Debussy: La mer; Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune; Jeux

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COMPOSERS: Debussy
LABELS: LSO Live
WORKS: La mer; Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune; Jeux
PERFORMER: London SO/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: LSO 0692

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It is a little known fact that Valery Gergiev has an identical twin. Either that, or he only sleeps for five hours a year. How else is it possible to explain the numerous projects that he undertakes, of which his rapidly growing discography is but the tip of the iceberg? It helps, of course, to have an orchestra like the LSO. This Debussy disc might not be quite at the level of their award-winning performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, but it still includes some sensational playing.

Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune sets the tone, a May evening in the Barbican palpably being transformed into a languorous late summer afternoon. Among the slowest of accounts, it briefly seems as if the flute’s intoxicating gestures have left the orchestra in a torpor – though Gergiev’s reluctance to break the spell is understandable. Similar moments where Gergiev and the LSO seem trapped in nirvana are found in La mer’s opening dawn, and even in brief moments of Jeux.

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Not that there is any lack of energy elsewhere, with delectably nuanced woodwind in ‘Jeux de vagues’ and Jeux driven by an inner energy. As for the brass entries in the climaxes to the first and last movements of La mer, these have rarely sounded so good on disc: superlative SACD recording. Christopher Dingle