Daniel Barenboim has sometimes performed the music of Debussy, especially during the later part of his career, but Debussy interpretations are not something for which he is particularly known. Thus this release of Debussy works, on the rare side except for La Mer at the end, is commendable; it shows Barenboim, approaching his 80th year, continuing to take chances and explore new repertory. The show opens with the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, L 73, not commonly heard, although it is really Debussy's only piano concerto. It's an early work, but more than most other Debussy pieces from the period, it shows the composer injecting his own style at every turn into a framework of Massenet and, especially, Franck. Barenboim teams with pianist Martha Argerich, and the pair offers a relaxed performance that brings out the proto-Impressionist touches. In the terse, dark Violin Sonata, L 140, and Cello Sonata, L. 135, Barenboim at the keyboard is joined by son Michael Barenboim and Kian Soltani, respectively, with impressively spare results. La Mer, with Barenboim leading the Staatskapelle Dresden, is clean and effective if not revelatory. Recorded in 2018 and released in 2021, this is a worthy entry in Barenboim's remarkable late-life catalog.
Claude Debussy Review
by James Manheim