Author Topic: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer  (Read 45484 times)

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Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2012, 02:56:07 PM »
All participants have already given their votes in group D. If you wish, I can give the results and the identity of the eliminated versions right now. I would do the same for the other groups when the votes are all done for each of them.
That does not stop the possibility to vote in other groups until sunday evening, of course.

So, do you wish me to start revealing ?

Offline Opus106

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2012, 08:05:21 PM »
So, do you wish me to start revealing ?

If you do, I request you to do so with 'invisible' text. :)
Regards,
Navneeth

Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2012, 02:31:44 AM »
OK I'll wait then ;)

I'm still waiting for the following votes on GMG :
- Group A : mc ukrneal
- Group B : madaboutmahler
- Group E : Lisztianwagner
- Group F : Que ; Opus106
- Group H : Brian

Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2012, 08:40:55 AM »
OK I'll wait then ;)

I'm still waiting for the following votes on GMG :
- Group A : mc ukrneal
- Group B : madaboutmahler
- Group E : Lisztianwagner
- Group F : Que ; Opus106
- Group H : Brian

I shall hopefully be doing my third group tonight. :)
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Offline madaboutmahler

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2012, 12:26:03 PM »
By the way, you appeart to have sent me Group A, Discobole, instead of Group B as you said in your last post. I'm not sure which one it is... but the 3rd one from this group is a particularly old one if this helps.

Glad you did, this is a particularly excellent group. The best I have listened to out of the 3 groups I have done!

Votes:

A1 – Perhaps a little slow at the opening. Delightful start to the Moderato, with an excellent balance, and very good phrasing to the melody. These qualities continue throughout the performance. Sometimes lacking a tad of excitement, but most of the performance has a good amount of it. Very good brass in particular. Overall, a good performance. 7/10

A2 – Very well shaped and balanced opening. Occasionally, a little messy... A very good sense of flow throughout the performance. Always well balanced, and the tempo choices are always excellent and work very well. A very enthusiastic, brilliant performance. Very good, warm sound too. Very powerful ending. Overall, a very enjoyable performance that I would certainly be excited to hear the rest of. Excellent. 8/10

A3 – Well obviously from the start we can tell it is a very old recording! And unfortunately, this blurs many of the details, means that the balance is not always perfect and that some important parts of the texture are lost. But recording problems aside, and also the slightly too slow opening, there was much I enjoyed in this performance. The playing of the orchestra is very beautiful, each section plays with great enthusiasm and passion, and are all well controlled. Great excitement in the more allegro sections in the middle. I really loved this performance, and really would love to hear more of it. The sound quality does not really prevent my enjoyment of this great performance. Absolutely great. Using a John phrase, I am really digging this recording!!!! Hope it gets through! :) 9/10
A4 – These recordings of the opening just get slower and slower...! And thanks to the woman coughing within the first 2 seconds of the music starting for letting us know that this is a live performance! Orchestra nicely handled, although it’s so slow! Some very poetic, beautiful playing though. Very well shaped and expressive. Wonderful, warm sound. Very powerful finale. Certainly a contrast to the previous recording, they are pretty much exact opposites! And I love both, and I love both for very different reasons! 9/10

Voting Order:
4) A1
3) A2
2) A4
1) A3

So, my two favourites were in fact the two that were complete opposites! Hope that both of them get through, I am really interested to see how they continue into the second movement!


Thanks, Discobole! Enjoyed that group very much!
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
— Ludwig van Beethoven

Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #25 on: May 17, 2012, 03:39:54 PM »
You're right, that's group A ! Thanks for your vote :)

Offline Lisztianwagner

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #26 on: May 18, 2012, 12:57:29 AM »
I'm sorry for taking so much time to give my comments, I will listen to the group and I will post my thoughts this evening! :)
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Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #27 on: May 18, 2012, 01:06:22 AM »
Great. That's no trouble at all, as the limit is officially sunday evening, but that's true that you're the last voter in this group  :o
It's astonishing how many people wanted to take part in this comparison and how fast they listened and decided what their vote would be. There's 8 groups, and still at least 9 voters for each 8)

Offline Opus106

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #28 on: May 18, 2012, 02:26:42 AM »
It's astonishing how many people wanted to take part in this comparison and how fast they listened and decided what their vote would be.

I think it must be due to the length of the extract and the number of performances per group. :) At least that's why I joined this time, with something that's non-Bach and a composer whose music I don't listen to all that much (close to never).
Regards,
Navneeth

Offline Lisztianwagner

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #29 on: May 18, 2012, 12:44:24 PM »
It's quite hard to rank these recordings, I enjoyed listening to them all a lot, all very beautiful!

E1 - Brilliant and intense introduction, with a very clear and beautiful sound. The whole movement sounds pervaded by a great harmonic richness and a splendid, evocative atmosphere, wonderfully expressed by a colourful orchestration; excellent dynamics giving enphasis and passion. Very brilliant tempo. Melodious and suggestive finale, the climax here is powerful and moving.

E2 - Slightly faster tempo, which doesn't take beauty and expressiveness off the movement though. Although it is an old recording, the sound is rather good; passionate, impressive orchestral playing, with an excellent balance amongs the instruments. Great intesity and brilliance, especially in the climaxes. Good phrasing.

E3 - Again, the tempo sounds slightly fast in the first half compared with that one of the first recording; but again, this doesn't make the piece lack suggestive power and brilliance. Energetic and intense playing of the orchestra, with a thrilling atmosphere created and great dynamics. The ending climax is strong and powerful, although the finale doesn't shade as melodiously as it should.

E4 - Remarkable performance; clear, brilliant sound and great harmony. Beautiful and lyrical solos, with an incredibly expressive and evocative orchestral playing in general though, very melodious and poetical. Great intensity and well balanced dynamics during the whole piece.


In order:
E1
E4
E3
E2
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 09:02:28 AM by Lisztianwagner »
"Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents." - Ludwig van Beethoven

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #30 on: May 20, 2012, 04:44:06 AM »
I was a bit slow this time, but still managed to get it in before the deadline...

Here are my comments for Group A:

A1 – Decent start.  Sounds pretty good overall, but lacks a bit of pizzazz.  It does impart a feeling of mystery pretty well.  Good sound.  Ranking: 4
A2 – This one has much better tension right from the start, with more expressive phrasing. Buildups work better and much more expressiveness. This brings out the richness, complexities and subtleness of the score more effectively.  This is a delight.  Ranking: 1
A3 – Good use of dynamics, but seems to miss some of the waves/sway I was getting in A2. Shame about the crackles (age of recording), as the sound would not be bad at all if that could be removed.  Quite good version. The old sound causes it to sound fierce in some moments.  Ranking: 2
A4 – Slower from the start. I liked the start, but a bit static. By going slower, some of the sheer beauty of the piece is given more highlighting. I loved that. The problem is that the overall line is not held as well I think. Though, one can luxuriate in some of the sounds this orchestra produces. Ranking: 3
SO
Favorite to least favorite: A2, A3, A4, A1. The first and last were easy for me, but I had a real hard time with A3 and A4 in terms of which should come second. I ultimately decided that the whole clip was better in A3, despite some delicious moments in A4.

Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline Brian

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #31 on: May 20, 2012, 05:18:20 AM »
Hmmm, what time exactly is the deadline? As I'm in the USA I'm worried I need to finish my listening before lunch!

Offline Opus106

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #32 on: May 20, 2012, 05:27:38 AM »
Hmmm, what time exactly is the deadline? As I'm in the USA I'm worried I need to finish my listening before lunch!

Link






Regards,
Navneeth

Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #33 on: May 20, 2012, 05:56:40 AM »
 ;D
Exactlyy ! Thanks Opus106 !

Offline Opus106

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #34 on: May 20, 2012, 06:58:16 AM »
Oddly enough, for me this has turned out be a case which version has the best sound. ;D I won't bore you with a lot comments, since I practically got my head around this piece, or the first movement at least, with this BC.

--begin--


F1 - Clear sound. Liked the lashing of the waves(?) close to the end.
F3 - Despite the length, I didn't get bored.
F2 - see below
F4 - however good the performance was when heard in person, pops-n-crackles don't score high on my list


--end--
Regards,
Navneeth

Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #35 on: May 20, 2012, 12:16:12 PM »
Que ? Brian ? Still waiting for your votes !

Offline Brian

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #36 on: May 20, 2012, 12:19:15 PM »
Group H

I found this group difficult. The performances are very similar in pace - the slowest 8:47, the fastest 8:35. They're all quite satisfactory and I like all of them. It's very hard to choose.


#1: Good. I can't recall many distinguishing features except that it was done well and at no point did it displease me. The recessed percussion actually added character. 7/10

#2: Again really good. Some episodes where I admire how 'light' it feels. The balance at 5:27 isn't ideal, and that might ultimately keep it out of the next round with such close competition. 7/10

#3: I like the clarity given to the harps at the beginning and I like all the woodwind solos - characterful playing. Horns too. The conductor doesn't seem to ever put a foot wrong; the music swells and recedes in a nice way. The only knock is a slightly restricted dynamic which makes me think this was recorded in the '80s, maybe. 8/10

#4: Yet another very fine account. I am especially fond, this time, of the muted trumpets on the left of the stage. Still, since all four of these are very good, I would like something "extra" besides competence and pleasantness. 7/10


Again, these four were nearly equals in my mind. The only one I know should advance is #3. My second choice is #2. I think. Still, this was a hard listening session because listening back-to-back got a little repetitive...

Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #37 on: May 20, 2012, 03:00:06 PM »
Results

I'm going to reveal all groups in one message, but if you want more details (on the method in particular) you'll have to read it in French (but tables are quite easy to read in every language I think...)


Group A

Qualified :
Things were difficult at first for A4, but it finally ranks 1st. A2 was virtually qualified through the whole vote, but it finishes 2nd and could have been endangered with a couple different votes...
Eliminated :
- 3rd : A1 - Michel Plasson, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse (EMI, 1987-1988). The orchestra from Toulouse sounds surprizingly full and with beautiful winds, but this interpretation lacks a little life, a little wind on the sea...
- 4th : A3 - Serge Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA Victor, 1938-1939). One of my favourite interpretations since I've known it. I just couldn't leave it out of the selection, even if I knew it would not go very far because of its sound quality. The orchestra is really incredible for these times, beautiful and precise.




Group B

Qualified :
B4 (1st) and B3 (2nd) are clear winners and were never in any danger of being eliminated. But nothing is sure for the rest of the game, as most voters found this group weak...

Eliminated :
- 3rd : B1 - Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, Orchestre national de la RTF (Montaigne, live 1962). This recording is a legend among lovers of french music. A most lively and virtuoso live performance, Inghelbrecht leaves the orchestra free of doing what it wants in this music they know by heart.
- 4th : B2 - Alain Lombard, Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg (Erato, 10/1975). One of the last versions I selected. It has a lot of charm and the conductor understands this music naturally, the result is very pleasant. And the CD is cheap too...




Group C

Qualified :
C3 (1st) is a clear winner, everyone loved it, on 8 voters, 6 ranked it 1st and 2 ranked it 2nd ! Behind, C2 is qualified as a default choice, as it seems.

Eliminated :
- 3rd : C4 - Charles Munch, Orchestre national de la RTF (Montaigne, live 1962). Some critics consider it as the best recording Munch left of La Mer. I understand one can think that, this performance is incredible (and not that different from Inghelbrecht from the same year with the same orchestra). But the first movement is maybe the weaker of the 3...
- 4th : C1 - Arturo Toscanini, BBC Symphony Orchestra (HMV, live 12/6/1935). This is what I think is the absolute best version by Toscanini, who has played and recorded this piece very frequently. The orchestra flows naturally, and this reading is really passionate. The sound is quite good for its age too ! Anyway, you didn't really like it...




Group D

Qualified :
D2 is a clear winner in this group too, on 9 voters it was ranked first 6 times. D1 ranks 2nd with a strong support too,n even if D4 was not far behind.

Eliminated :
- 3rd : D4 - Orchestre de la Suisse romande, Ernest Ansermet (Decca/London, 1964). Ansermet is one of the most renowned conductors in this repertoire. But, even with a splendid sound from the sixties, and even in his last recording (among 4), Ansermet does not have the best orchestra in the world, and the comparison is quite cruel.
- 4th : D3 - Orchestre de Paris, John Barbirolli (EMI, 12/1968). This could have been a recording gathering a few lovers. I selected it in case it would provoke this kind of mania. It has not. It is actually a little strange, but better than the other take by Barbirolli, with Hallé. And the Orchestre de Paris was really something in these years.

[/quote]


Group E

Qualified :
E1 is one of the most unanimous choices in this round, 6 times first and 2 times 3rd on 9 votes. But all versions had their supporters. E4 is qualified despite a not-so-high average ranking .

Eliminated :
- 3rd : E3 - Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1956). Results in this group are certainly the most surprising of the whole first round, at least by the names of the eliminated. This version, generally considered as the main reference in this score, is eliminated, and frankly nobody seemed very impressed.
- 4th : E2 - Roger Désormière, Česká filharmonie (Supraphon/Ultraphone, 10/1950). Another big name, this version which was considered as the best recording on earth ever, period, by Sviatoslav Richter (who played it for his old master Heinrich Neuhaus). A myth, which will remain so, but does not survive this comparison.




Group F

Qualified :
This group was very frequently described as not impressive. F1 ranks first, by default. Behind, F2 and F3 are perfect equals, they rank 2nd but as their average ranking is the lowest among the 2nds of all groups, they are eliminated. This was planned, as I needed to eliminate 17 versions from this first round to keep only 15 (3 groups of 5).

Eliminated :
- 2nd ex aequo : F2 - Eduard van Beinum, Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (London, 5/1957). The sound is not that great, the orchestra beautiful but flawed, and the conductor gives a very polished Debussy, lacking a little color and violence.
- 2nd ex aequo : F3 - Sergiu Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker (EMI, live 1992). This version has certain qualities : the orchestra and the conductor are obviously in osmosis, there is tension and life despite the slow tempo. But there it is : so slow, sooo sloooow. At least you couldn't stand it any longer.
- 4th : F4 - Piero Coppola, Orchestre de la société des concerts du Conservatoire (HMV, 1932). One of the greatest versions, and one of the first. Coppola was the first to record it in 1928, and this second take is from 1932. I love this Debussy, so lively, full of brilliance, movement, lyricism. This pioneer version is at the root of the whole french school of interpretation in this score (a tradition which has kind of disappeared now).




Group G

Qualified :
G4 has had an overwhelming support, and is clearly ahead. Things have been less easy for G2, but this version is qualified along G4.

Eliminated :
- 3rd : G1- Igor Markevitch, Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux (DG, 5/1959). A rare version, until DG released it again in a low cost french collection. Not among the best, but still charming, and I had to select it as the orchestra (which is now surviving at a quasi-amateur status in Paris) is the creator of La Mer.
- 4th : G3 - Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1/6/1950). Toscanini is eliminated here too. This later studio version is more oriented towards brilliance, like most of Toscanini's recordings at this same period (in Richard Strauss or Respighi for instance). Most voters found the orchestra really below par.




Group H

Qualified :
H1 is one of these versions which were really ahead at first, and then votes became a little less easy. It keeps its 1st rank, but not so far from H4 which had a lot of support in among the last voters.

Eliminated :
- 3rd : H2 - Jean-Claude Casadesus, Orchestre national de Lille (Harmonia Mundi, 1993-1994). A real disappointment, I thought this version would go a little further in the competition. Casadesus reminds me of Munch or even Coppola, his Mer is really full of live and passion, and the orchestra is not bad at all. Well, you prefered H1 and H4...
- 4th : H3 - George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra (Columbia, 11-12/1/1963). I didn't know this version existed before someone recently pointed it out as I was preparing this listening. A nice version, but that's all, really. Like always, Szell does a nice job, his orchestra sounds very cosy, but it lacks a little something. One more time Szell disappoints me.


Discobole

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #38 on: May 20, 2012, 03:04:40 PM »
I've done the draw for the second round. 5 best versions of the 1st round 1st, then the 2 remaining 1st and the 3 best 2nds, then the remaining 2nds.
There are the groups for this second round. The names are the places where Debussy worked on the score.

Groupe de Bichain
- G4
- A4
- D1

Groupe d'Eastbourne
- C3
- B4
- G2

Groupe de Dieppe
- F1
- H4
- E4

Groupe de Jersey
- E1
- H1
- A2

Groupe de Paris
- D2
- B3
- C2

I'll send each participant his group very soon. You'll have an excerpt of the 2 first movements to listen. We'll keep one version per group for the finals.

Offline Opus106

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Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
« Reply #39 on: May 20, 2012, 08:16:26 PM »
Hm... by revealing the eliminated versions aren't you giving clues as to what those still in the race could be, perhaps introducing a little bias in the experienced listener? :)

About F3: I guessed as much. ;D
Regards,
Navneeth