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Debussy: Nocturnes and other works
Alfred Bruneau: Requiem
From Lully’s grands motets, Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres, and the versions of the Requiem by Campra and Desaugiers to Poulenc’s Stabat Mater and Messiaen’s La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ, there is a magnificent tradition of sacred music in France. Whether manifest in the pomp of the Sun King, in revolutionary ardour, or in Meyerbeerian grand opéra, France has always had a fascination for the expression of grand passions, whether sacred or profane, and the influence of opera is undeniable in the epic works of Lesueur and Méhul, and even in the masses of Cherubini. Later in history, there was an attempt, led by Choron, the Niedermeyer School and the Schola Cantorum, to break free of this tendency by returning to the liturgical source of plainchant. A vacillation between high drama and devotion characterized the entire evolution of the genre of sacred music and, in particular, its ultimate and perhaps most spectacular embodiment, the Requiem Mass. The latter part of the 19th century brought a considerable output of religious works, and in France such important figures as César Franck, Théodore Dubois, Jules Massenet and Émile Paladilhe all produced remarkable oratorios. In the 1880s it was therefore only to be expected that a young composer like Alfred Bruneau should attempt a large-scale religious work before launching a career in opera, which at the time was still the key to achieving a major reputation in France.
“Imagine the flamboyant influence of Berlioz leavened by Faure's soft lyricism, and you get Bruneau's Requiem. It makes a more than passing impression in this strongly committed performance.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2014 ****
“The performance in general rises to the occasion, and hauntingly shaded for Marius Constant's distillation of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2014
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Debussy: Orchestral Works Volume 2
Debussy’s orchestral works are much loved for their exquisite orchestrations, poetically nuanced harmonies and almost magical evocations of time and place.
He achieved his first significant success in 1900 with Nocturnes, which portrays in three movements clouds reflected in the sea, holiday festivals in the Bois de Boulogne and the fatally seductive song of the Sirens.
The Pelléas et Mélisande Symphony was derived by Marius Constant from the orchestral episodes of Debussy’s famous opera, while the Trois Études are heard in a revealing orchestration of the piano originals by the contemporary Swiss composer, Michael Jarrell.
“The two major items here are the set of three Nocturnes, central to Debussy's output, and the substantial symphonic suite from Pelléas etMélisande that Marius Constant put together using almost entirely the opera's evocative orchestral interludes. Märkl's performance is warm and idiomatic, and the only reservation is that almost inevitably there is rather a lack of contrast in music that moves slowly. It is nonetheless a valuable item, adding to the outstanding performance of the three Nocturnes which is the high-point of the whole collection. The first, 'Nuages', is supremely evocative with refined strings and a cor anglais solo that stands out in the terracing of textures. 'Fêtes' is richly seductive in its bright colours. The passage where one hears a procession from afar on muted trumpets is wonderfully achieved, with crisply precise triplets leading up to a powerful climax before fading away again.
The longest of the three Nocturnes, 'Sirènes', brings a vital contribution from the Leipzig choir attached to the other orchestra with which Märkl is associated, the Leipzig Radio Symphony. Their chording and ensemble is flawless. The Caplet orchestration of the piano piece 'Clair de lune' is beautifully wrought and here given a sumptuous performance.
The Berceuse héroïque is similarly evocative, with its distant fanfares and its climactic reference to the Belgian National Anthem. The three Etudes, orchestrated by Michael Jarrell as recently as 1991, represent a different approach; a degree sharper, appropriate enough for some of Debussy's most advanced music, and pointing forward to a new generation of composers. A richly satisfying collection, immaculately recorded, with its full measure of rarities.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“…the outstanding performance of the three Nocturnes… is the high-point of the whole collection. …"Nuages", is supremely evocative with refined strings and a cor anglais solo that stands out in the terracing of textures. "Fêtes" is richly seductive… The passage where one hears a procession from afar on muted trumpets is wonderfully achieved... "Sirènes", brings a vital contribution from the Leipzig choir... Their chording and ensemble is flawless. A richly satisfying collection, immaculately recorded, with its full measure of rarities.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2009
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Debussy: Complete Orchestral Works
This collection contains all Debussy’s works for orchestra as well as many orchestral arrangements of his piano music. Together these display a rich panorama of Debussian sound and a remarkable insight into the composer. Established arrangements by Debussy’s contemporaries, including Ravel and Caplet, are complemented by more recent arrangements from composers such as Colin Matthews and Robin Holloway. The conductor Jun Märkl believes that Debussy ‘set up a model of orchestration for the rest of the twentieth century’ and it is with this conviction that he draws from the Orchestre National de Lyon such ‘world-class playing’ (American Record Guide).
“There’s definitely more wheat than chaff in this box, and if it weren’t for CD 1 and, to some extent, CD 2, I’d be sorely tempted to make this a Bargain of the Month. It certainly exudes quality, the sturdy presentation box, sleeved discs and substantial booklet are pleasing to the eye and satisfying to the touch.” MusicWeb International, July 2012
(also available to download from $63.00)
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