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Debussy: Piano Works, Orchestral Works / 4-Disc Set


Release Date: 11/04/2003 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 62261   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic OrchestraFinnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Whether it’s meant to be about the sea, tennis, or fauns, this music expresses a goodly part of what it actually feels like to be alive.




A first-ever hearing of La mer must be one of the absolute high-points of anyone’s induction into the world of classical music. All those false-summits of the rest of the repertoire, then this gleaming, sunlit peak is suddenly just there , over the last rise, and music never seems the same again. For a time, the symphonic canon sounds slow-witted in comparison; mountains made into molehills, stuck down Read more there in the clouds somewhere. And Debussy gets it all done in less than 25 minutes.


Saraste takes us in a cable car straight to the top. Thanks to the recording quality, climaxes are fully expansive, and quiet detail clear as on any calm day out to sea. Most of the well-loved old classic performances feature much drier sound than this one, from the De Doelen Hall, in Rotterdam, where the tam-tam and other percussion are thrilling, but can sometimes overwhelm what comes after. However, that’s exactly what waves do. The longer Images are very lively, and for once make sense as a set. Trois images in five movements: another interesting Debussy-induction point. The Rotterdam orchestra’s fine Debussy tradition was continued in style at these sessions.


This very inexpensive four-CD set of reissues, taped in England, Holland, Finland, and France, is meant as a sort of handy Debussy sampler, and it works surprisingly well, partly because of the choice of repertoire. The Finnish players, in a warmer, more conventionally “Debussyan” acoustic, play the Prélude well enough, if without the ultimate in hyper-attention to hairpin detail. The early Printemps is gorgeous and wistful, fit to remind you of what hopes you had in the springtime of your own life. Khamma and Jeux , from the other end of the composer’s career, are quirky and even more quick-witted, creating a whole, self-contained expressive world. Ansermet and de Sabata, respectively, knew the entry codes better than most, but Saraste’s Nordic key to French style fits pretty well. Surely, this music can’t really be about tennis.


For the shorter piano works, Pommier played in good old EMI Studio No. 1 back in 1988. Big-scale performances and recording: some players stir-up more of a sense of childhood in Children’s Corner , especially Horszowski with all his wrong notes, and the Arabesques are not soft and delicate, but Pommier’s brilliant recital offers one valid approach to Debussy, and the works are well-chosen. Then it’s off to a French abbey, a couple of years later, for the first books of Preludes and piano Images . Debussy’s achievement here, a re-invention of the expressive range of the most familiar Western musical instrument, beggars belief. I don’t know what we’d done right, to deserve music as extravagantly beautiful as the Preludes, written around the same time that Schoenberg was turning the piano’s harmonic world on its head in his op.11 pieces.


Once embedded in there, it is very difficult to get the atmospheric Gieseking performances of the Preludes out of the critical mind’s ear. I don’t like many recent recorded versions, but Pommier is excellent, and the three Images make a massive-sounding mind-boggling encore. If Pommier is introducing you to her for the first time, then this flaxen-haired girl will surely break your heart, while the sound of the sunken cathedral’s bell rings out with power and control, justifying the change of recording venue. Along with so many of these short pieces, that 10th Prelude widened the range of serious music, portraying and enhancing areas of feeling and human experience hardly touched on by earlier composers. Whether it’s meant to be about the sea, tennis, or fauns, this music expresses a goodly part of what it actually feels like to be alive. If anyone’s forgotten what it’s like, as we all do, this shirt-pocket box from Virgin might help as a reminder.
– Paul Ingram, Fanfare
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Works on This Recording

1. Suite for Piano "Pour le piano" by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1896-1901; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 12 Minutes 46 Secs. 
2. Children's Corner by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1908; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 15 Minutes 56 Secs. 
3. Estampes (3) for Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 13 Minutes 31 Secs. 
4. La plus que lente by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 22 Secs. 
5. Arabesques (2) for Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1888-1891; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 6 Minutes 49 Secs. 
6. L'isle joyeuse by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 6 Minutes 5 Secs. 
7. Préludes, Book 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 8/1990 
Venue:  Fontfroide Abbey, France 
Length: 41 Minutes 15 Secs. 
8. Images for Piano, Set 1 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; France 
Date of Recording: 8/1990 
Venue:  Fontfroide Abbey, France 
Length: 15 Minutes 47 Secs. 
9. La mer by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 1990 
Length: 23 Minutes 35 Secs. 
10. Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1912; France 
Date of Recording: 1990 
Length: 33 Minutes 6 Secs. 
11. Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1991 
Venue:  Culture House, Helsinki 
Length: 8 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: France (1892 - 1894). 
12. Khamma by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1912; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1991 
Venue:  Culture House, Helsinki 
Length: 20 Minutes 12 Secs. 
13. Printemps by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1887; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1991 
Venue:  Culture House, Helsinki 
Length: 14 Minutes 47 Secs. 
14. Jeux by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1991 
Venue:  Culture House, Helsinki 
Length: 16 Minutes 42 Secs. 
15. Page d'album by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean-Bernard Pommier (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Date of Recording: 9/1988 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 0 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

Children's Corner: I. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
Printemps: I. Très modéré

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Excellent Bargain February 1, 2013 By Daniel G. (Warrensburg, NY) See All My Reviews "This Debussy collection features competent performances in good sound for a vey low price. It is an excellent bargain." Report Abuse
 Debussy/piano works and orchestra September 21, 2012 By Elizabeth Barber (Greenbelt, MD) See All My Reviews "Very beautiful" Report Abuse
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