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.
Taken from the best Debussy cycle to appear in the CD era, these repackagings gather the items that one-disc-at-a-time buyers tend to miss. Playing combines flair, care, and great musical enjoyment. High points include the superb Anne Queffélec as solo pianist in the Fantaisie and some rare items: the Rapsodie for alto sax, the whimsical orchestration of La plus que lente featuring cimbalom, and piano pieces scored by other hands. The Ulster Hall acoustic is spacious but clear.
Franck’s Piano Quintet and Debussy’s String Quartet make an apt and unusual coupling, each work its composer’s only, unsurpassable, contribution to the genre. Both receive authoritative performances from Marc-André Hamelin and the Takács Quartet.
Pianist Marita Viitasalo’s solo album on Ondine is a program focused on works by Claude Debussy (1862–1918). Préludes, Book II was composed during 1912–13 and represent the composer’s late style. Suite bergamasque, published in 1905, is one of the most well-known pieces in classic piano literature. It inclundes Claire de lune, possibly Debussy’s most famous piano piece. Marita Viitasalo studied first under Professor Timo Mikkilä in Helsinki. She continued her studies in Rome (Rodolfo Caporali) and in Vienna (Dieter Weber). Viitasalo is award-winning concert pianist and respected accompanist who has performed, among others, in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, London, Edinburgh and New York.
This Pierian CD, advertised in the May 2012 Naxos catalog as an “also available” disc, is the label’s first issue from 2000 featuring the complete recordings of Debussy as pianist. All of his records were made in two sessions, a series of four short 78-rpm sides with soprano Mary Garden (his first Mélisande) at the Paris G&T studio in 1904 and 14 Welte-Mignon piano rolls recorded on November 11, 1913. Both are famous groups of recordings, restored and reissued over the decades, but this release is the best I’ve ever heard them.