DEBUSSY: La Mer; Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; Images – Orch. Nat. de France/ Daniele Gatti – Sony

by | Jun 26, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

DEBUSSY: La Mer; Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; Images – Orchestre National de France/ Daniele Gatti – Sony Classical 88697974002, 68:42 ****:
Italian conductor Daniele Gatti (b. 1961) assumed the Music Directorship of the Orchestre National de France in 2008, and his standard of sonic excellence manifests itself in every measure of the Debussy works here inscribed (rec. 11-20 July and 16-19 September 2011). Gatti and his ensemble achieve a luminous clarity in each of these Debussy standards that we naturally align his effects with those achieved by former masters of the idiom, Munch and Monteux.
For glamorous sensuality, the 1894 Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (after Mallarme) never ceases to astonish., as each of the orchestral choirs seems to melt into another, a lesson in seamless color transition. Pierre Boulez has commented that “the art of music began to draw new breath with the faun’s flute.” The 1905 La Mer, already enshrined in performances as diverse as those by Beinum, Markevitch, Mitropoulos, Munch, Monteux, and Giulini, finds in Gatti an ardent realization of its three estates of the sea’s being, not the least of which derives from the ad libitum addition of the trumpet call near the finale of the Dialogue du vent et de la mer, a strong suggestion of Triton’s intervention into the raging tumult of energies.
The last of the three 1908-1912 “Images,” Rondes de printemps, via Gatti turns out to be somewhat revelatory, a startling instance of orchestral definition in modern color abstracts, rife with agogic elements that would transform into the ballet Jeux. Its rather wild metrics well point Stravinsky on his way to his own version of springtime revels. But no less dynamic have been Gatti’s renditions of the opening Gigues and the eminently Mediterranean experience of Iberia, with its blazing Le matin d’un jour de fete in glorious Technicolor.  No wonder Falla responded to the work so eagerly, labeling it “a vivid and sensitive portrait of Spanish life.”
Perhaps much credit must fall to recording engineer Yves Baudry for his having captured the exquisitely erotic aspect of Debussy’s scores in such ample magnitude and exuberant intensity. The Orchestre National de France may here boast of any of its components, from the glossy violas to the burnished winds and brass, masterfully called forth by Debussy’s scores to exhibit a ravishing spectrum of colors, tone painting real and hyper-sensitively surreal at once.
—Gary Lemco

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