- Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), for orchestra, L. 86
- Nocturnes, for female chorus & orchestra, L. 91
- La Mer, symphonic sketches (3) for orchestra, L. 109
- Berceuse héroïque for piano (or orchestra), L. 132
The partnership of Paavo Järvi, the Cincinnati Symphony, and Telarc has played to the strengths of the conductor, the orchestra, and the record label's engineers alike, turning out recordings showcasing colorful scores by Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev, and other composers in vivid interpretations and richly detailed sonics. The music of Claude Debussy is a natural addition -- almost an obligatory one -- to the team's recorded repertoire, and this disc does a terrific job of surveying some of the works that revolutionized orchestral sound at the turn of the 20th century. Järvi is careful to avoid letting this music smudge into too "impressionistic" a blur: Although the opening "Nuages" (Clouds) of the Nocturnes are duly hazy and the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun basks in a properly ephemeral glow, the conductor also marks the crisp outlines of melodic phrases, the tensions created by unusual instrumental combinations, and the fundamental modernity of Debussy's coloristic harmonies. The women's chorus in "Sirènes" (also from the Nocturnes) seems to be placed more distantly than we often hear it, an interesting choice that emphasizes the otherworldly space from which these voices beckon. La Mer (The Sea) is arguably Debussy's greatest orchestral work, and it certainly sounds it in Järvi's masterful performance, attentive to both the overall structural grandeur and the piquancy of each detail. A brief novelty follows as a bonus: Debussy's Berceuse héroïque, composed for piano in 1914 and orchestrated the following year. Even minor works by Debussy make for fascinating listening, and this one is no exception. Restrained, quiet, and austere, it sounds little like the composer's typically voluptuous soundscapes, and it makes for a moving coda to this rewarding album.