Debussy: La mer; Preludes (arr. Matthews)

Album title:
La mer; Preludes (arr. Matthews)
Hallé/Mark Elder
Catalogue Number:
CD HLL 7513
BBC Music Magazine
Recordings of La mer are not in short supply, so it is good to be offered a distinctive coupling. In this case it is 12 of Colin Matthews’s orchestrations of Debussy’s Preludes, trumping the three included with the marvellous recent version from Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI, reviewed September 2005). It is brave placing Matthews’s arrangements alongside one of Debussy’s orchestral masterpieces, and it is a measure of his skill that this is not complete folly. Some are evocative of Debussy’s orchestral soundworld, the luminescent opening of ‘Canope’ transporting us into the realm of Le martyre de Saint-Sébastien. Others, such as ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’, deliberately, and effectively, transform the entire sense of Debussy’s original. In this case, the tempo is much slower, surely making this a woman rather than a girl with flaxen hair. Nonetheless, there are also miscalculations, with the raindrops after the first squalls of ‘Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest’ sounding more like plaintive sunbeams. The Hallé are resplendent underMark Elder, with ravishing colours and finely etched detail, though the otherwise excellent recording places the brass either miles away or in your lap. There is also a recurrent sense of the beauty of the moment masking the bigger picture. It seems the sun will never rise in ‘De l’aube à midi sur la mer’, while ‘Jeux de vagues’ takes time to find a spring in its step. Rattle keeps a much tauter grasp, while Haitink’s classic account with the Royal Concertgebouw remains unsurpassed. Christopher Dingle
Alwyn: Elizabethan Dances; Oboe Concerto; Aphrodite in Aulis
previous review Article
Dvorak: Symphonies Nos 7 & 8
next review Article
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here