|DEBUSSY: Jeux. La Mer. Nocturnes
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Lorin Maazel, cond/Schoenberg Choir (Nocturnes)
RCA/BMG 64616 (F) (DDD) TT: 67:46
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It was reported on NPR some months ago
that Lorin Maazel and the Vienna
Philharmonic had a major tiff while on tour and the orchestra retaliated by
purposely playing imprecisely during a performance of BolÈro. This
apparently was after these Debussy performances were recorded live in Vienna's
Musikverein in January 1999. Surely one never would suspect any lack of
rapport between conductor and orchestra in what is heard here..
A remarkable feature of this recording is although these are live recordings there is total absence of audience sounds. There is no applause ( fortunately) at the conclusion of any of the works, so obviously rehearsals were recorded as well as performances with masterful editing to blend the two. Sound, per se, is outstanding, with warmth, richness and presence. Sonically all is not totally perfect. The wordless womens' chorus in the third of Nocturnes, "Sirenes," is entirely too close, and the first-violin 22- bar A-flat harmonic half-way through "Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea" in La Mer is virtually inaudible. It would have been ideal had BMG/RCA recorded these performances in Dolby Surround as they did Maazel's impressive Richard Strauss set (reviewed on this site).
There are other CDs of these three works that have more music. (Boulez/Cleveland Orchestra also has the Premiere Rhapsody; Bernstein/New York Philharmonic includes Afternoon of a Faun), and one surely should not overlook the budget-priced Haitink/Concertgebouw Philips set. But Maazel's is well worth hearing
R.E.B. (Dec. 1999)