The great Bernard Haitink is well known for his interpretations of French orchestral music. His benchmark recordings with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam are still available, near full price. They are that good and certainly stand the test of time.
I saw Haitink live at Orchestra Hall, Chicago with his new orchestra playing La Mer last year. It was phenomenal. Controlled, played brilliantly, and captured the shimmer and shift of Debussy’s amazing work. I’m a huge fan of Haitink.
So, it comes as no pleasure to report to you dear Audiophilia readers how disappointed I was with this new Chicago Resound release. The recording is good, if a little congested at times during the huge climaxes, and the CSO plays very well for Haitink, but the interpretation does not take off. There is too much clarity, not enough sweat, too much calculation, not enough sex. And Daphnis is about sweat and sex.
Ravel’s masterpiece demands a virtuoso orchestra, characterful soloists (especially the famous flute solo, with requisite rushing orgasm during the Pan and Syrinx mime as danced by Daphnis with Chloe). Even the musical ‘laughter’ durung the Pirates’ drunken dance and final, crazed General Dance are cold. As such, for Haitink completists only.
You want heat? Buy Munch and the BSO on a Chesky reissue. Want dreamy sex? Get Monteux and the LSO on London. Pow!
The Poulenc Gloria is added in a perfectly servicable reading.