Debussy, Ravel: La mer; Ibéria; Nocturnes

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COMPOSERS: Debussy,Ravel
LABELS: Philips Duo
WORKS: La mer; Ibéria; Nocturnes
PERFORMER: Boston SO/Colin Davis, Detroit SO/Paul Paray, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jean Fournet, Bernard Haitink, LSO/Pierre Monteux
CATALOGUE NO: 462 850-2 ADD/DDD Reissue (1958-82)
Billed as The Orchestral Masterpieces of Debussy and Ravel, this double disc has made some unfortunate exclusions in limiting the composers to one CD apiece. Jeux, considered by many Debussy’s greatest orchestral masterpiece, is absent, as is two-thirds of Images; and Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole is a regrettable casualty. Still, this enterprising rummage through the Philips cellar has turned up some wonderful performances. Paul Paray’s Iberia glitters undimmed 45 years on, and Monteux’s tender and touching Ma mère l’oye is a model of Ravel interpretation. None of the other performances falls short of excellence.

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HMV’s foray into Debussy is also a great success, with André Previn’s Nocturnes full of subtle light and shade and Simon Rattle’s Images vivid and meticulous. A filler of two parts of King Lear perhaps suggests why Debussy left the work unfinished. More complete surveys of both composers are plentiful, those by Boulez and Haitink particularly outstanding. Christopher Wood