Notes and Editorial Reviews
I’m never quite sure what goes through record companies’ minds when they lease or license material but EMI has clearly seen good sense in reissuing these recordings very soon after licensing them to Brilliant Classics, who issued them in a four CD boxed set (Brilliant Classics 92765). EMI had itself issued a big eight CD set of Debussy and Ravel – four discs to each composer – on CZS 5755262. The recycling and leasing of material at least goes to show one indisputable fact. Whereas not every recording here is going to be the moist imaginatively played or the most evocatively nuanced, they have all stood the test of time and the accountants’ scythe. Recorded over thirty years ago they have proved durable and important recordings, fully worthy of a rejigging in EMI’s Gemini series.
The new format is two twofers. The second twofer features a raft of soloists and orchestrations. Lest I give the impression that Martinon’s deft clear sightedness is impervious to charm one could do worse than listen to Children’s Corner. Wind playing, sectional balance and rhythmic pointing are all a delight. En bateau from the Petite Suite is of a piece – a reading that eschews extraneous gesture in favour of the essence. And if there’s not much sign of Stokowski’s voluptuous approach in Danse sacrée et danse profane Martinon’s solutions are, if less voluble and exciting, always clean-limbed, analytical and superbly thought through.
Ciccolini impresses in the Fantasie where his articulation is deft and the orchestral support suitably robust when required. John Leach bring some cimbalom spice to Le plus que lente but Guy Dangain impresses even more in the Première Rapsodie with his very personalised tonal qualities and athletic fingering. Jean-Marie Loneix’s very French, rather woolly, saxophone tone is on display in the Rapsodie and there’s an exciting generation of rhythmic intensity here. There are other bits and pieces that you will need for a complete and representative Debussy orchestral collection and they’re very well played if not always tremendously interesting.
If you seek swathes of colour and outsize personality in your Debussy you may find that Martinon under-characterises. If however you are satisfied with performances that are lucid, imaginative, thoughtful and unselfconscious then you will be very happy with Martinon. He has a special understanding of this – and allied – repertoire and his clarity and care in balance and dynamics are merely two of his great virtues in Debussy conducting. That’s why these performances exist in multiple competing editions – and long may they continue to do so.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International