Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra - Jolivet, Ravel and Debussy - Audiophile Audition

29 April 2009
Audiophile Audition
John Sunier
4 Stars

An imaginative program from a German orchestra with a rich history of over 125 years

Acousence has assembled a fascinating program of French music here, recorded live in their Living Concert Series by a distinguished German orchestra among whose past highlights was the original premiere of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony.  Jolivet was interested in non-European music and used the influences of three world music models in the three movements of his concerto: Central African in the first, Far Eastern in the second, and Polynesian in the third. The work is strong on percussion and has great vitality. The clean reproduction of the 96K DVD brings out the varied percussion instruments and rhythms, and the balance with the piano soloist is just right

The Ravel and Debussy works were a revelation to me, having not heard either of these orchestral transcriptions before. Last night at a concert by Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg and the Assad Brothers, the violinist introduced their transcription of some Ginastera piano pieces as better than the composer's originals. They seems to be the case with these two works.  The Gaspard de la nuit piano suite is an amazing sonic portrayal of the ghostly poems of Bertrand, which goes on where Debussy left off in his transformation of writing for the piano.  However Marius Constant's orchestration of the three pieces cleverly marshals all the symphony orchestra's instrumental voices to create a watery mermaid fantasy in Ondine, an eerie scene at the gallows in Le Gibet, and a creeping picture of the evil spider/dwarf/whatever in Scarbo. Italian conductor Bernardo Molinari made his transcription of Debussy's piano piece only 14 years after the work's original composition, and in communication with the composer. The optimistic and  antique tone of the piano piece is even more emphasized in the orchestration and serves as a fine counterpart to the disturbing Ravel work that precedes it.

Unlike the recently-reviewed Wagner orchestral transcriptions DVD + CD release from Acousence, this one successfully demonstrates the improved fidelity of both the hi-res DVD + FLAC options over the separate standard 44.1K CD.  There is a generally more transparent and detailed sonic heard on the 96K DVD version vs. the CD. It also decodes very well via ProLogic II for a surround effect.
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