Daniele Gatti presents an unusual approach to Debussy, favoring sonic weight over mystery and the diaphanous grace that’s associated with French music in general and Debussy in particular. This makes La Mer sound Russian, as if Tchaikovsky had dabbled in Impressionism; in a way, this is not so far-fetched, as Russian composers (especially Mussorgsky) influenced Debussy. The walloping crescendo into the end of La Mer‘s “De l’aube Ã midi sur la mer” is stupendous; the clarity of “Jeux de vagues”‘s opening is uncanny. This perspective is less rewarding in the Prelude for the Afternoon of a Faun, which is supposed to be lighter; the effulgent tones Gatti draws from the orchestra make the faun seem at times more like a chubby, aging satyr, surprising from the top French orchestra; it’s not a constant feeling, but it does occasionally intrude, with blaring brass particularly un-French. Images‘s gigue sounds not at all dance-like; it’s more like a Strauss tone poem, recalling Lorin Maazel’s Debussy set with the Vienna Philharmonic. Sony’s engineering is excellent, and brightly displays the orchestra’s precision. While the classic recordings of Charles Munch and Jean Martinon remain the top preferences in this repertoire thanks to their idiomatically piquant grace.
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