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Often ravishing

Music by Debussy, Prokofiev, Britten and Ravel -
reviewed by

'... admirably encompassed ...'

Claude Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; La Mer; Jeux; Ibéria. © 1979, 1986, 2004 EMI Records Ltd

When crossing the Atlantic in a yacht some years ago, I was told by the skipper to go for speed rather than direction. I did so, with the result that by the end of my stint at the wheel we would have moved briskly to roughly the point from which I started. It is much the same with the nautical Debussy, who decided in La Mer on atmospherical inspection at the expense of any clear impression where he might be heading. The sounds are often ravishing, but I now prefer to see the work as a thoroughly convincing argument for alternatives to fossil fuels. The sun pleads for solar panels through much of the piece, and then there is the fine debate between wind- and wave-power that produces Debussy's most cogent argument [listen -- 5 86167 2 track 5, 1:32-2:56]. I could wish the cover painting did not remind me too forcibly of a tsunami.

It is difficult to realise now that the 'Faun' prelude, when danced with maximum sensuousness by a scantily-clad Nijinsky in Paris, was hardly less riotous than The Rite of Spring. It might today be harmless background to an afternoon's cooling-off in Hyde Park. But Jonathan Snowden's flute would beguile us anywhere, as Serge Baudo and the LPO round off their 1986 contribution to this CD [listen -- 5 86167 2 track 1, 0:54-2:28]. The castanets of Spain have clicked seductively through many a French score, and Debussy can manage them as deftly as anyone. Here the LSO players were under the 1979 control of André Previn [listen -- 5 86167 2 track 8, 1:00-2:27].

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Copyright © 20 July 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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