Debussy: Orchestral Music


Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Stéphane Denève Chandos CHSA 5102 (2) (2 CDs)****

In his lifetime Debussy met with plenty of brickbats.

More than two decades after its première, Saint-Saëns wrote of the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune: “One does not find in it the least musical idea, properly speaking; it resembles a piece of music as the palette used by an artist in his work resembles a picture.”

Saint-Saëns, of course, may not have heard performances of the sensual allure and tonal sophistication that is cultivated here by conductor Stéphane Denève.

On the other hand Denève is apt to dwell on the sensuality of the here and now at the expense of forward momentum, as if his motto might at times be: feel the pleasure, forget the future.

The gorgeous performances here include the famous Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, as well as the complete Images, and also Jeux, Nocturnes, La mer and some shorter pieces.