Le poème de l’extase
Orchestre National de France
Debussy recorded on 25 January 2001, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris; Scriabin on 28 January 2001, l’Auditorium de Nantes
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: July 2003
CD No: NAÏVE V 4946
The bass line at the opening of La mer commands attention, the flickering of life to begin a new day hypnotically conveyed; instrumental lines are sounded and balanced with relish, the whole has an eloquent import that never undermines Debussy’s careful (and infinite) structures and subtly-painted orchestration.
This is a loving and painstaking account from Svetlanov, time-taken and breathtakingly beautiful, yet never sentimental or applied. What he finds is mined from the music itself – the difference between a showman and a musician. Svetlanov, one of those conductors who light textures from within, colour translucently and inflect with tenderness, sees the first movement in one long-drawn breath and, therefore, with no sectional hiatuses. ’Jeux de vagues’ is of boundless activity (which doesn’t mean it’s fast, anything but!) and meticulous observation of changes of metre. The closing ’wind and sea dialogue’ is dramatic but never gratuitous. Svetlanov includes the ad lib brass fanfares. Svetlanov’s is a far-reaching view of La mer, never outside of the music, portraying and stretching it with integrity that comes from deep-rooted artistic conviction.
After too short a gap comes an expansive and luxuriant Poem of Ecstasy, timed to perfection in terms of climactic measure – the final transfiguration combines roof-raising sonics and theatrical use of silence. The final crescendo is well captured by the recording, which is generally excellent in terms of clarity and immediacy. Given these are unedited concert performances, the playing and concentration is remarkable. Svetlanov had that ability. Having been to a few of his London rehearsals (with the Philharmonia Orchestra), I know how exacting he could be.
This Naïve CD is, then, rather more than a tribute. René Koering, Director of Music at Radio France, remembers Svetlanov as a wonderful friend and great musician. He cites Svetlanov’s last Paris appearance – when he conducted Liszt’s oratorio Christus. How tantalising! Surely this must also be released. Please!