Composers: Debussy
Compositions: Nocturnes
Performers: Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui
Catalogue Number:BIS BIS2232

This final instalment of Lan Shui’s is a fitting culmination to a highly successful BIS series, which demonstrates that you don’t have to be French to be idiomatically “Gallic”. I puzzled over the term HIP (Historically Informed Performance practice) in one review, which decreed that Lan Shui’s Debussy wasn’t… hmm. This CD was a voyage of rediscovery as I’d forgotten how playful and cryptic the Berceuse Heroïque (even the title is contradictory and it’s neither heroic nor a cradle song) and the Scottish March (which is hardly Scottish) sound.

One discovery is Henri Büsser’s orchestration (under Debussy’s guidance) of the symphonic suite Printemps, which is wondrously pellucid and equal to Ansermet’s 1950s reading. The Saxophone Rhapsody is also powerful and sinewy, while preserving the languid ambience of the piece. The same goes for the Sacred and Profane Dances, where Gulnara Mashurova manages to achieve a degree of contrast between each one. (Even here, the “profane” dance sounds rather chaste).

The longest and most familiar work is the Nocturnes. Here, a comparison between the recently released and ostensibly HIP Roth Harmonia Mundi version comes into play. Shui’s Nuages (Clouds) is slightly more beautifully sinister, the Fêtes in each are equally fine, but Shui’s Sirènes are superior to Roth’s “harpies” (one description) who really do sound as if they’re about to pick a bone with, rather than seduce you. 

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