Peter Breiner has been involved as an arranger and orchestrator with
Naxos on a number of their previous issues. It is clear from his orchestration
of Debussy’s complete preludes for piano that he has done his homework.
The orchestral versions he has given us on this disc capture the spirit
and sound-world of Debussy’s own orchestral works very well indeed.
He clearly loves the music and has done Debussy proud. OK, on occasion
the choice of instrumentation may come as a surprise - the opening
of La fille aux cheveux de lin played on a clarinet when
maybe a flute would have been nearer the mark - but overall this is
a fine achievement and the music can stand alone as an orchestral
piece. Having said that I personally prefer the original piano version
but I’ve lived with the music for years in that format and my own
preference should not be interpreted as a negative comment regarding
this CD. When listening to the wonderful playing of the Royal Scottish
National Orchestra, Debussy’s Images and La Mer
kept springing to mind and Breiner never takes any liberties with
Debussy’s originals. That suggests “a job well done”.
The conductor, Jun Märkl, has also previously recorded Colin Matthews’
orchestration of the Preludes in his complete set of Debussy’s orchestral
works for Naxos
– also on Halle.
I haven’t heard that disc in order to make a direct comparison but
reading through other reviews it would appear that Breiner keeps more
strictly to Debussy’s own piano scores than does Colin Matthews. Breiner
is similar in his approach to the more widely known orchestrations
by Caplet and Büsser. He produces an end result that sounds like authentic
Debussy rather than Debussy that has been put through a mincer to
produce a Breiner/Debussy hybrid. That is a huge compliment.
I see little point in going through all the 24 preludes at length
but I have a few favourite moments to share. Ce qu’a vu le vent
d’ouest is a menacing and dramatic seascape - it could almost
be a missing movement from La Mer. The deep bass resonance
and shimmering string harmonics to be heard at the opening of La
cathédrale engloutie make the piece sound suitably haunting and
mysterious. La danse de Puck is cheeky and mercurial. In
La Puerta del Vino there are a couple of passing nods in
the general direction of Manuel de Falla and Feux d’artifice
brings the disc to thrilling, sparkling conclusion. All 24 preludes
are successful in their own way. Breiner manages to deliver moments
of magical repose throughout but doesn’t shy away from unleashing
some pretty punchy climaxes when required.
The orchestral playing is exemplary and the sonics are first rate.
There’s just enough resonance to deliver a true Debussian sound to
the listener but all the inner details can still be clearly heard.
Both conductor and orchestra were in splendid form during this session.
Well worth having and hearing - unless you are against this sort of
See also review
by Paul Godfrey