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Debussy: La Mer, La Boite A Joujoux, Etc / Rattle, Berlin Po


Release Date: 09/13/2005 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 58045   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews





Sir Simon Rattle?s penchant for unusual programming was evident from his first CD of music by Debussy, released originally by EMI in 1990 and reissued last year at budget price: sharing the program with Images and Jeux was the less familiar Music for King Lear . I found the performances to be incisive and idiomatic without being in the least prone to either over-intellectualism or gauzy ?Impressionism.? Rattle?s attention to dynamics and the superb Read more musicianship of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave us an Iberia that was vivid and leapt from the speakers with sometimes startling animation.


The trick, when performing war-horses, is to give the listener something fresh without relying on gimmicks or distortion. Rattle accomplishes this to perfection with this performance of the Prélude à l?après-midi d?un faune . Without exaggerated tempos or sonic legerdemain, the listener is transported to Mallarmé?s Hellenic landscape to discover anew the revolution in sound that audiences first heard in 1894. The flute of Emmanuel Pahud floats up out of the ether, almost tentatively at first, ushering in fragments of melody accompanied by tremulous strings and the glittering harp; seldom has this famous solo seemed so vividly to evoke the panpipe. With sumptuous accompaniment from the Berlin orchestra, the faun dreams his erotic dreams, frolicking with his nymphs and whiling away the afternoon. Rattle achieves a sense of languid timelessness without distending the tempo or indulging in the odd ritardando. By way of contrast, Jean Martinon is more straightforward, summoning up plenty of atmosphere but less purely sensuous sound. On the other hand, Martinon?s performance possesses an ardor that Rattle only hints at. Both performances are captivating in their quite different ways.


There have been several very good performances of La mer lately, not least of which is that by Claudio Abbado and his Lucerne players (28:4). One is immediately aware of instrumental detail in this new performance, which doesn?t in any way detract from the impact of the orchestra as a whole, particularly in the climactic moments of the first movement, where ensemble is impeccable. The sound is vivid without the impact of the production DG managed for Abbado; the low end has depth without quite matching DG?s visceral quality. One refreshing aspect of the performance is that one is seldom aware of the ?Berlin Philharmonic? and all that that used to imply during the Karajan era; Rattle and his orchestra seem content to present the music without trying to make a statement about their collective identity. There is splendid animation and rhythmic variety in the ?Jeux de vagues? that is more appealing than the slightly understated opening movement. Once again, I was impressed with the amount of inner-voice clarity. Rattle doesn?t match the sense of menace managed by Martinon and his French players in the third movement. What he does present is a more balanced dialogue that gives each element its say. The last half-minute or so sounds rushed, and fails to be the thrilling ride that I think Rattle intended it to be. My desert island choice for this piece remains the performance by Michael Tilson Thomas and the Philharmonia on Sony, which combines vivid tone-painting with very decent early digital sound.


At this point in the program, we embark upon roads less traveled: La boîte is, in my very inexpert opinion, one of Andre Caplet?s more successful arrangements, exploiting, as it does, a prominent solo piano (performed here by Majella Stockhausen-Riegelbauer). There is an almost chamber music quality to Rattle?s performance, an intimacy perfectly in keeping with the work?s inspiration. Rattle also evokes the shade of Pétroushka , albeit in a more benign form. I find that I tire of Martinon?s version?in a rare misstep, there isn?t enough variety of expression in his well-played but somewhat monochromatic performance. Rattle also better captures the gentle sense of parody, especially in ?Le champ de bataille.? Altogether, this is a charming and substantial performance, making a strong case for this lovely curio.


This performance of Colin Matthews?s orchestration of Three Preludes would appear to be a first recording (Matthews is in the process of orchestrating both books of Debussy?s Preludes for the Hallé Orchestra). Matthews will be familiar to many listeners from his own compositions (for example, Pluto, the Renewer for Holst?s The Planets ); he and his brother David also assisted Simon Rattle on Rattle?s first recording of the Mahler 10th. Here he is a very convincing stand-in for Debussy, presenting expertly crafted evocations of the west wind, the dead leaves of autumn, and fireworks, respectively. These three pieces can easily stand with other Debussy arrangements by Caplet and Grainger.


With his characteristic mixture of the familiar and the new, Rattle has produced a very entertaining and beautifully performed program. With airy, expansive sound that suits both the orchestra and the music, it is easy to recommend this disc for its fine combination of program, performance, and sonic presentation.


FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

1. La boîte à joujoux by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Notes: Arranger: André Caplet. 
2. La mer by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
3. Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 
Notes: Composition written: France (1892 - 1894). 
4. Préludes, Book 1: no 7, Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; France 
Notes: Arranger: Colin Matthews. 
5. Préludes, Book 2: no 2, Feuilles mortes by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Notes: Arranger: Colin Matthews. 
6. Préludes, Book 2: no 12, Feux d'artifice by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Notes: Arranger: Colin Matthews. 

Sound Samples

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
La Mer: De l'aube à midi sur la mer
La Mer: Jeux de vagues
La Mer: Dialogue du vent et de la mer
La Boîte à Joujoux: Prélude
La Boîte à Joujoux: 1er Tableau
La Boîte à Joujoux: 2e Tableau
La Boîte à Joujoux: 3e Tableau
La Boîte à Joujoux: Changement a vue...4e Tableau
Ce qu'a vu le Vent d'Ouest
Feuilles mortes
Feux d'artifice

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