COMPOSERS: Bridge.Glaznov,Debussy,Zhou Long
ALBUM TITLE: Seascapes
WORKS: La MerThe Sea
PERFORMER: Sharon Bezaly (flute); Singapore SO/Lan Shui
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1447 (hybrid CD/SACD)
As pure sound, this is the best La mer that I have encountered on record. On the SACD 5.0 multichannel layer especially, the results of BIS’s engineering are spectacular: Debussy’s 1905 sea portrait is painted on an unprecedently broad canvas, with imaging of almost holographic realism and depth of perspective.
Sound without substance, of course, is nothing. Fortunately these are also revelatory performances. Lan Shui and his orchestra will be known to very few collectors (they weren’t to me), but here they turn in an unequivocally world-class performance of Debussy’s masterpiece. Shui’s tempos are consistently a touch more measured than average, but he has deep affinity for this music, highlighting many details I never knew existed, without compromising the structural cohesion of his interpretation, which is strongly featured and potently atmospheric. The almighty crash of waves which concludes ‘De l’aube à midi’ and the spine-tinglingly hushed violin harmonics preceding the final peroration of ‘Dialogue’ are two poles of Shui’s formidably well managed expressive spectrum. This is undoubtedly the version of La mer that I will now turn to for personal enjoyment and edification.
Three further, less familiar ‘seascapes’ fill out this enterprising concert. Revelatory is again the only way of describing Shui’s thrilling espousal of Frank Bridge’s The Sea, composed 1910?11, here sounding every inch an unheralded masterpiece. Glazunov’s The Sea, composed 1889, isn’t quite in that category, though its rich slabs of Wagnerism are easily relished. Beijing-born Zhou Long’s The Deep, Deep Sea, by contrast, is an altogether more delicate, exotic creation graced by Sharon Bezaly’s flute playing. An outstandingly successful issue. Terry Blain