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Bernard Haitink's recordings of the Nocturnes and Jeux were hailed as among the finest available when initially issued. That LP provided rather short measure. Now you can get all of Debussy's most important orchestral music on two CDs for the price of one, and if the remaining performances don't quite reach the exalted level of the Nocturnes and Jeux, they come so close as to make no difference. Haitink was not a very assertive conductor (and he's gotten less so with age), but he was fortunate to have one of the world's best orchestras at the tip of his baton, and their recordings were a true collaborative effort. Their approach works particularly well for Debussy. --David Hurwitz
Top Customer Reviews
Some say the orchestra was in its glory days under Haitink. I don't quite agree, having heard them do marvelous work under Chailly and others, but in any case, they were playing at their absolute finest here. The shimmering effects actually *sound* that way, and if you've ever heard an orchestra play Debussy badly, you'll know what I mean. The ensemble's renowned woodwind section sounds glorious, and Debussy gives them many, many opportunities to show off.
Dating from the 1970's, these recordings are excellent, and you might not even think about this issue because the sound quality is so superb. Occasionally a very marginal amount of tape hiss can be discerned -- but now we are truly splitting hairs, since these pieces were recorded in the late days of the analogue era.
Like Haitink's Bartok set with the same orchestra (also two discs), this is fairly essential for those who love the composer. And with its reasonable price, this is not only an essential Debussy recording but a bargain as well.
I remember snatching up the original Philips LP's of these Haitink performances when they emerged in the late 70's, and being "wowed" then. Yes, Haitink was not, and is not, a ZIP! ZING! POW! conductor. And, outside of a few moments in "Iberia," "La Mer," or "Jeux," you really don't want any of that in these pieces. Sensitivity to dynamics, orchestral color, and evocative phrasing, just to name a few musical virtues...these are what are called for here, and Haitink offers them in spades. That gossamer shimmer in "Nocturnes", for example. It's so easy to sell the imagery short, or just get it plain wrong. Haitink nails it, aided througout by vintage Philips sound that was a model of naturalness in its day, and still holds up nicely.
Could "La Mer" take just a bit more shaping in its ebb/flow moments? Maybe. Karajan managed that in his early 60s version for DG, but his orchestral seas are clearly the North Atlantic, not the Mediterranean. So, there's room for preferences. I still prefer Boulez' old CBS/Sony performance with the New Philharmonia, except for the bone-dry recording. Fritz Reiner and the Chicago, as well as the Munch/Boston reading, really shine in RCA's Living Stereo remasterings. These are just a few of the classic readings that I wouldn't want to be without.
In sum, I wouldn't want to be without Haintink's thoughts on these scores, as well as the late 50's Van Beinum "Berceuse" that fills out the set. If you're REALLY serious about the music, though, fill out your Debussy shelf with a few of the others.Read more ›
Although this may not be the case here, there are colors and intricacies that he got the Dutch players to evoke that even Previn and Ansermet missed out on. I sometimes think that Debussy is conducting this music because during his life he was so indifferent about the musical traditions of his time. Haitink allows the music itself to envelope his players' sensibilities so that what the listener hears is anything but a 'tradtional', orchestral sound, as I would suspect Debussy would have done. After all, this is music, that to Debussy, depicted shimmering waters, passing clouds and tumultuous seas. With all due respect to even Boulez' famous interpretations, Haitink's discs are quite memorable.
The Amsterdam orchestra plays everything beautifully, and Haitink is a very sensitive interpreter. I find the Jeux particularly exquisite. The only caveat I would offer is that the La Mer may sound somewhat bland to those who love the more volatile and fiery Munch performance on RCA Living Stereo. However, some listeners may prefer the warm, rounded tone of the Concertgebouw brass to the pointed, rather nasal sound of the Boston's.
Most recent customer reviews
I picked this one up as a trade-in. While Debussy is not a major interest, I am not disappointed with my choice. Read morePublished on April 26 2013 by brotagonist
La Mer was one of the first pieces of classical music that captured my imagination. When performed well, you envision the waves and wind on a restless sea. Read morePublished on May 28 2003 by Amazon Customer
I guess people from Delray Beach, Florida don't like this recording that much. Or he just came back the second day and gave it another bad name. Read morePublished on March 29 2002
Hard to believe that one of the best bargains in the entire CD catalog was rated at only three stars overall when I happened to stumble across this page. Read morePublished on July 2 2001 by Ed Brickell
I have a couple of renditions of this music. I read on the net that this was a "sonic blockbuster". It is..sonically. The recording and mastering is superb. Read morePublished on Aug. 4 2000
I have been listening to my Preven and Ansermet interpretations of these works. The recording is superb. The rendition is rubbish. Read morePublished on Aug. 3 2000
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