DEBUSSY La Mer. Le Martyre De Saint Sébastien
Yet another La mer rich in detail (there have been quite a few of late), the ppp timps at the beginning ideally clear, the pp basses too, as are the pizzicatos from 2'18" into the same ‘De l’aube à midi sur la mer’. Cellos throughout have great warmth of tone and high percussion blends well within the overall texture. In ‘Jeux de vagues’, how nice to hear the cymbal quietly hissing away behind the harps (5'30") and in ‘Dialogue du vent et de la mer’ there’s the clarity – and impact – of the bass drum. You hear everything, which is half the problem: for the duration of Pablo Heras-Casado’s brilliant performance (the playing itself is marvellous) I kept thinking to myself, ‘great that I’m hearing so much – but should I be aware of all this detail simultaneously?’ I felt as if set upon by each incoming wave, so much to take in and yet so little sense of perspective or atmosphere. But impressive it most certainly is.
Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune enjoys a degree of tonal bloom that suits its very personal narrative. Heras-Casado spins a believable sense of fantasy, as if a loved one is being viewed – maybe even reinvented – through a syphon of memory. Best of all are the Le martyre de Saint Sébastien fragments, where Heras-Casado focuses the music’s haunted, introverted spirit. The final climax in ‘Danse extatique’ (the second fragment) recalls the sun-drenched eruption at the apex of Daphnis et Chloé’s ‘Daybreak’ and there are more Daphnis premonitions (from earlier in the ballet) in the mysterious shimmering of the fourth fragment, ‘Le Bon Pasteur’. Early Bartók and late Wagner are also somewhere in the frame. Heras-Casado makes you realise just what a great score this is, and – as with the other pieces on the disc – the Philharmonia are in fine fettle. Wonderful sound, too. In closing I’d say that if La mer’s textural (and textual) explicitness sounds as if it might appeal, then you certainly won’t be disappointed by its excellent programme companions.