- Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), for orchestra, L. 86
- La Mer, symphonic sketches (3) for orchestra, L. 109
- La boîte à joujoux (The Toybox), ballet, L. 128
- Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest, prelude for piano, L. 117/7: Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest
- Feuilles mortes, prelude for piano, L. 123/2: Feuilles mortes
- Feux d'artifices, prelude for piano, L. 123/12
The embarrassment of riches from Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic continues with this Debussy disc, recorded live at November 2004 performances. Challenging as it may be to keep up with the steady stream of releases from this team, it's hard to quibble when each one of them seems so essential on its own merits. Rattle avoids the obvious route through Debussy's orchestral masterpieces here, though he has given us the two greatest ones. Both the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune -- highlighted by principal flutist Emmanuel Pahud's languorous reading of the famous solo -- and La mer are as glorious as they need to be, with scintillating details emerging and being overwhelmed by the surging climaxes. If you're looking for a recording of these Impressionist essentials, this is as fine a choice as any. The second half of the disc, however, takes an interesting turn. La boîte à joujoux was one of Debussy's final works -- André Caplet had to finish the orchestration after the composer's death -- and it's rarely had a first-class recording. That's what Rattle gives us here, bringing out all the wit and charm of this toy-box ballet. As a final novelty, three of Debussy's piano Préludes are performed in recent orchestrations by British composer Colin Matthews, recorded here for the first time. Some will argue that it's wrongheaded even to attempt this kind of transcription, the originals being so innately suited to the piano. But therein lies a challenge, and Matthews takes it on with a truly imaginative virtuosity; sometimes he even seems to use the symphonic guise to reveal unexpected kinships with other works by Debussy. Not only one of the most distinctive Debussy albums of recent years, this is also among the most appealing results thus far of Rattle's honeymoon in Berlin.