Debussy: Orchestral works, Vol. 5

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Orchestral works, Vol. 5: La boîte à joujoux; Six épigraphes antiques; Estampes No. 1: Pagodes; Estampes No. 2: La soirée dans Grenade; L’isle joyeuse; Le triomphe de Bacchus
PERFORMER: Lyon National Orchestra/Jun Märkl
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572568

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First of all, a word of warning. Of the 73 minutes on this Debussy disc, just about 70 are of orchestrations by other people. Not all are successful. André Caplet’s of Une boîte à joujoux, building on the three-and-a-half minutes of Debussy’s own, doesn’t miss a trick in this delightful work, which teases us with the thought of the operetta Debussy never wrote.

At the other extreme, Gaillard’s orchestration of Le triomphe de Bacchus of 1882 is lumpish, but then so is the music – a first, decidedly tentative step on the long aesthetic climb through the fragmentary cantata Diane au bois of 1886 to the heights of Mallarmé’s Faun of 1894.

Between these extremes, Caplet’s version of ‘Pagodes’ is really too ‘stringy’ and polite – Percy Grainger’s wacky reworking, with 13 percussion instruments, harmonium, celesta, dulcitone and no fewer than four pianos, comes nearer its heart. Büsser’s ‘La soirée dans Grenade’ is efficient, but lacking the Debussy magic, and Ansermet’s Six épigraphes antiques a similarly tidy effort.

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Molinari’s L’isle joyeuse, written with the composer’s permission although he never saw or heard the result, is effective and more imaginative, even if rather too harsh at the final climax. In all these versions, Jun Märkl conducts with spirit and finesse. Roger Nichols