Debussy—Prlude l'aprs-midi d'un faune, Nocturnes, La mer, Berceuse hroque—Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Jrvi (Telarc) [SACD/CD]
Lush textures delivered at low volume levels are hard for any recorded medium to convey. That's why few recordings of Claude Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" compare with the quiet intensity of a live performance. However, this high-resolution DSD production delivers luscious texture while maintaining a relaxed naturalness. You can just about smell the forest.
OK, SACDs are expensive, but any disc that also includes the Nocturnes and La mer is well worth the investment. "Sirnes," the third movement of the former, includes the female members of the May Festival Chorus, a distinguished volunteer group that's toured Europe and played Carnegie Hall. The mix resists exiling them to the surround channels, instead balancing them between front and rear, opting for cohesiveness over wow effects.
La mer evokes the restless rhythms of the sea. Debussy's command of orchestral tone color is incomparable, and Telarc's engineers have built on that strength, achieving a fine balance among the string, woodwind, and brass ensembles.
In addition to these odes to the forest, the night, and the sea, the program also includes the rarely recorded orchestral version of Berceuse hroque, better known as a piano piece.