Jean Martinon

Debussy: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1

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For quintessentially French performances of the best-known orchestral works of Claude Debussy, these 1974 recordings by Jean Martinon and the Orchestre National de l'O.R.T.F. have all the subtlety of a baseball bat. Nevertheless, they have the same fine finish, smooth polish, rich textures, and sheer wallop as a Louisville Slugger, which doesn't mean the Orchestre National doesn't sound deeply French. The piquant colors of the winds, the suave sensuality of the strings, the bold bravado of the brass, and the every man for himself and God against all approach to ensemble is so French. And this doesn't mean Martinon doesn't sound French. His balances are impeccable, his textures are transparent, his rhythms are infectious, and his interpretations are passionately objective. But this does mean that Martinon and the Orchestre's La Mer will overwhelm you, their Images will overpower you, their Jeux will devastate you, and their Fêtes from Nocturnes will knock you right out of the park. Those who go for Dutoit's radiantly nuanced performances or for Boulez's intellectually subtle performances may not go for these performances. But anyone who relishes going nine heavy-hitting innings with Debussy will surely enjoy this two-disc set. French EMI's stereo is very vivid, very immediate, and very, very loud.

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