Daniele Gatti / Orchestre National de France

Debussy: Orchestral Works

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Debussy's La Mer and the Prélude à L'apres-midi d'un faune are standards, chestnuts even. The Images in full are somewhat less standard, but even so, Italian conductor Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France, whose members must certainly have been playing these works since school days and been feeling a certain degree of fatigue with it, face a major challenge in creating something distinctive. And they succeed in impressive fashion. Gatti turns the orchestra's technical familiarity with the music to his advantage, delving into small details and lingering over passages that set Debussy's moods. Yet he doesn't lose any sense of the long line. He's not afraid to emphasize the climaxes, and La Mer builds over a wide dynamic range from its murky beginnings. After that, the Prélude begins with small orchestral gestures coalescing into a gorgeously rich forest scene. The Images end with a positively enthusiastic Rondes de printemps. The revivified Sony Classical, on a consistent roll, backs up these enterprising performances and programming choices with excellent sonics, achieved at the Salle Liebermann at the Opéra Bastille in Paris, losing not one detail of Gatti's considerable accomplishment here. More than worthwhile for a starter Debussy album as well as for those following the chain of interpretations for these works.

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