Prospective purchasers of this disc will probably be interested in how Breiner's orchestrations of Debussy's Préludes stack up against those of Colin Matthews. Up front, let me say that I very much enjoyed this disc, but I found that Breiner's orchestrations sound like they've been orchestrated by Breiner, whereas Matthews more often sound as if they were orchestrated by Debussy himself. This is neither good nor bad, just my impression. (Matthews' and Breiner's orchestrations of the two complete sets were preceded by those of Henkemans and Brewaeys--I'm not familiar with these.)
Several points come to mind in comparing the Breiner and Matthews sets:
1. Breiner relies a great deal more on glockenspiel, celeste, and other pitched percussion than Matthews or even the composer in his own orchestral compositions. Also, his thinner orchestrations render even the full textures of "Le cathédrale engloutie" relatively lightweight compared to Stoky or Matthews. Indeed, all of Breiner's versions sound more lightweight (i.e., less full) than Matthews'. This is NOT to say that Matthews' are unstylistically heavy. Nor am I saying there isn't room for different approaches to orchestrating these pieces. It's just that, as I said, Matthews' versions more often sound as if they were done by the composer himself. Prospective purchasers should decide for themselves what is important to them.
2. The Breiner disc preserves Debussy's original order; Matthews rearranges the ordering (if one objects to this, that's what the programming feature is for).
3. Of course, Breiner does not include Matthews' postlude, "Monsieur Croche".
4. Occasionally, Matthews extends Debussy's bar-to-bar structures with material of his own invention derived from Debussy's. Usually these are only a few bars, the sole exception being "Le vent dans le plain," where Matthews' interpolated development is quite a bit longer. Breiner sticks pretty closely to the original bar-to-bar structures throughout, with perhaps the addition of a prefatory note or two here and there. Both orchestrators interpolate "filler" motifs where they find it necessary to eke out Debussy's original piano writing to make it sound more characteristically orchestral. This is a legitimate option, and both orchestrators are adept at devising stylistically appropriate material for this purpose.
5. For reasons stated above (1), I personally prefer most of Matthews' versions to Breiner's. The main exceptions are "La fille aux cheveux de lin" and "Bruyères", where I find Matthews' splintering of the melodic lines fussy and unconvincing. Breiner's straightforward "melody and accompaniment" approach is more appropriate for these relatively uncomplicated pieces.
The Royal Scottish National Orchestral plays beautifully and responsively for Jun Märkl. The solo violin sounds a little funky (too rich a vibrato?), but this should not be enough to deter purchase. If the last ounce of subtle rubato one expects from interpretations of the piano originals is not present in either Märkl's or Elder's performances, I doubt one could really expect that from orchestral performances--it's difficult for an orchestra to emulate the freer rubato of a solo pianist!
So, which set to buy? (This is presuming one is seeking a complete set of all of the préludes in orchestral garb--there are many other orchestrations of individual preludes, including five by Hans Zender [Debussy: Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune - Funf Preludes - Printemps - Danse - Nocturnes]) Although I intend to keep both, if FORCED to make a recommendation, I would plump for Matthews (The Debussy Preludes), but I would supplement it with different orchestrations of "La fille aux cheveux de lin" (either Gleichmann or Breiner) and "Bruyères" (either Grainger or Breiner). Of course, buying the Breiner is a convenient option. If one decides to go for Gleichmann and Grainger, both are conveniently available on a CD with Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia (Debussy, Vol. 2), along with several other valuable orchestrations of Debussy piano music (Molinari's "L'isle joyeuse", Stoky's "La soirée dans Grenade", Ravel's "Danse", and Caplet's "Children's Corner"), and a first-rate "Nocturnes".