Choeur des Femmes de l'Orchestre de Montréal / Charles Dutoit / Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

Debussy: La Mer; Images; Nocturnes; Printemps

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This 1999 double-disc of Debussy favorites, performed by Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, is a well-balanced compilation of recordings made in 1988 and 1989, with only one of the offerings, Printemps, dating from 1994. For this kind of atmospheric, evocative music, Dutoit is one of the world's foremost interpreters, and his approach to Debussy's orchestral works is lively and vibrant, as demonstrated in his effervescent readings of La mer, Jeux, and Nocturnes. These bright-toned and sprightly accounts are among this set's most memorable highpoints. The performance of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, however, is possibly the most captivating of the album, not only in feeling completely intuitive and effortless, but also in its radiant colors and sparkling effects, scarcely rivaled anywhere else. The only piece that drags the collection down with its inescapable dullness is Le martyre de saint Sébastien; this suite of orchestral pieces, culled by André Caplet from Debussy's incidental music for Gabriele d'Anunzio's religious play, is stodgy and lifeless; even with Dutoit's and the MSO's best efforts, it comes off as a flat sequence of tedious tableaux. Other than this non-essential filler, this is a solid collection that represents the best of Debussy's orchestral scores in fine, and sometimes magical, performances. Decca's sound is remarkably clear, warm, and natural, and it holds up quite well in comparison with the label's later improvements in digital reproduction.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
La Mer, symphonic sketches (3) for orchestra, L. 109
1 08:49
2 06:13
3 08:06
4 17:32
Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, symphonic fragments (arranged by Caplet)
5 03:49
6 07:17
7 06:21
8 06:48
9 10:44

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Images (3), for orchestra, L. 122
1 07:31
2 07:21
3 08:16
4 04:27
5 07:38
Nocturnes, for female chorus & orchestra, L. 91
6 07:50
7 06:19
8 10:58
Printemps, symphonic suite for chorus, piano & orchestra, L. 61
9 09:41
10 06:23
blue highlight denotes track pick