The first thing you notice about this set is the number of discs, Jean Martinon's classic EMI recording of the complete orchestral works is on four discs, which includes the usual orchestrations by other composers, yet here we have nine discs! So why the extra discs, well for me, and this is this sets real selling point, this set contains a lot more piano works which have been orchestrated by others, Colin Mathews masterly orchestration of the complete preludes. This is not to say the authentic orchestral music is to be ignored, no there are some fine recordings here, I just can't see them ever supplanting Martinon or Pierre Boulez in my affection! This is not to say that they have nothing to offer the listener, they fine recordings in their own way, and however, they just lack that little spark of brilliance which would make the equal to my favourite recordings.
So it is the unusual orchestrated works which are the standout feature of this set for me and a real eye opener! To hear works like the Symphony in B minor (an orchestration by the American, Tony Finno, of the early piece for piano duet which Debussy had sent to Nadezhda von Meck), En blanc et noir, Petite Suite or Ansermet's orchestration of the Six épigraphes antiques, makes you appreciate just what fine works these are! If only Debussy had orchestrated more himself, but failing this, this is a very fine collection of orchestrations all be them in a different hand to the composer.
For anyone coming to the music of Debussy afresh, this is an ideal set with which to appreciate his music, but for those of us with pre-conceived ideals based on years of experience of playing our favourite recordings, you ma, like myself, find it hard to supplant your trusty old recordings. Mind you at the meagre price, it is well worth buying this set for the orchestrations, after all you will be hard pushed to make up a collection like this for anywhere near the price Naxos are offering this set for.
On the whole the recorded sound is good, there are a couple of discs which could have been better, but even here the sound is not that bad. The set is accompanied by an excellent book, with some 33 pages dedicated to the music, as well as an interview with Jun Märkl. A welcome newcomer to the shelf, if not my top choice in Debussy's own orchestrated works.