Debussy: La mer; Nocturnes; La damoiselle élue

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WORKS: La mer; Nocturnes; La damoiselle élue
PERFORMER: Frederica von Stade (mezzo-soprano), Susanne Mentzer (reciter), Ambrosian Singers, Philharmonia Orchestra/ Michael Tilson Thomas; Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston SO/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: SMK 66928 DDD (1983/84)
Despite Debussy’s love for the ocean (‘it really is the thing in nature which best puts you in your place’), he wrote most of La mer in Paris, far from the sea. In its elemental music Tilson Thomas’s energetic reading drives the Philharmonia to an impassioned performance. In Nocturnes the superbly rhythmic ‘Fêtes’ are framed by more subdued readings of ‘Nuages’ and ‘Sirènes’. The best of this disc is La damoiselle élue, grudgingly acknowledged as a worthy work by a competition jury at the French Academy, and given a sympathetic account by Ozawa and the wonderfully creamy-voiced Von Stade. Christopher Fifield