Debussy La mer … Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune … Jeux … Children’s Corner

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Debussy
Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
La mer – three symphonic sketches
Jeux – poème dansé
Debussy, orch. Caplet
Children’s Corner

Orchestre National de Lyon
Jun Märkl

Recorded July 2007 in Auditorium de Lyon, France


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: June 2008
CD No: NAXOS 8.570759
Duration: 73 minutes

 

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Maybe the opening flute solo of ‘faune’ is too close as well as too breathy (and slightly husky in tone), but a nicely languorous atmosphere is created at an ideally judged tempo, one that creates calmness but also allows volatility. The balances are a little odd, though, with wind solos being spotlighted and the strings being heard as more akin to a back-cloth than enjoying a natural perspective, timbres ‘hardening’ somewhat in fortissimos.

Jun Märkl has a real feel for the music, though, and obtains some sensitive and judicious playing, although one would be hard-pressed to identify this as a French orchestra (such has been the erosion of geographical-specific orchestral timbres over the years) – such a pity.

Märkl unfolds the opening of La mer quite spaciously (as befits ‘Dawn’) but the ‘turn’ into a fuller tide and a faster tempo is a little abrupt; nevertheless the journey to ‘Midday’ is eventful (and rhythmic detail is especially well revealed). With much delicacy, power and gratifying attention to detail in the remaining movements – in the finale, Märkl includes the ad lib fanfares, here between 6’50” and 7’03” – this as a noteworthy version of La mer, one to return to, if not quite in the league of classics such as Ansermet (Decca, 1957 and 1964), Fournet (Supraphon), Celibidache (EMI) – whom Märkl studied with – and Slatkin (Telarc).

This account of Jeux, a late and seminal masterpiece in Debussy’s output, doesn’t always have its clandestine quality suggested due to being slightly over-lit as a recording and in over-clarified detailing as a performance. Yet the acuteness of Märkl and his orchestra’s response to Debussy’s remarkable subtlety is undoubtedly painstaking; there is though a lack of all-important elusiveness.

André Caplet’s orchestration of Children’s Corner is effective, if without eclipsing the piano original – in which music and instrument seem made for each other. But in an affectionate, occasionally teasing (try ‘Golliwog’s Cake-Walk’) realisation such as this, it makes a pleasing diversion to complete a ‘basic’ Debussy collection that should delight anyone new to his music as well as the seasoned listener.

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