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Debussy: La Mer, Jeux, Prelude a l'apres midi d'un faune / Gergiev, LSO

Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Lso Live   Catalog #: 692  
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi / Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. La Mer. Jeux Valery Gergiev, cond; London SO LSO LIVE 0692 (SACD: 56:07)

Based on this CD, Valery Gergiev appears to be working wonders as principal conductor of the London Symphony. Rarely have I heard Debussy presented with such purity of intonation and miracles of ensemble. Russian conductors are not noted particularly for their Debussy, although Evgeny Svetlanov was a fine interpreter of La Mer . Gergiev Read more appreciates Debussy to the core. He takes his time in Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun . His reading is more than a minute slower than Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, two minutes slower than Boulez and the New Philharmonia. Gergiev’s performance is languorous; one can partake of the faun’s sensual daydreams. There is erotic tension in the long breaths of the winds and horn, matched by the singing tone of the strings. Dynamics are beautifully modulated, and transitions are carefully judged. The ending of the piece is just a haze. Gergiev’s reading certainly is individual, but very telling.

La Mer poses a challenge to any conductor; Gergiev is up to the task. In “From Dawn to Noon on the Sea,” the dawn is suggested beautifully and delicately—one can see the sun peeking over the horizon. As day breaks, the shimmering of light on the water is tellingly evoked. Nowhere more than here is Debussy an Impressionist. Noon is a brilliant wash of colors. Gergiev makes the varied rhythmic patterns in “The Play of the Waves” sound completely natural. One even can hear the spray of the waves, so subtle is the orchestral coloration. The delicately shifting hues put me in mind of the second section of Iberia , “The Perfumes of the Night.” With the rising winds at the start of “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea,” one can hear its influence on the “Cloudburst” movement of Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite . Even so, Gergiev finds the lyric element in this music; he never overplays its drama. The ending is built up beautifully. Thus concludes a striking and vivid La Mer.

Gergiev presents us with the best Jeux I have ever heard. In his interpretation, one can hear its relation to Russian music, particularly Liadov and Scriabin—even certain moods of Rimsky-Korsakov. Never have I experienced Jeux ’s thematic material delineated with such coherence. Every strand of the orchestration is revealed. The harmony is shown to be forward-looking, yet saturated in orchestral color; Gergiev appears to love every pointillist dot of color. This is one of the great displays of virtuoso conducting technique in my experience. Fittingly, the CD places Jeux after La Mer , representing the progression of Debussy’s orchestral writing. The CD layer of the disc features sound that is clear and warm, though a little lacking in body and atmosphere. I was unable to hear the SACD layer. In all three works, I am very fond of the Boulez and Bernstein performances I mentioned above. In Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and La Mer , Gergiev creates satisfying alternatives to these recordings. In Jeux , he surpasses them.

FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

La mer by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Jeux by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 

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