Roth: Debussy - Jeux/Nocturnes (24/44 FLAC)
Roth: Debussy – Jeux/Nocturnes (24/44 FLAC)

Composer: Claude Debussy
Performer: Les Cris de Paris
Orchestra: Les Siècles
Conductor: François-Xavier Roth
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Size: 457 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

02. Debussy: Jeux – Poème dansé

Debussy: Trois Nocturnes
03. 1. Nuages
04. 2. Fêtes
05. 3. Sirènes

Debussy: Nocturnes, Jeux, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune Performing on period instruments, the musicians of Les Siècles give us an opportunity to discover the original orchestral colors of such key Debussy works as Jeux and the Nocturnes. After his sumptuous recording of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Francois-Xavier Roth adds a new and splendid achievement to his discography. Includes a bonus DVD.

Harmonia Mundi is releasing a group of excellent renditions of various of Debussy’s music in celebration of the centenary of his passing in 1918. This CD of three of Debussy’s orchestral masterpieces, exceptionally well-played on instruments of the period, is a must-have.

I first encountered Debussy’s music as a ignorant jazz-rocker in music school 45 years ago (long enough ago to snarl neural traffic in my brain with astonishment as I type it now). I very quickly came to realize the extent of the influence of Debussy (and Ravel) on jazz in the 1920’s and beyond, and have never lost my affection for Debussy’s music since. The number of recordings that I have, or have heard, of all of the pieces on this disc, is beyond counting. I didn’t NEED another one.

BUT, I had heard conductor Roth and Les Siecles before, and was favorably impressed. They cover ground that has not, to my taste, been well-covered before; that being early 20th Century music played on period instruments. And that Roth and his band have been taken up by Harmonia Mundi, one of our top-notch labels for both sound and repertoire, speaks volumes.

These are all excellent performances. Roth focuses on timbre and delicacy where called for, but moves the music along without excessive dawdling. While I hear differences in instrumental balance, woodwind sounds, string tone (which I believe are gut strings) and find these curious and sometimes effective and affecting, the differences are not striking quite the way that period instrument sound was in its early years — and they are certainly not annoying in the way they sometimes used to be. Indeed, they are most attractive. The orchestra is medium sized, and the players are all individually credited, with information about their instruments except for the strings.

A few notes about particular highlights: Jeux is a difficult piece to pull off. It requires good forward-motion, and subtle differences in its repeated segments. I find it easy to lose the thread that holds it together for the listener. Roth kept my ears open to each move. Excellent interpretation. Same goes for Nocturnes, my personal favorite of Debussy’s orchestral pieces. Each movement has its own excitement, but they all lead to the mysterious moments with the women’s chorus in the end. Great stuff to carry one’s ears away…and appropriately the last piece on the disc.

I must confess that as of this writing, I have yet to view the bonus DVD of Roth and Les Siecles live in Granada, which includes Jeux and Nocturnes. I will update this review after I watch it. However, I am quite happy to give this release 5 stars without it. Well done!

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