Leonard Bernstein / New York Philharmonic

Debussy: La Mer; Prélude à l'après-midi d'un Faune; Jeux; Nocturnes

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People often think of impressionist music as being emotionless yet trance-like, with no regard to melodic line or rhythmic clarity. Nothing could be further than the truth. When Claude Debussy set out to write music in a bold new language, it is doubtful he was thinking along these lines. In fact, he was a man of great discipline, and he had high regard for his musical predecessors. His music is highly representational; it is not in-your-face, and it asks the listener to change gears (just a little) to get its full benefit. Performers of Debussy's music are equally challenged: How do you stay true to the impressionist style while not having the music fall apart?

Leonard Bernstein knew what it meant to accurately convey Debussy's music; in order to get the desired effect, he had to precisely stick to the score with an almost pedagogical approach. Of course Bernstein triumphed and found every nuance, every detail Debussy meant to disclose, from the undulating roll of the waves in 'La Mer,' to the exultation found in "Fêtes" from the 'Nocturnes.' This fine disc is one of the best compilations of Debussy's symphonic works available.

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