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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
24 Preludes, Books I (1910) and II (1913) (orch. Peter Breiner)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Jun Märkl
rec. Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 16-18 June 2011
NAXOS 8.572584 [36.54 + 39.31]


 
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 thing.
 
John Whitmore

See also review by Paul Godfrey