The greatest Debussy recordings …. my choices …. what are yours?

Just for starters  …

Pelléas et Mélisande (Désormière, Warners)

Jeux (de Sabata, Testament)

Prélude a l’après … (Stokowski and his SO, Warners Icon)

Images for orchestra (LSO, Monteux, Philips/Decca)

Images for piano (Michelangeli)

Violin Sonata (Heifetz, Smith, RCA/Sony, or Thibaud/Cortot, Warners)

Trio Sonata [flute, viola and harp]  (Boston Symphony Chamber Players, DG)

Fêtes galantes (Teyte, Cortot, Warners)

La Mer (Toscanini, 1953, Guild – there are plenty of AT La Mers to choose from – also Karajan and the BPO, 1970s recording, Warners)

Préludes Books 1 and 2 (Egerov, Warners, and Michelangeli, DG – Pollini’s new Book 2 is also exceptional …. also Gieseking and Cortot and selections with Rubinstein)


… how about yours?




10 thoughts on “The greatest Debussy recordings …. my choices …. what are yours?

  1. Mark

    Great list Rob! I’m going to seek out those recordings I don’t have. Michelangeli Images I think is one of the best records ever made, that “stained glass” feel to the music…and gieseking’s recordings have the bonus of sounding like they come from another world, the way you can “hear the room”…like a field recording.

    Interested to know what you think of Debussy’s own recordings / piano rolls?


  2. Thanks for that Mark. I’ve recently been listening to Debussy’s piano roll recordings in Warner’s ‘Complete Works’ and they do strike me as pretty near the composer’s ideal of a piano that sounds as if hammers aren’t part of the mechanism. That said, as with most piano rolls, the dynamic range is uncannily even and although the lack of overt percussiveness is sometimes convincing I’m not entirely sure about the accuracy of what we’re actually hearing. Compromised reportage, I’d say. Best. Rob


  3. Dennis Jenkins

    An excellent list Rob. I have a number of your suggested recordings including the Michelangeli Images, Giesking Preludes, Monteux Images, Karajan La Mer all of which I treasure. I have recently acquired Haitink’s Nocturnes after you played it on your new Classic FM programme. I had forgotten how good it was! Also I very much like Guilini’s Philharmonia version of the Nocturnes(+ La Mer). I would also highlight Cantelli’s Debussy recordings as well.


  4. allanevans565053587

    Can’t get enough of Debussy! A major component of a shared inner life. I’ve been preparing the piano recordings for publication of Marius François Gaillard who goes deeper into each work than anyone I’ve ever heard. Horszowski met the composer when he was taking time off to attend Bergson’s Sorbonne lectures and magic dwells in his performances of the Children’s Corner Suite. The Loewenguth Quartet go quite far in his one and only quartet. The third movement’s viola solos emerge as a sultry alto sax ballad. Also the Capets! I’m smitten with Inghlebrecht’s conducting of La Mer, Nocturnes, Saint-Sebastian, and more. Jeux is a hard nut to crack. A live Rosbaud gets close to something but what is that something? And Percy Grainger went berserk over Pagodes, playing it like a gamelan transcription and Loriod’s Etudes are played by someone who knew where they could have led had he lived longer.


  5. Chris

    Never heard that Jeux, Rob! Will seek it out. What about the Etudes? I was excited by Uchida’s recording when it came out, but there must have been lots since…any favourites?


    1. Hi Chris. If Sony’s marvellous Charles Rosen box climbs down from its current exorbitant on-line asking price there’s a great set of Etudes in there – pristine and precise …. quite different to Uchida’s but surely as valid. Best. Rob


    1. Brilliant Jed! Look forward to seeing that. Currently sorting through the two ‘complete’ Debussy boxes, DG and Warners – one of the most complicated reviewing tasks I’ve ever undertaken. Goodness knows whether it’ll make any sense. Hope you’re well – and thanks for joining us here. Best. Rob


  6. Hi Allan. Great to see you here! Have you heard Ernest Bour’s Jeux? That’s also great – rather like Rosbaud I would imagine (they seemed like kindred spirits, interpretatively speaking). For me the end of the Quartet’s slow movement with the Capets – like the parallel passage in Brahms’s First Quartet with the Busch – is among the most moving chamber recordings ever made. I must check out the Ingelbrechts again – I have a fine Pelleás here with Jacques Jansen. Can’t wait to hear Marius François when they’re available. And Cortot? Samson François? the earlier Giesekings? Hope you and the family are well. Best. Rob.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s