Pierre Boulez

Boulez Conducts Ravel & Debussy

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Between 1991 and 1999, Pierre Boulez recorded the major orchestral works of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the London Symphony Orchestra; Deutsche Grammophon has reissued these handsome performances in a six-CD trimline box. The Debussy recordings occupy a little more than two of the discs, while the majority of space is devoted to a much larger representation of Ravel's orchestral music. Rightly or wrongly, these composers have been tagged with the term, "Impressionist," so-called after the 19th century art movement in France, primarily for their use of evocative tone colors and exotic-sounding orchestration to create atmospheric music that suggests, rather than boldly depicts, images. As a master of instrumental colors, dynamics, and textures, Boulez is one of the world's finest interpreters of these works, especially because his keen awareness of the composers' innovations translates into accurate performances that always sound meticulously rehearsed and perfectly polished. There is no attempt to create an overly fluffy or diaphanous sound, typical of imitations of Debussy and Ravel in clichéd film music, nor any manipulation of the orchestra to make the scores prettier or more lush than they already are. Instead, the orchestras give incisive, scintillating, and often robust-sounding performances that feel newly conceived and far from ordinary. Deutsche Grammophon's reproduction is all-digital and exceptional for its clarity and depth. Highly recommended.

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