Debussy/Ravel: Debussy/Ravel transcriptions, incl. Debussy: Rapsodie for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra

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COMPOSERS: Debussy/Ravel
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Debussy/Ravel transcriptions, incl. Debussy: Rapsodie for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra
PERFORMER: Gerard McChrystal (saxophone); Ulster Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9129 DDD
Candle-ends from Yan Pascal Tortelier’s comprehensive Debussy and Ravel series with the Ulster Orchestra. Almost all of them are orchestrations of piano originals – mostly by the composers themselves, though in Debussy’s case sometimes by friends and associates (and in two instances by Ravel). The only item here familiar in its orchestral guise is Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte. The remainder are curiosities – most bizarre among them Debussy’s transcription of his salon piece La plus que lente, complete with a part for cimbalom which predates Stravinsky’s use of this exotic instrument by several years.

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Other rarities include Ravel’s idiosyncratic fanfare for the collaborative ballet L’éventail de Jéanne; and Debussy’s Marche écossaise, written for one General Meredith Reid, who wanted a fantasy on his clan’s battle-call. More substantial is the Rapsodie which Debussy wrote to get a rich and persistent femme-saxophone off his back, and which was orchestrated after his death by Roger-Ducasse.

Throughout, though, it is Ravel who reveals himself as the master orchestrator: his version of his own Une barque sur l’océan, although it apparently left him dissatisfied, is highly dramatic and evocative; and his transcription of Debussy’s earlyTarantelle styrienne is strikingly inventive in its use of orchestral colour.

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Fine performances, and a good recording in the slightly spacious Chandos house-style. Misha Donat