WORKS: Prélude a l’aprés-midi d’un faune; Images for orchestra; Symphonic Suite Printemps
PERFORMER: Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 435 766-2 DDD
Boulez has a considerable reputation as a conductor of Debussy, to whom his approach is frankly modernistic in its rhythmic and textural clarity.
It is hard to fault these performances as readings of the score, and there is much to enjoy in the early Printemps, Gigues and the unstoppable Ibéria. But there is no likelihood of a big-boned American orchestra like the Cleveland recapturing the timbral qualities Debussy would have expected to hear.
The balance is not always ideal, but the bright recording suits the lively tempi. However, the glorious Rondes de Printemps suffers badly from a lack of dynamic range. Boulez skips along, hardly letting the music breathe, missing magic and warmth in his determination to avoid impressionistic wash. Debussy might as well not have bothered to write ‘Rubato, with charm’, and in L’aprés-midi a call for ‘more languor’ goes for nothing. Julian Rushton