Colours – Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (arr Debussy); La mer (arr Caplet); Richard Strauss: Salomes Tanz (arr Doebber); Rosenkavalier Waltz Sequence (arr Babin); Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op 28 (arr Singer)

Reviewed on Fri 08 Sep, 2017

There’s a tonal grandeur about the opening ‘De l’aube à midi sur la mer’ that spins the illusion that we’re hearing it as originally conceived, and the rhythmic suppleness of the closing ‘Dialogue du vent et de la mer’ is restlessly effective.

The album title ‘Colours’ is, in a sense, paradoxical, because, if there’s one ingredient that these works lose by being transcribed for two pianos, it’s precisely that – colour. Debussy’s own two-piano transcription of his Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune tells it as it is ,but with half-lights dimmed and a sort of applied monochrome that makes ‘busyness’ where magic had prevailed. André Caplet’s version of La mer is a good deal more effective, due largely to the excellent playing of Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen. There’s a tonal grandeur about the opening ‘De l’aube à midi sur la mer’ that spins the illusion that we’re hearing it as originally conceived, and the rhythmic suppleness of the closing ‘Dialogue du vent et de la mer’ is restlessly effective, though the work’s surging coda rather falls flat. The Richard Strauss items are variable. The opening of ‘Salome’s Dance’ (arranged by Johannes Doebber) sounds for all the world like Percy Grainger; the Rosenkavalier waltzes emerge as charming kitsch; and Otto Singer’s take on Till Eulenspiegel sounds as if it's been cooked up for a ballet rehearsal. It might be fun to play, but listeners who know and love the original – especially in a great recorded performance – stand to lose out. Very good sound.
–Rob Cowan