Debussy; Colin Matthews

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy; Colin Matthews
WORKS: Jeux; Préludes (arr. Colin Matthews); Postlude: Monsieur Croche
PERFORMER: Hallé/Mark Elder


This second Debussy disc on the Hallé’s own label completes the orchestra’s traversal of the Debussy Preludes in the arrangements by Colin Matthews. As with the dozen presented on the first disc, they are not in the groupings familiar from the two books of the piano originals, reflecting that orchestral textures are not simply overlaid.

That said, the departures in this grouping are not as extensive as some on the first disc, and nowhere are Matthews’s re-imaginings as radical as, for instance, Michael Finnissy’s Gershwin Arrangements.

Needless to say, some are more effective than others, with ‘Des pas sur la neige’ capturing a chilly solitude, and ‘La sérénade interrompue’ echoing Iberia, while ‘Les collines d’Anacapri’ is delightfully impulsive. Elsewhere, such as in ‘Danseuses de Delphes’, there is a preponderance of blurred textures, like a pianist shoving down the sustain pedal in a wrong‑headed attempt to cultivate an ‘Impressionist’ aura.

While the Hallé sound wonderful, Elder is often cautious in his tempos, so that the fairies of ‘Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses’ are leaden-footed, and ‘Ondine’ comes across as insipid rather than capricious.


The same could be said in much of Jeux. Whereas Rattle (EMI) and Haitink (Philips) float and glide effortlessly while never missing the slightest nuance, Elder is more earthbound in capturing all the detail. The disc is rounded-off stylishly by Matthews’s delightful Postlude: Monsieur Croche. Christopher Dingle