I’m awarding five stars here just for coming up with such a fine concept for an album, but the playing and recording is also first rate. Debussy opened up a whole new world of expression with his piano music, often conveying a wider range of moods, colors and feelings than any composer for the piano had previously achieved. His piano music so clearly suggests larger instrumental forces that much of it cries out for orchestral transcription. And that is what a variety of composers have done – starting with his contemporary Maurice Ravel.
One of the interesting pairs of tracks here which immediately caught my eye is the inclusion of two different transcriptions of Clair de lune. Stoky’s is, as expected, more lavish and Hollywoodish, but I see why Atma decided to end the disc with the Caplet transcription. It does build to a more satisfying conclusion. Since I had played both the original piano versions of Sarabande and Danse in college, I was interested to hear – I believe for the first time – the Ravel orchestrations of both. Fairly bursting with sparkling impressionistic images, both works translate beautifully to the symphonic world. One is reminded of the sumptuous arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition which is also Ravel’s.
Henri Busser was an organist and opera composer in Toulouse, and his work on Debussy’s Petite Suite was simplified a bit by the original piano piece being for four hands instead of just two. The Children’s Corner suite from Caplet is probably the most-heard of these transcriptions. It expands the six little piano pieces into a delightful orchestral suite without sounding at all like gilding the lily.
– John Sunier