Achille-Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel were the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, although Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed. Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent use of nontraditional tonalities. The prominent French literary style of his period was known as Symbolism, and this movement directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.
Combining works by Debussy and Poulenc on an album may, to some, seem a bit ironic seeing as at one point, the latter railed against the music of the former. Poulenc was later to change his tune, though, and eventually became one of Debussy's most ardent admirers. The two were greatly responsible for a new direction in French music, which, ironically, required both of them to look to composers of the past for inspiration.
The founding of the Berliner Philharmoniker on the first of May in 1882, is annually celebrated with a concert in a European city of cultural significance. For this newly released EUROPAKONZERT Blu-ray Disc all recordings were lovingly restored and converted to High Definition video. The Berliner Philharmoniker are joined for Mozart’s Motet and Mass on this recording by Christine Schäfer, whose unique timbre and performing style has more than once been likened to those of other vocal greats such as Irmgard Seefried and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. This round of exceptional musicians is completed by Emanuel Ax, winner the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, as the soloist for the works of Chopin and Schumann.
This stunning and generous collection belongs right at the top of the heap in its respective repertoire. The Debussy is still a comparative rarity in concert if not on disc, a remarkable fact given that it's wholly gorgeous from first note to last. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's excellence as a Debussy pianist already has been acknowledged by just about everyone who has heard him, and needs no further advertisement here. The performance is outstanding, sensitive to every nuance, but also very French in its clear-eyed sensibility and understanding that focused rhythm and supple tempos prevent the music from turning excessively sentimental or blandly pretty. And in Tortelier, Bavouzet has a conductor who seconds him every step of the way. A similar sensibility informs these swift, razor-sharp, and utterly thrilling accounts of the two Ravel concertos. That for the left hand seldom has sounded so exciting, or in its jazzy central march section, so sinister. Listen to the bite that both soloist and orchestra bring to that descending scale theme, and notice the way Bavouzet shapes his cadenza so as to preserve the illusion of multiple parts played by multiple hands–all without slowing down at the tough passages. It's really an amazing performance by any standard. Even the dark opening, often merely murky on other recordings, has shape and urgency, the buildup to the initial entry of the piano creating incredible tension.