A century after his death on 25 March 1918, many harmonia mundi artists are eager to pay tribute to Claude Debussy, the magician of melody and timbre, the great ‘colourist’ and father of modern music. With the musicians of Les Siècles, we have the opportunity to discover - on period instruments - the original colours of such key works as Jeux and the Nocturnes. After his sumptuous recording of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, François-Xavier Roth adds a new and splendid achievement to his discography.
Two titans of the French repertoire, André Cluytens and Samson François, take the listener deep into the spellbinding world of Maurice Ravel. The dualities inherent in the composer’s exquisitely crafted music – and the contrasting, yet complementary characters of the masterly conductor and maverick pianist – are exemplified in their interpretations of the two piano concertos: the Concerto in G, charming, sparkling and gently melancholy, and the Concerto for the Left Hand, angular and defiant, with moments of both brutality and heroism.
After their revelatory recording of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Les Siècles and François-Xavier Roth give us the exotic Mother Goose suite and Le tombeau de Couperin which sound so new thanks to this period-instrument guise (light on vibrato, and with instruments appropriate to the time of composition). Ma Mére l’Oye, with its unique colours, benefits most from this approach, less sweet than normal and always strikingly original. Le tombeau…, a work tinged with sadness, really does seem to reach back into the depths of French music, evoking a past age to remember the composer’s friends lost to the First World War.