Three fine orchestrators give us a most welcome addition to the
near-perfect output of Claude Debussy/ These are well-crafted
arrangements of music from the opera Pelléas et Mélisande,
and of four piano works, one ubiquitous and three slightly
more obscure. Throw in the popular Nocturnes, and the lesser-heard
Berceuse, and you get over an hour of delicious listening.
only opera, a dreamy medieval tale of love, betrayal and tragedy,
sees far too little daylight really. This is perhaps in part
due to its general lack of catchy tunes and the tendency of
French texts to be extremely wordy. It nonetheless possesses
page upon page of lusciously gorgeous music, particularly for
the orchestra. Rumanian composer Marius Constant has taken a
sizeable portion of Debussy’s thematic material to create this
Symphonie, an engaging work, full of rhapsodic gestures
and subtle harmonies. Mr. Constant is a more than capable orchestrator,
but it is always difficult to put yourself into another composer’s
head, and as such, we still miss a tad of Debussy’s remarkable
originality. The music however is lush and lovely and it is
a good thing to hear some of Debussy’s ideas in this form.
need be said about Claire de lune. Its beauty speaks
for itself. Caplet’s orchestration is sensitive and colorful
and does nothing to detract from the original.
centerpiece is the Nocturnes. These masterpieces of orchestration
were originally intended as solo violin works for Eugene Ysaye,
but Debussy later decided that the orchestra was their preferred
home. Thanks be to God! Jun Märkl leads well paced and finely
balanced performances here and the Lyon orchestra obviously
knows its way around the literature. One might have wanted a
bit more shimmer from the strings, but in all this is excellent.
Few recordings top the stunning readings by Pierre Boulez and
the Cleveland Orchestra or Charles Dutoit and the Montreal band
in the music of Debussy and Ravel, but Märkl leads quite acceptable
performances. The women of the MDR Radio Choir of Leipzig deserve
a special mention for their hauntingly beautiful wordless singing
disc is filled out with the Berceuse Héroïque, a seldom
heard little gem, and three selections from Debussy’s homage
to Chopin, the Twelve Etudes for piano, deftly orchestrated
by Michael Jarrell. These arrangements work quite well and successfully
bring out some interesting colors in the harmony that might
be missed in the piano versions. They are a fitting ending to
an interesting collection. This disc is well worth the effort.