Debussy – Orchestral Works Volume 3

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Images; Pour le piano – Sarabande (orch. Ravel); Danse (orch. Ravel); Marche Écossaise sur un thème populaire; La plus que lente
PERFORMER: Lyon National Orchestra/Jun Märkl
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572296

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 Much of this disc is excellent. Jun Märkl persuades his orchestra to extremes of vulgarity and tenderness, which is as it should be in the extraordinary Images.

They also catch the ambivalence of mood that marks these pieces: for all the bluster of Ibéria’s outer movements, the raucous clarinets and the scratchy solo violin, there is an underlying melancholy that is all the more tortured for not being openly expressed.

In Gigues, the contrasts between sadness (Debussy’s original title was Gigues tristes) and the truculent outbursts of ‘The Keel Row’ are brought together to form a coherent whole, albeit a disturbing one. 

But the competition in this field is distinguished, and details cannot be skimped. Is the flute bang in tune with trumpet and strings at the very start of Gigues? I would say not. Is there a brief, unwanted accelerando at 1:10 in the central movement of Ibéria? Undoubtedly – I suspect the insertion of a different take for this half-bar.

Is another of these also responsible for the tiny break at 0:31 in the ‘Sarabande’? And what a shame that the magical solo clarinet intonation of ‘Nous n’irons plus aux bois’ in Rondes de printemps (at 6:03) is almost drowned by the accompaniment, when elsewhere balances have been so well observed.

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Are the overtones of the drum roll at the end of the ‘Sarabande’ deliberate? And finally, in La plus que lente, why no distinction between ‘En retenant’ and ‘Retenu’? But these quibbles apart, there is much here to enjoy. Roger Nichols