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CLASSICAL  June 2006

CLASSICAL June 2006

Subject:

Debussy Preludes Orchestrated

From:

James Tobin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 28 Jun 2006 22:27:37 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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DEBUSSY BREWAEYS PRELUDES.  Recomposition for Symphony Orchestra.  Royal
Flemish Philharmonic, cond.  Daniele Callegari.  Talent Records DOM 3810
04/05.  2 discs.  41:18, 39:47.

If you happened to hear a broadcast of some of this recording, not
having heard of it before, and supposing also that you were not intimately
familiar with the two books of Preludes which Debussy wrote for the piano
but were in fact quite familiar with all the orchestral work of Debussy--
and Ravel--you might be almost beside yourself trying to identify what
you were hearing.  Even if you are in fact quite familiar with the
Preludes you still might have difficulty.  For myself, knowing very well
what works I was hearing on this recording, I still was very surprised
to hear a familiar-sounding passage that brought La Mer to mind--with
all its power--and another that reminded me of Ravel's La Valse--among
many fresh sounds.

Luc Brewaeys' respect for Debussy's work is such that in producing this
version of the Preludes--first performed in Brussels at the Palais des
Beaux-Arts in late 2004 and late 2005--he "decided not to touch Debussy's
notes." No doubling, even.  "There's not a single octave in the score,
which was not written by Debussy himself....also during the loud passages
where the temptation to add notes for additional effect is great: I
mainly searched for very specific, original combinations of sounds within
the orchestral forces." He says that "it wasn't my intention to orchestrate
the works as Debussy would have done himself..  I wanted to give my own
interpretation of the orchestral colours."

Brewaes certainly succeeded in coming up with creative sonorities, much
more so than others who have orchestrated piano originals.  The results
are very satisfying, in fact splendid, and I highly recommend this very
welcome recording.  But as with all such orchestral transformations, the
simple fact that the piano is inescapably percussive means that notes
played on its highest octave have a very different sound when violins
play them at the same pitches; the timbres of the instruments of a
symphony orchestra are extremely different from those of the piano; and
the dynamic range of an orchestra of course vastly exceeds that of a
piano. Thus this version of the Preludes sounds very different from the
original--but still sounds very much like Debussy's orchestral works,
to my ears.

So the question remains: why does Brewaeys call his work a "recomposition"
rather than an orchestration, the more expected term?  If you have heard
it, is he right?  I would welcome any comments.

Jim Tobin

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