How to Build a Classical CD Collection

33. Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Nocturnes & La mer

Debussy was an older contemporary of Ravel in Paris. Neither composer welcomed comparison with the other and in fact they represent very different tendencies in French music at the beginning of the present century. Debussy shares with other composers of his country and generation a command of the evocative, elicited in his case by delicate and sparing use of a relatively large orchestra. The famous Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, which defies decent translation into English (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), gained spurious fame when the Russian dancer Nijinsky was carried to erotic excess in his performance as the Faun to sensuous choreography of his own devising. The music conjures up a pagan world, in the sultry heat of an afternoon, as the satyr takes his ease. Nocturnes brings other pictures to the mind, Clouds, Festivals and the allure of the Sirens, while the varying moods of the sea are splendidly caught in the symphonic sketches under the title La mer, The Sea.

Recommended recording
Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Nocturnes & La mer, played by the BRT Philharmonic Orchestra of Brussels under its conductor, Alexander Rahbari. Naxos 8.550262

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