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Debussy: La Cathedrale Engloutie - Organ Transcriptions / Wiebusch

Debussy / Wiebusch,Carsten
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Audite   Catalog #: 97699   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Performer:  Carsten Wiebusch
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY (trans. Wiebusch) Préludes: Book II (complete); Book I: “ La cathédrale engloutie.” Suite bergamasque Carsten Wiebusch (org) AUDITE 97.699 (76: 55)

Claude Debussy was one of the most pianistic composers, and his two books of Préludes are among his most pianistic works. Nevertheless, his music seems Read more to do very well when it is transcribed for other instruments, or for full orchestra. Off the top of my head, my collection includes Debussy programs played on a harp, on a synthesizer, and by a koto ensemble. None destroy the music in any way, although none of them replaces Debussy’s originals, of course.

Carsten Wiebusch, who is in his 40s, created his own transcriptions for this CD. Let us ponder, for a moment, the effort that must have cost him. In the booklet note, he comments that playing “La cathédrale engloutie,” perhaps the most organ-like of Debussy’s piano works, on the organ is more difficult than playing the later Préludes because it is less abstract. He is not the first organist to perform this particular prelude—in the last issue, I reviewed a recording by Jean-Baptiste Robin from Union Terminal in Cincinnati (Brilliant Classics 94726). Robin’s performance of his own transcription, while excellent, is not the most convincing item on that disc, and such is the case here, with Wiebusch’s program. The Préludes from Book II really do make a stronger impression, perhaps because they sound less like arrangements of Debussy’s piano music, and more like strange, new works. Honestly, coming to this disc “cold,” I think it might have taken me at least a few moments to realize just what it was that I was listening to. The booklet notes claim, “Played on the organ, Debussy’s works run seamlessly into the soundscapes of Olivier Messiaen.” That’s an interesting claim, and one that I am willing to consider for longer than the time it has taken me to prepare for writing this review. The Suite bergamasque (which includes “Clair de lune,” another piece that has been transcribed for organ multiple times) actually comes off as rather cute in Wiebusch’s reading. I’m not sure that is what Debussy intended, but even so, the results are engaging.

Wiebusch’s discography includes William Thomas Best’s organ arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin. I’m intrigued, not least because Wiebusch is such an imaginative and yet serious musician. The temptation to superimpose a lot of “special effects” on Debussy’s music must have been strong, yet it has been avoided, except for those rare moments when the music itself seems to demand them. A little goes a long way. Even purists may find themselves giving Wiebusch a grudging nod.

The organ used for this CD is a Klais organ in the Christuskirche in Karlsruhe. Originally built in 1966 by Hans-Gerd Klais and updated in 2010 by Philipp Klais (his son?), it is a tonally versatile instrument, well suited to this program in its capacity for both intimacy and shattering power.

This is not a gimmick, but a musically viable program. Highly recommended!

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Préludes, Book 2 by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Carsten Wiebusch (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Carsten Wiebusch (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; France 
Suite bergamasque by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Carsten Wiebusch (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890/1905; France 

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