Daniel Barenboim

Debussy: Orchestral Music

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In purely artistic terms, Daniel Barenboim's sensitive and passionate interpretations of Debussy's Nocturnes, Printemps, and Le Martyre de saint Sébastien fully deserve the Penguin Guide's highest honor, and these performances with the Orchestre de Paris are still rewarding and enjoyable for their subtle dynamics, effervescent timbres, and glossy instrumental blend. Even so, this CD may seem a little too "historical" to listeners accustomed to excellent all-digital sound, and a bit past its prime after several Galleria reissues. These analog recordings date from 1977-1978, and were praised in their day for having the best sound quality Deutsche Grammophon could provide. But some of the original LP's warmth and presence is lost in the digital mixing and mastering, and the orchestra on CD sounds at times like it is playing behind a scrim. The reproduction in Nocturnes may be the most troublesome: it is a bit chilly in the soft opening of Nuages, somewhat shrill and hollow in the fanfares of Fêtes, and hazy and distant in the choral Sirènes. Printemps also seems slightly diminished by the remastering, though if one has stayed with the CD by this point, the sound problems probably can be tolerated. With these caveats in mind, one may still appreciate the performances and consider this album a good value at the reduced price.

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