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Debussy’s orchestral masterpieces – La Mer, Nocturnes, Prélude à l’après-midi and so on – have been recorded countless times, and the whole lot generally fits onto just four CDs. This Naxos box contains a mass of extra and unusual material, including – of particular interest to IP readers – more orchestrated piano music than you’d have thought existed.

Some arrangements are established classics: Children’s Corner and Clair de lune (Caplet), the Sarabande and Danse (Ravel), Six Épigraphes antiques (Ansermet), the Petite Suite and La Soirée dans Grenade (Büsser). All these, plus Stokowski’s Clair de lune, exist coupled on a single Atma Classique CD from 2007 (SACD2 2377). Stokowski doesn’t feature in the Naxos box but much else does: Pagodes and La boîte à joujoux (Caplet again), Printemps (Büsser again), Khamma (Koechlin), L’Isle Joyeuse (Molinari), the rest of the Suite bergamasque (Gustav Cloez) and La plus que lente (Debussy himself, complete with unbelievable cimbalom).

More recent believe-it-or-not components, but supremely effective and all magical, are Etudes 9, 10 and 12 (Michael Jarrell, 1991), En blanc et noir (Robin Holloway, 2002) – and all 24 Preludes, which Colin Matthews (2001-7) intriguingly elaborates with extended beats, bars and sustaining-pedal effects that approach the surreal in the must-hear La fille aux cheveux de lin. For completeness, there’s also Tony Finno’s (undated) scoring of the early, and wholly uncharacteristic, Symphony in B minor.

Among the standard repertoire, accompanists will enjoy hearing the clarinet and saxophone rhapsodies in orchestral form, while concertos-only fanciers have Jean-Yves Thibaudet in the Fantaisie. An unqualified must-buy box for pianists, conductors and arrangers alike, especially at Naxos’s price.

MICHAEL ROUND Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing