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Debussy: Orchestral Works Vol 2 / Jun Märkl, Lyon NO


Release Date: 01/27/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570993   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National OrchestraLeipzig Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



DEBUSSY Nocturnes. 1 Berceuse héroïque. Suite bergamasque: Clair de lune (arr. Caplet). 3 Études (arr. Jarrell). Pelléas et Mélisande—Symphonie (arr. Constant) Jun Märkl, cond; Leipzig MDR RCh; 1 Lyon Natl O Read more NAXOS 8.570993 (74:09)


I suppose many of those who will be reading this caught the collecting bug a while ago. Many times, I have acquired CDs (let’s not even go into LPs) with the intention of listening to them at a later time or have listened to them without making a decision about whether I wished to retain them. To make a long story shorter, I have managed to acquire, on CD, a considerable number of recordings of the Debussy Nocturnes. Why? Well, for one thing, I like them. For the rest of it, see above. Given the presence of recordings by Ansermet, Boulez, the three French M s (Martinon, Monteux, Munch), and various celebrity conductors, it is easy to imagine that the appearance of this, the second volume of what will, apparently, be a completer-than-complete collection of Debussy orchestral music, may not cause much of a stir. The arrival of this recent Naxos disc containing them and some other Debussy music presented me with an opportunity: I would listen to all my recordings of the Nocturnes. In addition to providing context, the project would provide me with the opportunity to dump a few. So, onto the pile (not literally) went Abbado 2, Ansermet 2, Ashkenazy, Barbirolli, Boulez 2, Coppola, Dutoit, Martinon, Monteux, Ormandy 2 (of his complete sets), Rosenthal, Silvestri, Simon, Stokowski 1 and 2, plus the Munch and Toscanini recordings, which omit “Sirènes.” Number of CDs dumped as a result of the project: zero. Not only do I like the Nocturnes —it turns out that I also like a lot of the recordings and, of course, there are the couplings. While I might be willing to get rid of someone’s Nocturnes , they would often be coupled with a performance or rare work that I did not wish to part with and Jun Märkl and Naxos did me no favors, providing interesting discmates as well as one heck of a good performance of the Nocturnes . I liked them enough to order Volume 1, which includes the Afternoon of a Faune, La mer , and the Children’s Corner suite.


Tempo wise, I would describe them as, on the whole, slower than the norm, although some of that is due to a slow and seductive “Sirènes”; along with Ormandy and Stokowski, Märkl does the slowest recording I have of the third Nocturne , but all four performances cast their spell, as does Martinon’s, the fastest, which is three minutes shorter. Märkl is not in much of a hurry in the other two Nocturnes , either. In “Fêtes,” almost every conductor is, at least, a shade faster, with Toscanini leading the pack at 5:30 and Martinon bringing up the rear at 6:41, and Märkl only four seconds faster; but Toscanini’s doesn’t seem too fast and Martinon and Märkl don’t seem too slow. In “Nuages,” Märkl is in the middle of the pack with respect to tempo, the extremes being Toscanini, again, with another 5:30 timing (here, he rattles it off insensitively—an oddity, given that the same CD contains his excellent Ibéria and La mer ) and Stokowski 2 with 8:53 (an overheated, fussy “Nuages,” coupling a brilliant performance of “Fêtes” and the most seductive of “Sirènes”—see, you can’t win). Märkl, aided by a deep, full recording, seems to lean toward an “atmospheric” approach, perhaps inevitably. The stereo spread is wide and the various instruments are easily pinpointed without seeming to be spot-miked. You may hear a few things you’ve never noticed and miss a few details you are accustomed to hearing. The orchestra plays well and I have no complaints about the singing of the women of the MDR Radio Choir. Märkl is a Leipzig regular and, perhaps, found the Lyon alternatives inferior to them.


Unless you count André Caplet’s conventional but pretty enough orchestration of “Clair de lune,” the rest of the CD is devoted to novelties, only one of which is pure Debussy. That would be the oddly named Berceuse héroïque , originally written for piano and then orchestrated by Debussy. Although intended as a tribute to King Albert and the Belgians, this “heroic cradle song” could be seen as a tribute to all the sleeping dead of World War I’s battlefields. With its general air of gloom and mysterious fanfares, it is a rarity in Debussy collections. Märkl stretches it out a bit, but preserves the gloomy atmosphere and loses not a whit of mystery.


In his book, The Literature of the Piano , an opinionated, sometimes grumpy guide to keyboard repertoire, Ernest Hutcheson dismisses Debussy’s Douze études as follows, “The twelve Etudes, Debussy’s last works for piano, are sadly disappointing. No student resorts to them for technical profit and few players seek repertory material in them. They deal with patterns of five and eight-finger exercises, thirds, fourths, sixths, octaves, chromatics, ornaments, arpeggios, and chords.” It is true that they also have their defenders, but I am not one of them and I do buy into the conventional wisdom that the years of World War I, for the most part, do mark a falling off of Debussy’s creative powers. Offhand, these etudes would not seem to be good candidates for orchestration, but, actually, I think they offer more opportunities than the more obviously “picturesque” keyboard music. In the Préludes , Debussy lists the pieces’ titles at the end, and I think this is probably his way of inviting the listener or player to use his own imagination in deciding what, if any, is the “story” behind the music. With few exceptions, I think orchestrations of the Préludes fail because they try to make more specific what should be implied—the orchestrator substitutes his own imagination for ours. Debussy seems to have accepted or even approved orchestrations by Henry Büsser and André Caplet. What he would have thought of the various efforts of Ernest Ansermet, Piero Coppola, Percy Grainger, William Gleichmann, Bernardino Molinari, Maurice Ravel, Leopold Stokowski, and others, I can’t guess, and he might have been astounded by Michael Jarrell’s orchestration of the É tudes Nos. 9, 10, and 12. I certainly find them astounding, but in the most delightful way—technical etudes turned into orchestral fireworks displays. I’ll confess that I actually prefer them to the piano originals, and hope he gives the treatment to more of them, while staying away from the more picturesque stuff.


Speaking of arrangements, several conductors—Erich Leinsdorf, Claudio Abbado (using Leinsdorf as the basis), John Barbirolli, Pierre Monteux, and Gerard Schwarz—have concocted orchestral suites based on the music from Pelléas and Mélisande . I do not know when the Romanian-born Marius Constant made his arrangement, but it had to be prior to 1989, since it was recorded in that year by the Czech Philharmonic under Serge Baudo. Unfortunately, that recording, by Supraphon, is not currently available, at least not in the United States, so I welcome with all the more enthusiasm this recent one by Märkl, which fills the repertoire hole with distinction, even though I narrowly prefer the Baudo, which is slightly livelier and played with a bit more refinement. Do I hear a request for an idea of what Constant calls a “symphonie” consists of? All right, I will quote from the notes for my review of the Baudo recording, which appeared in Fanfare 16:3 back in 1993 (I hope you have a score): “Prelude—a deft skip to the end of scene 1 into the interlude between scenes 1 and 2. Skip to the end of scene 2 and go to the interlude between scenes 2 and 3. A little reorchestration (adding timpani) and we are into the interlude between act II, scenes 1 and 2. Just before scene 2 actually begins, we skip ahead to the end of act III, scene 1, as Golaud says, ‘Vous êtes des enfants. Quels enfants!’ into the interlude between scenes 1 and 2, then into the start of scene 2. Skip to the interlude between scenes 2 and 3, then jump out of it to p. 349, 19 bars after number 50 as Pelléas sings ‘Tout est sauvé ce soir!’ Then cut from 11 bars after number 52 to 14 after 54 and go to the end of act IV. Constant is the only arranger who uses anything from the love scene. Back to my notes: ‘The prelude to act V, then skip from six bars after number 1 to number 27, just before the servants enter the chamber to one bar after 28, then skip to number 36 for the music under Arkel and the Doctor. The horn plays Arkel’s ‘Si vite, si vite. Elle s’en va sans rien dire.’ Continue under Arkel to the end of the opera. As choppy as it looks, the ‘symphonie’ doesn’t sound that way.” Anyway, I did do my homework. It is not necessary to believe that Märkl is the last word in Debussy conducting to welcome yet more good performances to the catalog. Naxos has provided very detailed annotations and good sound and I look forward to Volume 3.


FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

1.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra: no 1, Nuages by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
Length: 7 Minutes 27 Secs. 
2.
Berceuse heroïque by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; France 
Length: 5 Minutes 2 Secs. 
3.
Pelléas et Mélisande: Symphonie by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Length: 25 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Marius Constant. 
4.
Suite bergamasque: 3rd movement, Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890/1905; France 
Length: 4 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: André Caplet. 
5.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra: no 2, Fêtes by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: French Impressionist 
Length: 6 Minutes 45 Secs. 
6.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra: no 3, Sirènes by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Radio Chorus,  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
Length: 11 Minutes 19 Secs. 
7.
Etudes (12) for Piano, Book 2: no 9, Pour les notes répétées by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Michael Jarrell. 
8.
Etudes (12) for Piano, Book 2: no 10, Pour les sonorités opposées by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Length: 5 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Michael Jarrell. 
9.
Etudes (12) for Piano, Book 2: no 12, Pour les accords by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Length: 4 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Michael Jarrell. 

Featured Sound Samples

Suite bergamasque: III. Clair de lune
Nocturnes for Orchestra: No 2: Fêtes

Sound Samples

Pelleas et Melisande-symphonie (Pelleas and Melisande Symphony) (arr. M. Constant)
Suite bergamasque: III. Clair de lune (arr. A. Caplet)
Nocturnes: No. 1. Nuages
Nocturnes: No. 2. Fetes
Nocturnes: No. 3. Sirenes
Berceuse heroique (orchestral version): Berceuse heroique (version for orchestra)
12 Etudes (excerpts) (arr. M. Jarrell): No. 9. Pour les notes repetees
12 Etudes (excerpts) (arr. M. Jarrell): No. 10. Pour les sonorites opposees
12 Etudes (excerpts) (arr. M. Jarrell): No. 12. Pour les accords

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