This handsomely presented double disc comprises works composed by Debussy between 1885 and 1898 (from the age of 23 to 36), as the young composer was experimenting with forms while developing his compositional voice. All the selections here feature French pianist Jonas Vitaud.

He begins with solo works in which short dance pieces from earlier eras predominate – Suite Bergamasque with its baroque Menuet and Passepied; a Romantic Mazurka and Arabesque, and the three Images Oubliées. Debussy’s only orchestral work for piano, Fantaisie pour Piano et Orchestre, is given a spirited reading with the Secession Orchestra and Clément Mao-Takacs, at turns wistfully reflective and sweepingly bombastic.

The delicate Petite Suite for four hands (with Russian pianist Roustem Saïtkoulov) lulls with beams of lightness before an intense dive into darker tonalities for six settings of poems by French symbolist Paul Verlaine, Ariettes Oubliées (for tenor) performed with captivating intensity by Sébastien Droy, while mezzo Karine Deshayes brings expressive control and understatement to Trois Chansons de Bilitis. A stunning piano transcription (by Vitaud) of Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune concludes a fascinating, well-conceived and thoughtful collection, sensitively performed and beautifully recorded with a rich but clean presence: a sketchbook of the musical future.

Composer: Debussy
Composition: Suite Bergamasque, Images oubliées, Ariettes oubliées, Petite suite, Chansons de Bilitis
Performer: Jonas Vitaud p
Catalogue Number: MIRARE MIR392 (2CD)

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