still not really sure if I like
the piece that much. I couldn't care less about the rather silly
scenario for the ballet. What will always matter, in the long
run, is the music and, fantastic and phantasmagorical as it
is, I am not sure that this is the towering masterpiece some,
such as Boulez, would like us to believe it to be. Certainly
a performance as committed, and well thought out, as this one
could do a lot to change my mind. Sir Mark has seen how the
structure of the piece works and he holds together all the various
strands with seeming ease. This is a fine performance and one
to which I shall return in my quest for a full understanding
of this elusive music.
Despite being a master orchestrator, Debussy
too often left the orchestrations of his works either entirely
or in part, to others, André Caplet and Charles Koechlin being
the two best known of his collaborators. I am not complaining,
for Debussy's is the finest of music. Over the years many people
have orchestrated and/or arranged for other media, pieces by
Debussy. Heifetz's superb arrangement of Prélude à
l'après midi d'un faune for violin and piano springs
to mind, as does Stokowski's magnificent orchestral transcription
of La cathédrale engloutie, from the first book
of Préludes pour piano. The list goes on and on,
with entries from too many composers to mention here and now.
However, no-one has set about turning the complete Préludes
into orchestral pieces, until Colin Matthews, the Hallé Orchestra's
associate composer, at the behest of Mark Elder, over a period
of five years arranged and orchestrated the 24 piano Préludes.
He has received great critical acclaim for his achievement.
This disk presents half of his versions - the other 12 can be
found on Hallé
CDHLL7513 - together with a special postlude he has created
for the set.
The question must be – has Matthews been successful
in his endeavours? The answer is that, to some extent, he has
been. These are not mere direct transcriptions, sometimes Matthews
has composed extra bars to turn the Prélude into
his own vision, and when he has hit exactly the right stance
– with or without his extras – he is seen to his best advantage.
For instance, La Sérénade interrompue employs
very comical bassoons in a perfect realisation of the original.
At the other extreme, Des pas sur la neige – which, in
my opinion, is possibly the most perfect musical composition
ever written – seems to show us the entire human condition in
music. It is of the utmost simplicity and composed for the humble
keyboard yet speaks a thousand different voices. Matthews's
version seems overwrought, too precious, the desolate landscape
is missing. Indeed, when it started I didn't even recognise
the piece! After this, I decided that the best way to listen
to these pieces is to try and forget that they are actually
Debussy's Préludes and think of them as original
orchestral pieces. Then they become fascinating and beautiful.
Matthews' own postlude is a racy little thing, full of fun things,
and in a kind of Debussyian style. It makes a suitable conclusion
to a very interesting disk, for, although I am not entirely
won over by Matthews' work on the Debussy Préludes
they certainly should be heard for he has much to show us. The
recorded sound is excellent, Gerald Larner's notes, in the booklet,
are very good and the Hallé is on top form.
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