Top 10 Debussy recordings

Gramophone Fri 2nd January 2015

Ten essential recordings to start exploring the works of Claude Debussy

No 1

La mer

Berlin Philharmonic / Herbert von Karajan

(DG)

'It has that indefinable quality that one can more readily recognise than describe, a magic that makes one forget the performer and transports one directly to the composer's world.'

 

No 2

Nocturnes

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Bernard Haitink

(Decca)

'The jewel in this set, for many, will be the Nocturnes, principally for the purity of the strings in ''Nuages'' (sparing vibrato and, mercifully, not a slide in earshot); the dazzling richness and majesty of the central procession in ''Fetes''; and the cool beauty and composure of ''Sirenes''.' Read review

 

No 3

Etudes

Walter Gieseking (pf)

(EMI)

'These records should be in every musician’s library, be they singer or conductor, violinist or pianist, etc. If Gramophone believed in a starring system they would deserve a heavenful of stars.' Read review

 

No 4

Jeux

Hallé Orchestra / Mark Elder

(Hallé)

'The transparent acoustic of the Bridgewater Hall and the balancing skill of producer Andrew Keener add to the allure of this miraculous score, with the violent climax superbly graduated and the closing pages returning spontaneously to the opening mood.' Read review

 

No 5

String Quartet

Quatuor Ebène

(Virgin Classics)

'An extraordinary work by any standards, ethereal and other-worldly, with themes that seem constantly to be drawn skywards.' Read review

 

No 6

Preludes

Krystian Zimerman (pf)

(DG)

'Such sensitively conceived and wonderfully executed Debussy playing stands, at the very least, on a level with a classic recording such as Gieseking’s.' Read review

 

No 7

Images

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (pf)

(Chandos)

'Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s flexible virtuosity and innate grasp of Debussy’s style and sound world yields ravishing, freshly minted interpretations of the Images.' Read review

 

No 8

Prelude a L'apres-midi d'un faune

Berlin Philharmonic / Herbert von Karajan

(Harmonia Mundi)

'Jonathan Snowden's playing in the Prelude a l'apres-midi is most poetic and I would strongly recommend it.' Read review

 

No 9

Sonata for flute, viola and harp

Irène Jacob (spkr) Philippe Bernold, Mathieu Dufour (fls)Gérard Caussé (va) Isabelle Moretti, Germaine Lorenzini (hps) Ariane Jacob (pf, celesta)

(Harmonia Mundi)

'The high point of this disc is a beautifully sensitive performance of Debussy’s elusive late sonata, a “terribly sad” work according to the composer himself, but also containing in its latter two movements an uneasy kind of high spirits born of desperation.' Read review

 

No 10

Pelleas et Melisande

Radio France Chorus; French National Orchestra / Bernard Haitink

(Naïve)

'Throughout‚ the beauty‚ energy and brilliance of the orchestral playing ride over an undertow of melancholy and impending disaster‚ echoing that "strange air" Mélisande has of someone who‚ in Arkel’s words‚ "is always waiting for some great sorrow in the sunshine in a lovely garden".' Read review

 

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