Debussy’s La chute de la Maison Usher and Le diable dans le beffroi conducted by Christoph-Mathias Mueller

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Pan Classics
WORKS: La chute de la Maison Usher; Le diable dans le beffroi*
PERFORMER: William Dazeley, Eugene Villanueva, Virgil Hartinger, Lin Lin Fan, *Michael Dries; Gottinger Symphonie Orchester/Christoph-Mathias Mueller


Like Beethoven, Debussy was a single opera composer. A simple enough fact in that Pelléas et Mélisande was the only opera he completed, yet misleading as he worked on various others. Some faltered at the planning stage, others had varying amounts of music written for them. Of the two Edgar Allan Poe operas presented here, La chute de la Maison Usher was close to completion, whereas only a few sketches remain for Le diable dans le beffroi. That being the case, it is decidedly naughty that this most welcome set has no mention on the cover or title pages of the booklet of Robert Orledge, the musicologist who realised both works. It is a significant omission for La chute, and unforgiveable for the far more speculative venture of Le diable, where Orledge is at least as much the creator as Debussy.

There is evidence Debussy contemplated these two works as a possible double-bill for a time, and they certainly make quite a contrast. Le diable is playful, though, despite various enjoyable moments, it struggles to convince even within the context of a work that was destined to be unlike any other Debussy wrote. La chute recalls the claustrophobic intensity of Pelléas, though the music is generally more forceful. The Gottinger Symphonie Orchester play with passion under Christoph-Mathias Mueller, while William Dazeley as Roderic Usher and Eugene Villanueva as his friend are convincing advocates in this gripping piece of drama that should be heard by any Debussy enthusiast.


Christopher Dingle