WITH the centenary of his death, in a French capital under German bombardment at the end of March 1918, composer Claude Debussy will feature in many performances this year. The BBC SSO and conductor Martyn Brabbins delivered an early Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune last week, featuring recently-appointed principal flute Charlotte Ashton. Three weeks before the actual anniversary, at the start of March, the RSNO, under young Swiss conductor Lorenzo Viotti, include his Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra and the ballet music Jeux in the middle of chronological programme that places him precisely between Wagner and Stravinsky. In an appendix to his acclaimed book on the music of the 20th century, The Rest is Noise, critic Alex Ross writes: “Schoenberg and Stravinsky may have caused the scandals, but Claude Debussy was the first composer to dissolve harmony as we knew it.”

In the development of opera, it is hard to overstate the post-Wagner importance of his Pelleas et Melisande, premiered in 1902. Glyndebourne will present its first new production in almost twenty years in the summer, directed by highly-regarded Norwegian Stefan Herheim in his house debut, with Robin Ticciati conducting and Karen Cargill singing Genevieve. Scottish Opera was well ahead of the celebrations with Sir David McVicar’s fine recent production, which opened just under a year ago. The Scottish company’s association with the work dates back to its inaugural season in 1962, when a Pelleas marked both the centenary of the composer’s birth and the diamond jubilee of its premiere at the Opera-Comique in Paris, in which the role of Melisande was sung by superstar Scots soprano Mary Garden.

The first decade of the 20th century was the most turbulent of Debussy’s eventful and often scandalous private life, and as well as the revised final version of Pelleas et Melisande it also produced some of his finest music for piano. They include one of his best known compositions, alongside the orchestral La Mer and Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune, in the last of his six Children’s Corner keyboard works, Golliwog’s cake-walk. Problematic for contemporary sensibilities though that title may be, it is still an irresistible tune, and it features on a disc of Debussy piano music by Stephen Hough, which is just out on the Hyperion label.

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It is no surprise that the hugely popular soloist and recitalist, and fine writer about music, should have turned his attention to Debussy’s piano music. Nor indeed, given the anniversary of the composer’s death, is it remarkable that Hyperion should have chosen the start of 2018 to release a set of recordings mostly made in a church in Bristol in the summer of 2015, topped up with another session in Wales at the end of August a year later.

And very good it is too. As well as Children’s Corner, it includes both sets of three “Images”, “L’isle joyeuse”, which is thought to be a celebration of the Channel Island Jersey, to which he ran away with his mistress having packed his wife off home to her folks, and the three “Estampes”, from 1903, considered the first examples for the piano of his ground-breaking musical thinking.

The odd thing is that all of these can also be found on an album by Scotland’s own Steven Osborne, which came out just three months ago. It was recorded in three days towards the end of 2016 at London’s Henry Wood Hall, and is also on the Hyperion label and overseen by the same executive producer, Simon Perry. The two releases even have much the same notes on the compositions, by Roger Nichols, in the accompanying booklet. Hough plays one piece not on the Osborne disc, but the younger pianist includes two not on Hough’s (bonus track!), so you pays your money and takes your choice.

To my ears the comparison favours Osborne, and I am not sufficient of a piano geek to put that down to his Steinway versus Hough’s choice of a Yamaha. The playing of the Scot – who made a superb recording of Debussy’s Preludes for Hyperion some years ago ¬– seems brighter and more vivacious, and rather more sparklingly recorded. The scales on his “Poisson d’or”, the lovely last piece in the second set of “Images”, just glisten more brightly.