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Debussy: Orchestral Works - La Mer, Nocturnes, Printemps, Jeux, Images, Prelude a L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune, Dances

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, December 5, 1995
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: New Philharmonia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra
  • Conductor: Pierre Boulez
  • Composer: Claude Debussy
  • Audio CD (December 5, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 145 minutes
  • ASIN: B000002C00
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,390 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Doug - Haydn Fan VINE VOICE on July 27, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Boulez remains the gold standard for Debussy, and these performances only further cement his absolute sway as interpreter in this great composer's magisterial music. If certain works of Ravel, such as Daphnis et Chloe, or La Valse, call forth qualities of passion and drama that do not interest Boulez, no such shortcomings seem apparent when he approaches Debussy. The degree of exactness, and the uncanny character of the varying sounds of the instruments as they play off one another, remains unrivalled by any other living conductor. Listen, for example, to the opening of Nuages, from the Nocturnes - every possible ramification of note values, color contrasts, and ebb and flow of rhythms is miraculously conveyed. No one else comes close to this fastidiousness. Only a very great orchestra could do this, and the New Philharmonia could easily be mistaken for its legendary predecesor, the original Philharmonia of a decade earlier, one of the greatest of all orchestras.
These performances on the Sony CD were originally recorded in analogue. I find that a good thing, but if you prefer all digital there are much more recent recordings by Boulez of equal quality on DG. At the price this Sony reissue represents a tremendous bargain.
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Claude Debussy did not approve of his reputation as the impressionist of music. I'm sure he would approve even less, then, of being associated with the popular illustrator Maxfield Parrish, but the third movement of "Nocturnes," called "Sirenes," with wordless female vocals, puts me in a sun-dappled Parrish print with nymphs, framed by Greek pillars!

This is a great bargain -- ALL of Debussy's major orchestral works at mid-price. Boulez is fantastic, with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in 1966 and 1968, and the Cleveland Orchestra in 1967. The first disc opens with the majestic "La Mer." Paul Griffiths, author of the outstanding Modern Music and After, has referred to the "anger, yearning, and sense of threat" conveyed by this performance. The second disc opens with Debussy's best known work, "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune," another entry into a world of fantastic, soothing images. And the "Danses" with Alice Chalifoux on harp, which close the set, are ethereal and marvelous.

This is a great introduction to Debussy. Boulez recently recorded most (not all) of these works again for DG. Griffiths says of the more recent "La Mer" that it is "better played, and much better recorded, but without the zing." Some prefer Dutoit with Montreal, and some like Bernstein. But if you're looking for one disc with superb recordings of Debussy's major works for orchestra, look no further.
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I like my purchase.
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I'm a rock and roll fan and never cared much for classical stuff. I happened upon this on public broadcasting radio and was hooked. Great music!
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