Debussy’s orchestral works

Debussy: Orchestral Works

I attended a concert by the San Francisco symphony earlier this month, and the conductor was Stéphane Denève. I liked his energy, his conducting style, and his strong knowledge of the music that he conducted.

On this CD, we get the following:


  • L’Enfant prodigue: Cortege et Air de danse
  • L’Enfant prodigue: Prélude
  • Printemps, suite for piano 4 hands or orchestra, L. 61
  • Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
  • Marche Écossaise
  • Trois Nocturnes
  • La Mer
  • Images for orchestra
  • Jeux – Poème dansé
  • Berceuse héroïque

All performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Stéphane Denève

Stéphane Denève took up the post of Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2005, and has since attracted attention from audiences and critics alike. This month the conductor leaves Scotland and the RSNO with a series of ‘Au Revoir’ concerts, and this disc is of orchestral works by Debussy.

Debussy’s La Mer is today widely considered to have been crucial in its influence on twentieth-century music. After completing this work, Debussy spent no fewer than seven years wrestling with what were to become his ‘Images for orchestra’.

With a wonderful flute solo, Debussy’s ‘Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune’ opened an amazing new world for western music. Debussy based this composition on a poem by Mallarmé, who wrote to the composer: ‘I have come from the concert, deeply moved: A miracle! that your illustration of L’Après-midi d’un faune should present no dissonance with my text, other than to venture further, truly, into nostalgia and light…’

The ‘Three Nocturnes’ feature some of Debussy’s most imaginative orchestral writing. In the words of the composer, ‘the title Nocturnes is… not meant to designate the usual form of a nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word would suggest’. Debussy provided descriptions of the three movements. ‘Nuages’, for example, depicts ‘the slow, melancholy procession of the clouds, ending in a grey agony tinged with white’, and also the experience of standing ‘on the Pont de Solférino very late at night in total silence.

Here is the Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5 E flat major (Emperor), with Paul Lewis, piano, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Stephane Deneve. You can see the conducting style that I mentioned above

Tags: Debussy, Stephane Deneve, orchestral works, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

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