Debussy: Image, La mer, Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune / Bernstein

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BERNSTEIN CONDUCTS DEBUSSY Claude Debussy: Images, Prélude à l'apres-midi d'un faune, La Mer Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Leonard Bernstein, conductor Recorded live from...
BERNSTEIN CONDUCTS DEBUSSY

Claude Debussy: Images, Prélude à l'apres-midi d'un faune, La Mer

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Leonard Bernstein, conductor

Recorded live from the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, 1989.

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 86 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

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DEBUSSY Images pour orchestre. Prélude à l’près-midi d’un faune. La Mer Leonard Bernstein, cond; Santa Cecila Natl Academy O UNITEL 701608 (DVD: 86: 00)


Although Debussy did not figure largely in Bernstein’s repertoire, the conductor had an innate affinity for the composer’s music. We are therefore fortunate to have this concert, from scarcely a year before Bernstein’s death, preserving his interpretations of this repertoire in digital sound. Bernstein’s older Columbia recordings with the New York Philharmonic from 1960–63 are also still in print, although to duplicate this particular program one must acquire two different CDs (one from Sony, the other an ArkivMusic reissue). Those performances, however, are completely superseded by the present ones, both sonically and interpretively. In his later years Bernstein became decidedly self-indulgent, and his performances sometimes assumed bloated dimensions, as in the famous (or notorious) 1989 Christmas Day Berlin performance of the Beethoven Ninth. (I was blessed to attend that concert in person, being resident in East Berlin for my doctoral dissertation research at the time. As an interpretation it verged on the preposterous, but I still wouldn’t have missed it for all the world.) Here, however, he is in top form, eliciting performances with superb clarity of line, pellucid orchestral color and instrumental balance, and moderate tempi that are convincingly right at every point. Debussy is not the first thing I, as someone partial to Romantic German and Slavic orchestral repertoire, think to take off the shelf for personal listening pleasure, but Bernstein leaves me marveling at the sheer genius of these masterworks, providing a joy of rediscovery.


There are of course many performances of these works available on CD; most readers will already have their favorites, so I will not assay a broader discussion that in any case would exceed the bounds of this review. Regarding performances on DVD, this is the only complete performance of Images available. (For whatever reason, Bernstein altered the order of its three movements and placed Iberia in third position.) The Naxos issue with Alexander Rahbari and the Belgian Radio Symphony, which also has the Prélude and La Mer , omits Iberia in favor of the Nocturnes ; those are solid performances but not in the same class as these. The only other DVD to feature both the Prélude and La Mer is with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, reviewed negatively by Christopher Abbot in Fanfare 26:2 and positively by Colin Clarke in 32:3. I do not intend to enter the lists of the debates between champions and detractors of the German and American maestros; suffice it to say that in these works I prefer Bernstein’s clarity and sense of motion to Karajan’s lushness and perfumed languor. His DVD has more interesting camerawork to boot, with better lighting and more varied and better close-ups of the instrumentalists. The sound quality is excellent, the recordings having been made for commercial issue at the time. For those with more slender wallets, or who are uninterested in the visual aspects of an orchestral concert, these same performances were issued on CD by DG and are still in print as an ArkivMusic reissue. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: James A. Altena


Product Description:


  • Release Date: March 30, 2010


  • UPC: 814337010164


  • Catalog Number: 701608


  • Label: C Major


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: ""


  • Composer: Claude Debussy


  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra


  • Performer: Bernstein