Daniele Callegari

Debussy/Brewaeys: Preludes

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Known as a composer of "spectral symphonic" music, Luc Brewaeys has demonstrated his prodigious orchestration skills in numerous concert works, though most of them are challenging experimental pieces that casual listeners are unlikely to find accessible. Not so his "recompositions" of Claude Debussy's Préludes, Books I and II, composed for piano between 1907 and 1913, but lavishly scored for large orchestra by Brewaeys between 2002 and 2005. At no point do Brewaeys' versions sound like reworkings or alterations of the originals, since he is fastidiously observant of Debussy's notes, and so scrupulous in his orchestration that he allows octave doublings only when indicated in the piano score. As a result, his textures are always uncluttered and his timbres sparkling, without any of the muddiness that often afflicts orchestrations of keyboard works. Brewaeys still manages to produce lush sonorities, perfectly in keeping with Debussy's impressionistic moods, though he achieves them through constant cycling of instrumental groupings and marvelous choices in the percussion. Brewaeys' practical experience with acoustics and harmonics helps him know what instruments will sound best in combinations, and which tone colors will blend most effectively without inducing aural fatigue. This warm, lustrous performance by Daniele Callegari and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic certainly does justice to Debussy, and such familiar preludes as Des pas sur la neige, La fille aux cheveux de lin, and La cathédrale engloutie sound truly magical in these freshly imagined, vibrant arrangements and shimmering readings. But beyond atmospherics, there is also abundant wit, as in the comic Minstrels or Général Lavine -- eccentric, enticing exoticism in La Puerta del Vino, and compelling mystery, as in Brouillards and Canope. The sound quality of this double-disc set is top-notch throughout, with perfectly adjusted levels and evenly balanced recording, so no artificial boosting or other technical problems interfere with the subtle interplay of tones and dynamics in the orchestra. Highly recommended.

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