Henri Dutilleux's work has been gaining attention through a number of significant recent recordings. Esa-Pekka Salonen recorded his Correspondances with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Ludovic Morlot has recorded both his symphonies, as well as other works, as the new conductor of the Seattle Symphony. This opportunity to experience and appraise his work casts him as among the most significant French composers of the late twentieth century.
Lilya Zilberstein has already taken on some of the virtuoso pillars of the repertoire for DG—Brahms's Paganini Variations, the Mussorgsky Pictures, Rachmaninov's Third Concerto and so it is fascinating to hear her in music of a more subtle evocation and delicacy. And although her Debussy and Ravel are hardly consistent or to the manner born, they are rarely less than individual or distinguished. Like other Russian pianists before her she places greater emphasis on the music's sensuous and expressive warmth than on its formal clarity. Her response to say, ''Le soiree dans Grenade'' (from Estampes) is richly coloured and inflected (a reminder, perhaps, of Falla's awe of Debussy's Hispanicism) and in ''Jardins sous la pluie'' her virtuosity evokes a coldly drenched and windswept garden its flowers momentarily bejewelled by passing sunlight. She is also highly successful in the more objective patterning of Pour le piano, making the opening Prelude's fortissimo chording and shooting-star glissandos resonate with unusual power.
The violin and piano sonatas of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel draw on foreign idioms: gypsy music in Debussy's case and African-American blues in Ravel's. But they remain completely French works, spiced with something exotic, and British violinist Jennifer Pike forges interpretations that keep this in mind. Start with the "Blues" slow movement of the Ravel Violin Sonata in G major: Pike and her accompanist, Martin Roscoe, avoid exaggerating the bluesy qualities of the music and instead emphasize the odd, almost tense disconnection between violin and piano that, combined with the languid blues melodies, gives this piece its special piquancy.
Since the first performance of Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien on May 22nd, 1911, there has been much speculation about the reasons which could have led Debussy to compose incidental music for the play of Gabriele d'Annunzio and about the validity and authenticity of the musical work. Granted, the circumstances in which the piece was created are grounds for suspicion.