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Debussy: 24 Preludes / Markl, Royal Scottish NO

Debussy / Royal Scottish National Orch / Markl
Release Date: 09/25/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572584   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Debussy completed his two books of Préludes in 1910 and 1913 respectively, and they contain some of his most visionary and poetic writing for piano. There are evocations of calm seascapes, delicate wind tracery, and snow-covered landscapes. Some moments are steeped in antiquity, such as La cathédrale engloutie, others in expressive portraiture, as in La fille aux cheveux de lin. There is even a cake-walk. The Préludes are performed here in the subtle and colouristic orchestrations of much-admired Slovak-born composer Peter Breiner.

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Read more class="COMPOSER12">DEBUSSY-BREINER Preludes , Books 1 & 2 Jun Märkl, cond; Royal Scottish Natl O NAXOS 8.572584 (76: 31)

Peter Breiner, an apparently indefatigable arranger/orchestrator, who has given us suites from Janá?ek’s From the House of the Dead and The Cunning Little Vixen , baroque-style arrangements of Beatles songs, and a guitar concerto based on themes from Carmen , has now turned his attention to both books of Debussy’s Preludes for solo piano. Although he exploits the possibilities of the modern orchestra, I think there is little here that would cause Henri Büsser and André Caplet to turn over in their graves. He retains Debussy’s order and, for the most part, seems to take the titles of the preludes seriously but, at the risk of being perceived as a “purist,” I think the preludes and other Debussy piano pieces are more “evocative” on the piano (their vagueness is an asset). Evocative of what , I’m not always sure but I think his music works better when Debussy isn’t filtered through the sensibilities of, say, Breiner or by Piero Coppola, Percy Grainger, Bernardino Molinari, Leopold Stokowski, or even Büsser and Caplet. Debussy gave many of his preludes whimsical titles that appear to have little connection with the actual music; They are derived from such things as poems, stories, performances he saw, picture postcards, illustrations, etc. What, for example, is the “meaning” of something called “La terrase des audiences du clair de lune” (The Terrace of the Audiences of Moonlight….I have also seen it more loosely translated as “The Balcony Where Moonlight Holds Court”)? It should also be noted that Debussy placed the titles of the preludes at the end of each piece, not at the beginning. I like to think that this was his way of inviting his listeners to let their imaginations run free and decide on any pictorial “meaning” for themselves. I should also mention that he didn’t especially care if any of the preludes were performed outside the group.

Having defended the originals, let me point out that Breiner’s orchestrations, for better or worse, take Debussy seriously and surely are intended as enhancements of the originals; I enjoyed listening to them and do not doubt that many of Fanfare ’s readers may feel the same way (even if they prefer the piano originals)—one never feels that he’s trying to demonstrate how “clever” he is at Debussy’s expense. As it happens, there was another set of orchestrations issued last year, performed by the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder. There, the arranger, Colin Matthews didn’t always limit himself to mere orchestration. Sometimes, as in “Danseuses de Delphes,” “Minstrels,” “Des pas sur la neige” (Footsteps in the Snow), and “La cathédrale engloutie” (The Engulfed Cathedral), he seems to take Debussy’s title seriously; at other times, what occurs amounts to a dialectic between two sensibilities, his and Debussy’s, with the result being a hybrid that blends both, often in a fascinating way, creating what nearly amounts to a new composition, rather than a mere orchestration. If you are interested in this music, it might be well worth exploring.

FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

Préludes, Book 2 by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Préludes, Book 1 by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Delightful Interpretation May 22, 2016 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Claude Debussy's classic composition for piano, Preludes Books 1 and 2, have been arranged for orchestra by Peter Breiner, and the result is a wonderful example of how attractive French impressionistic music really is. While the solo piano version of Debussy's Preludes will always remain fundamental to the classical music world, the ability of an orchestra to add just that much more to the complex shifting of tonal colorations inherent in this music definitely represents an added bonus. Perhaps one could even call this easy listening mood music, a relaxed and thoroughly satisfying musical statement. Recommended." Report Abuse
 Debussy Makes the Transition. May 2, 2013 By L. Catalano (San Francisco, CA) See All My Reviews "Having played these beautiful Debussy Preludes on the piano in my younger days, I have always loved them and return to them on a regular basis. There have been other orchestrations of Debussy piano works, so he would have liked someone to orchestrate these treasures. Even in Debussy's lifetime, some of Debussy's friends orchestrated his piano music while he spent his time grappling with the complexities of La Mer. These delicate pieces ooze atmosphere and poetry and cry out for realization for orchestra. Slovak-born composer Peter Breiner does an excellent job of bringing instrumental voices into the sound world of Debussy's delicate pieces. I am sure that Claude would completely approve." Report Abuse
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