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The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: Discobole on May 04, 2012, 12:41:02 AM

Title: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 04, 2012, 12:41:02 AM
(http://expositions.bnf.fr/lamer/images/3/121.jpg)

I am pleased to present you with my new project, a blind comparison on an exceptional piece with an exceptional discography, and very appropriate for a this special year, that is Debussy's La Mer.

I took weeks to prepare it. I listened (frequently several times) to no less than 97 versions in order to decide which deserved to be selected in such a comparison. I already announced it on the forum Classik (in French) and Talkclassical, where around 20 participants already registered and I hope many of you will accept to join :)

Method

We'll start with 8 groups of 4 versions each, in an excerpt of the first movement (De l'aube à midi sur la mer). Each group will be judged by at least 4 voters who will individually rank them, and in that way decide which versions will progress to the second round.
There will remain 15 versions for second round, on the first movement and the second movement (Jeux de vagues), one of the most modernist pages by Debussy. They will distributed among 5 groups of 3 versions each, and one version per group will qualify for the finals.
Then the finals will allow every participant to hear excerpts from movements I, II and III (Dialogue du vent et de la mer), and decide which is the absolute best interpretation of La Mer.

Versions

Selected versions are sometimes very well known, sometimes mysterious, sometimes historical, sometimes recent, in short I tried to put all versions that I felt could be missed if they weren't present. I also reserved at least one third of all versions for French orchestras (or from French tradition, as you can find in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg...), and one third for French conductors (or from French tradition, even if from foreign descent). This doesn't mean there is only one third for others, as a French conductor can very well conduct a French orchestra. I found necessary to ensure that the French musical tradition was well represented in the listening, as it frequently implies a different sound, and also a different way to play this music, a kind of intimate relation to Debussy that even the greatest orchestras can rarely achieve.

The listening will start very soon, I shall send groups for the first round no later than May 8th. If you participate, you can very well choose to stop the comparison if you prefer or need to, so there is no obligation of any sort. And, of course, anyone can join at any moment during the "game".

Voters (8 ) : Lisztianwagner ; Opus106 ; fridden ; mc ukrneal ; DavidW ; Brian ; Drasko ; Que ; madaboutmahler [+ 16 on Classik ; 1 on Talkclassical]
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on May 04, 2012, 12:56:28 AM
Debussy's La mer is absolutely a beautiful, gorgeous piece, I really love it! ;D
You can certainly count me for the blind comparison.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on May 04, 2012, 12:57:15 AM
In. And welcome back to the forum proper. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on May 04, 2012, 12:59:13 AM
Debussy's La mer is absolutely a beautiful, gorgeous piece, I really love it! ;D
You can certainly count me for the blind comparison.

Oh yes, what bad manners.....welcome back to the forum! :)
Title: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: fridden on May 04, 2012, 03:05:09 AM
Welcome back, and thank you for arranging this for us!
I want to be part of this.
/fridden
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 04, 2012, 04:14:45 AM
Thanks for welcoming me back. For the moment, including the 3 new voters here, there are 23 participants. This promises to be very interesting, for the accuracy of the results AND for the discussions. I am very eager to read your impressions on some of the versions I'll propose.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 04, 2012, 04:37:50 AM
+1. Count me in.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidW on May 04, 2012, 04:56:51 AM
Count me in.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on May 04, 2012, 07:27:59 AM
Count me in, please!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on May 04, 2012, 08:09:35 AM
I'd also like to try this one.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Que on May 04, 2012, 08:19:58 AM
Discobole, glad to find you back on these pages.  :)

And I'm in, and promise not to bail out. 8)

Q
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on May 04, 2012, 11:30:13 AM
Please count me in too!

A favourite of mine, so this should be interesting!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 05, 2012, 01:12:48 PM
I finally listened to 99 versions exactly to prepare this listening :o

Everything is ready so, you should receive the excerpts shortly.

I'll wait for your votes until Sunday May 20th, in the evening (midnight UTC +2 : Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc.). Do not forget to tell me if you're gonna be late.

Please keep posting your votes and comments with different font size or color, in order to hide informations as a spoiler alert.

Here are the groups you'll listen to (I tried to put you together in groups, not always possible but this will help to discuss what you hear, even more if you listen to other groups after the first one) :

Group A : mc ukrneal ; DavidW (+ 2 on other forums)
Group B : Brian (+ 2)
Group C : (+ 4)
Group D : (+ 1)
Group E : fridden ; Lisztianwagner (+ 2)
Group F : Que ; Opus106 (+ 2)
Group G : Drasko ; madaboutmahler (+ 2)
Group H : (+ 3)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on May 10, 2012, 11:08:02 AM
Here are my votes for Group G:


G1 – Clear opening. Dynamics well handled, normally well balanced. Maybe some parts lacking character compared to other recordings, and perhaps a little slow in some places. Hmm... sounds as if there is a microphone right next to the piccolo at the end!! Obviously the recording is rather old, although this does not bother me in too many places. Mostly at the ending climax. To me, perhaps some of the playing lacks just a little sensitivity. Many good things in this performance though!

Mark: 6/10

G2 – Clear sound with a very good sense of balance. Very enthusiastic playing from the orchestra, with a good sense of contrast, articulation (maybe a little too precise at points... for my taste at least.), dynamics, tempo and atmosphere. Overall, very impressive orchestral playing, all well controlled in a highly enjoyable and detailed performance.

8/10

G3 – A few slight balance problems here. Or perhaps just a rather strange interpretation. The brass sound far too harsh, and are often too prominent in the texture. And the woodwinds, especially the flute in its solos, sound drowned out too often. Some very expressive, passionate playing, but not well-controlled enough. I wonder which great conductor I have said this about... ;) And the ending is too fast, doesn’t really sound like Debussy should...

4/10

G4 – The balance at the opening was not perfect, but got better as the performance went along. Some very nice moments, a performance often played with much expression. Sensitive, beautiful solos. Sometimes lacking just a little extra dash of excitement perhaps. Very well articulated and detailed. Throughout the second half of the movement in particular, the orchestra speaks as one, very atmospheric and beautiful. So much that I can forgive them for the few small things I disliked about the first half. Hmmm... very interesting take on the ending! Not really what Debussy asked for in the score, but a very interesting approach which I liked very much...so much that I re-listened to this ending quite a few times! Very good!

In order...
4) G3
3) G1

More difficult to choose between G2 and G4, but....
2) G2
1) G4.  

I shall have enough time for another group, please could you send another along? Thank you! Very interested to find out which G4 is in particular...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on May 10, 2012, 03:25:28 PM
Group B, whited out following Daniel's example:

B1: A live recording, as is clear right from the very start - there are a lot of squeaking chairs in the opening bars, and a cough. The strings do an admirable job in the first pages, especially the admirable basses and cellos, but I feel like the woodwinds are quite generic, lacking the last bit of idiomatic character. This might be an American orchestra. A few great moments for the cellos (like 4:40) feel rushed, whereas the quiet interlude before the ending is very slow. Aside from some strong waves around 5:20, this is not the most sea-like interpretation. I'll give this a 5/10.

B2: Everyone seems to do the string tremolos well; this time my quibble with the opening is the over-enthusiastic muted trumpet. This is a less clear recording than #3; I miss the harp at certain moments, and sometimes the strings are held back or underbalanced. Around 5:05-5:20 this really tells. Overall I like the faster tempo but the conductor appears to be inflexible about it, and it makes the music feel uneventful. The exciting conclusion isn't earned. 3/10

B3: The opening is superb. I love the subtlety of the woodwinds and French horns throughout this excerpt, in contrast to B1, and the flute solo after 2:20 is an absolute delight. All the players' solo work sounds "true." That said, when the cellos make their entrance with new material at 4:50, I would have appreciated more uplift, more lightness; the episode feels slightly heavy. The ensuing climax is quite consciously downplayed. I think the ending is downplayed somewhat, too, or maybe the recording is dynamically constricted so that the ending does not feel louder than what has come before. The gong is inaudible. I'll give this a 6/10.

B4: Like B2, on the faster side; like B1, not a very French orchestra. But I really like the subtlety and lightness of much of this reading, with gently recessed brass after 1:30 and characterful woodwind playing, although the flute has, for a tiny moment, a glassy quality like you hear in old USSR recordings. This recording feels wonderfully old-fashioned and there's a lot of variety - the conductor isn't afraid to ratchet up the energy at 5:30, rather than keeping to a single tempo like B2. My only quibble about the ending is the absence of gong in the mix; this isn't going to be one of my all-time favorite recordings, but I definitely liked it better than the other three. 8/10

My first choice is B4 without doubt.
My second choice is B3 because, while I don't always agree with the conductor's decisions, this is a distinctive and interesting interpretation.
My third choice is B1 despite some bland woodwind playing.
My last choice is B2, which to my ears feels mechanical and too fast to truly be eventful.


I will have time this weekend for another group!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on May 12, 2012, 11:08:32 PM
Group G

G1 - Generally very well played. Tempos middle of the road without any quirks. Recorded up close and personal, clear, on the dry side. Rather uneventful, non distinctive performance with somewhat underwhelming climax. Would have liked to have been in the audience, but as a recording bit of a bore.

G2 - Completely different affair. Conductor with hands on approach, freer pulse and far more flexible phrasing, lots of shaping and molding, loses momentum here and there but really makes the climax telling. Orchestral playing is excellent but I hate the sound, reverberant and mushy, distant and unfocused. I'm of two mind about the performance. It's definitely interesting but I'm not truly convinced that the piece needs all this pushing and pulling. Would love to hear it complete and live with it for a while.

G3 - I think mono recording (not so easy to tell on computer speakers), dry bit opaque with some balance problems, flute is barely audible at times. Quicker tempo, nicely mantains tension. Orchestra so-so but I liked the brassiness and the touch of vibrato in the brass. Hardly a front runner but not bad.

G4 - Fast and intense, yet transparent and detailed. Wonderful playing from the strings particularly. Winds very good but touch faceless, could be due to lack of some respite, especially in the first half of the movement. Conductor could have given them slightly more breathing space. Overall superb performance. I think I heard some shuffling here and there, could be live.

None of the performances is really bad, wouldn't mind having them all (I was probably bit too harsh on G1). Ranking:

1) G4 & G2
3) G1
4) G3
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 13, 2012, 03:33:09 AM
Thansk for these first votes ! There are already many votes in some of the groups.

Among them B (7 votes) :

... and B3 is clearly ahead, with B4 just behind, fort the moment these two are on their way to second round.

And G (4 votes) :

... G4 is a clear leader, first of every ranking ! The second place is more uncertain, between G1 and G2.

Remember you can listen to as many groups as you wish. And if you're not in, don't hesitate and join ! ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: fridden on May 14, 2012, 09:35:48 AM
Group E

This is really a fantastic piece of music and it has been a pleasure listening to these 4 versions. It has not been easy to rank them, for I enjoyed all of them in some way or other.


E1.
This has really good sound, clean and clear with good balance among the instruments. It is a good performance and I can't really find much to complain about except that the performance perhaps lacks a little in expressiveness for me. I would like more different shades in the music and more contrasts between different parts.

E2.
The sound is on the opposite scale compared to E1, clearly an older recording (mono) but the performance is really great. Comparing timings between different parts of the music and the 4 versions shows that E2 is sometimes the fastest or almost fastest, and in other it is the slowest or almost slowest.
For me this performance really have the intensity and expressiveness I want from this music, and it is really easy to picture various aspects of the sea while listening to this performance.

E3.
Good sound, but not I think a modern recording. Like E2 I find it have a lot of tension and expressiveness but it is always on the quick side in the different part of the music. In the end it doesn't allow the music to breath in the same way as E2.

E4.
This is by far the slowest of the 4, but it isn't all bad. Some part really benefits from the calmer and more grandiose style of this performance, especially at the end. But like E1 it doesn't engage me like E2.

So finally my ranking is :

E2
E3
E1
E4

/fridden
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on May 15, 2012, 09:15:34 AM
My votes for Group D:

D1 – Although the sound quality is obviously old, the quality of the playing comes out very well. Excellent tempi, expressive playing, and I like very much the sound of this orchestra. Very nice performance! I don’t have many criticisms about this recording at all really, I enjoyed it very much. Perhaps the ending climax was a little under-powered, but this is probably because of the recording quality. Overall, excellent! 7/10

D2 – This sounds to me as if the conductor is trying his best to be different, and for most of it I don’t think it works well for the music. I don’t like many of the dynamic choices, especially the various sforzandi which are just pointless or too extreme, and the balance and handling of tempi seems just slightly unnatural, and just not Debussy. Some very characteristic, impressive playing, but I don’t like the way the conductor handles it. 4/10

D3 – From the very beginning, some extremely slow tempi! Dynamics at the beginning are less ‘deliberate’ which to me brings slightly less effect. Not sure the balance is always perfect. But some very beautiful playing, expressed very well. Very clear, excellent sound quality, and the sound of the orchestra is very warm and enjoyable. I don’t feel the extremely slow tempo affects my enjoyment of the performance too much, although it certainly works better towards the end than any earlier. Very powerful climax! 6/10

D4 – From the beginning, I feel this performance lacks some enthusiasm and power from the orchestra. I don’t always particularly appreciate the interpretation, for example, some of the articulations, especially at the beginning of the Moderato, where Debussy’s own articulation markings are completely ignored. And also, the drastic tempo changes, often too extreme.  I feel I must say something slightly more positive, and I can certainly say that there is some very good playing technically, very good cellos in their section solo for example, very characteristic there. But overall, the whole performance is lacking momentum and excitement and passion for the piece. To my ears at least! The ending of this moment is obviously rather hard to get right, and I think this performance has come closer to how to get it wrong. The balance is awful, the tempo changes result in a lack of sense in the performance, and it just sounds wrong! Sorry to the performers! ;) 2/10

So, voting order:
4) D4
3) D2
2) D3
1) D1


I should have time for a third group this week as well! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidW on May 16, 2012, 06:57:12 AM
My votes for Group A:

A4 > A1=A3 > A2
A1 and A3 are both too rushed,
A2 is too fierce, there is no contrast between the lulls and the crests as it were, no poetry
A4 is sublime, the only one in the group I liked.  It doesn't rush it, it doesn't attack it, it simply makes poetry of the music.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole 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 ?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 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. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole 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
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler 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. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler 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!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 17, 2012, 03:39:54 PM
You're right, that's group A ! Thanks for your vote :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner 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! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole 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)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 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).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner 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
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal 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.

Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian 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!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 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 (http://www.timeanddate.com/counters/fullscreen.html?mode=a&year=2012&month=05&day=21&hour=00&min=0&sec=00&p0=195)






Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 20, 2012, 05:56:40 AM
 ;D
Exactlyy ! Thanks Opus106 !
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 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--
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 20, 2012, 12:16:12 PM
Que ? Brian ? Still waiting for your votes !
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian 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...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole 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 (http://classik.forumactif.com/t6155-ecoute-comparee-debussy-la-mer-1er-tour-20-5) (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.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51D0YNAHzxL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41TMAG9SYWL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


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...

(http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/543372Sanstitre1.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41AG9cM1Z8L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


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...

(http://img4.hostingpics.net/pics/491165Sanstitre2.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XmiGbvF-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


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.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31eo1ebHnVL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41qks%2B2epwL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)[/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.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/511rsq6pQTL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51HSvoX-H9L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


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).

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41KT5KZ4E3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51FgeGgK5yL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5164W0OYZSL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


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.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41F0VYSN13L._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ObJe4f0PL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


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.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51K81TJ8GXL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41X9JWXXVKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole 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.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 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
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: fridden on May 20, 2012, 09:13:12 PM
Results

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.


Hmm, apparantly my taste is similar to Richter since I ranked E2 my top choice.
My runner up were Munch, so both of my top choices are gone   :'(


/fridden
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 21, 2012, 12:36:34 AM
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

I just revealed 17 versions, I listened to 100 in total, then I don't think anyone can guess with certainty which are the 15 remaining versions. As long as you don't check your personal collection, of course, but that's an underlying rule.

F3 was probably the easiest to recognize, but not everyone did actually know it.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 21, 2012, 02:05:16 AM
Results

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.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51D0YNAHzxL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41TMAG9SYWL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)
Considering the year, the Koussevitzky sound was pretty remarkable (and I am glad you included it). I really enjoyed Group A. I felt that all of them had something redeeming and none was an outright stinker. This made it a difficult vote. I will be curious to see how A2 and A4 fare in the later rounds (as well as hearing parts from versions I've not heard yet).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on May 21, 2012, 02:56:21 AM
F3 - Despite the length, I didn't get bored.

F3 Sergiu Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker (EMI, live 1992)

About F3: I guessed as much. ;D

Celi's my favorite version of La Mer. It describes beautifully the majestic mass of the sea, and its crushing power.

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on May 21, 2012, 04:22:47 AM
Celi's my favorite version of La Mer. It describes beautifully the majestic mass of the sea, and its crushing power.

Sarge

Quite. The music really doesn't need to be 'sped up', methinks.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on May 21, 2012, 07:08:38 AM
Very interesting results! Glad to see that most of my favourites from the three groups I did have got through to the next round, although it's a shame that Koussevitzky did not get through though, I really enjoyed that one!

Looking forward to the next round, thank you Discobole! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on May 21, 2012, 08:22:36 AM
Interesting, for group B my votes aligned perfectly with the voters as a whole, but in group H my rankings were exactly the opposite of the final tally! Szell was my top choice there. But I found the four selections in H very similar in their pace, feel, and good-but-not-special-ness.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 21, 2012, 08:25:39 AM
Quite. The music really doesn't need to be 'sped up', methinks.

It doesn't really need to be slowed down either  ;D

If you follow the indications on the score, the first movement should last about 8 minutes. 9 is already quite slow. But Celi takes 13 minutes !
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on May 21, 2012, 08:34:45 AM
This first round was really a great fun, I enjoyed listening to those recordings so much! ;D I'm looking forward to the second turn, hope Karajan's version will score very high this time!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on May 21, 2012, 09:15:15 AM
It doesn't really need to be slowed down either  ;D

If you follow the indications on the score, the first movement should last about 8 minutes. 9 is already quite slow. But Celi takes 13 minutes !

Yes, which is exactly why Celi is so special. A true interpreter, going to the heart of the music even if it contradicts the composer   :D  8)

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on May 21, 2012, 09:17:10 AM
Szell was my top choice there.

You're my hero  :) So worthy, you should have been born in northeast Ohio, in 40s ;D

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on May 21, 2012, 09:40:29 AM
If you follow the indications on the score, the first movement should last about 8 minutes.

How many manage to clock it at 8? Off top of my head I can think of only one.

Interesting results of first the round. I'm now especially curious about group E, two recordings that flat out eliminated Desormiere and Munch, both more than very fine in my opinion.

But then again not much of an opinion as it seems, almost completely dismissed recording I [thought] like a lot (Markevitch).

Are voters maybe bit too much demanding of sound quality, if only one mono recording made it to second round? Personally I tried to disregard it as much as possible (voted for G2 even though hated the sound)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidW on May 21, 2012, 09:46:32 AM
Are voters maybe bit too much demanding of sound quality, if only one mono recording made it to second round? Personally I tried to disregard it as much as possible (voted for G2 even though hated the sound)

I was in group A but I wanted to chime in that I listen through pc speakers so that I don't much notice or care about sound quality.  They are sufficient to judge performance choices but not good enough speakers to appreciate differences in sound quality.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 21, 2012, 09:48:13 AM
How many manage to clock it at 8? Off top of my head I can think of only one.

Interesting results of first the round. I'm now especially curious about group E, two recordings that flat out eliminated Desormiere and Munch, both more than very fine in my opinion.

But then again not much of an opinion as it seems, almost completely dismissed recording I [thought] like a lot (Markevitch).

Are voters maybe bit too much demanding of sound quality, if only one mono recording made it to second round? Personally I tried to disregard it as much as possible (voted for G2 even though hated the sound)

It depends, in the past many mono recordings made it to the final round in some comparisons. Some voters take in into account more than others, but I don't think anyone judges only on this criterium. But maybe people allow more importance to sound quality in La Mer than in Schumann's 4th or in Tod und Verklärung, for instance. In any case it will be interesting to watch D1 in the second round.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 21, 2012, 09:55:30 AM
Are voters maybe bit too much demanding of sound quality, if only one mono recording made it to second round? Personally I tried to disregard it as much as possible (voted for G2 even though hated the sound)
Perhaps. I don't look at this exercise as which is the best version to buy, but rather which is the best executed performance. Poor sound can be hard on us, because it might hide details of the performance, but I try to let the performance take priority regardless of the sound. The Schumann, for example, had more recordings that were older. Because of the nature of Debussy, it may put older recordings at more of a disadvantage.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 22, 2012, 09:30:32 AM
Perhaps. I don't look at this exercise as which is the best version to buy, but rather which is the best executed performance. Poor sound can be hard on us, because it might hide details of the performance, but I try to let the performance take priority regardless of the sound. The Schumann, for example, had more recordings that were older. Because of the nature of Debussy, it may put older recordings at more of a disadvantage.

You're certainly right. The older versions I selected were in my opinion essential. Still, they didn't make it because of the sound quality, and it is true that, whatever their qualities are, I'd probably not listen to them as frequently as more modern versions, even if I don't really prefer the interpretation. La Mer is a piece you can listen to in an impersonal interpretation, more than Schumann's 4th for instance.
Coppola and Koussevitzky are among my favourites of La Mer but I probably won't listen to them when I wake up and think "I'd like to hear La Mer today" ; I'll prefer something a little more pretty acoustically.

Changing subject, you should have received your groups by now. Of course just ask if you want to listen another one too, or even all 5 of them.

And, finally, anyone can join the comparison at any moment ! Don't hesitate, please, we need your opinion :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 22, 2012, 09:39:30 AM
About the deadline, votes will end on the evening of June 3, midnight CEST/UTC+2

http://www.timeanddate.com/counters/fullscreen.html?mode=a&year=2012&month=6&day=4&p0=195
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on May 22, 2012, 10:15:34 AM
http://www.timeanddate.com/counters/fullscreen.html?mode=a&year=2012&month=6&day=4&p0=195

;D I prefer the in-your-face version.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 28, 2012, 11:58:12 PM
Here are my comments for Groupe de Jersey (a really fascinating group):

What an intriguing draw. E1 is flat out gorgeous in sound. It is seductive. H1 is not, but the tension in that one is much higher (though there is also a harshness to it).  A2 has the best of both and elements of both, which makes the impact resonate well. So which should it be: seductive and big (E1), more mysterious with lots of tension and playful (H1), or balance, expressiveness and a little of everything (A2)? This is a simplistic way of putting it, but it seems to me the big difference here is the different approach each took. All of them had something interesting to say. But I have to pick my favorites, so here is the order I would put them:
A2
H1
E1

E1 – Meh at the start. It seems too flat-footed. It feels so much slower than the others at the start. But then when the waves come, there is a serious jump up in quality.  Gorgeous flutes and woodwinds (really superb phrasing).  I don’t respond as well to the strings or brass here, but the tuttis are pretty powerful. I cannot recall a performance of any piece where I responded to one section of an orchestra, but not the others to such a degree. The second clip is very playful. Quality of the recording is fine too, which is helping it sound better than I think it is. In fact, on second listen, this was a real disappointment – the beauty stays on the surface, but I fear people may be seduced by that.  Ranking: 3

H1 – A better start, where everything is sharper. This one has more mystery to it at the beginning. But I found the transition to the waves a bit weak.  Where the E1 flute was simply beauty personified, this one strikes me as more ethereal and floating above the waves. What an interesting contrast! Build ups to the tuttis are what grab one here. Cellos are fine.  There is more tension in this version and though the resolution is not as earth-shattering as E1, the effect is in many ways stronger. Clip 2 is more flighty than playful and I think it works quite well. Great impact, though harsh sometimes. I loved clip 2 here much better than E1. Ranking: 2

A2 – Good tension to start. This one gives me more highs and lows in the first clip (sway). This flute is earth bound wishing it could soar (it’s how it strikes me).  One feels the whole orchestra is in the moment at all times. Good balance here, one senses wind and obstacles in addition to the waves.  When the big peaks come here, I am swept along. It (clip 1) has everything: grandeur, beauty, mystery, and more. Clip 2 has the beauty I loved in E1 along with the flightiness/playfulness of both, but it is even more impressionistic than the others. This one has no less tension than H1, but allows it to release more effectively. Ranking: 1
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 29, 2012, 01:46:25 AM
Thanks, very interesting ! About this group...

... there are already 7 votes (but 5 more expected) and things are really close, it is difficult to imagine what will happen exactly. Actually each version is someone's favourite. E1 is a little ahead, but H1 and even A2 (which was only second of its group and sharply criticized by some in the first round) could still qualify for the final round.
Anyway I predict there will be some surprises in this group...


mc ukrneal, do you wish to try another group before the end of 2nd round, next Sunday ?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 29, 2012, 02:44:17 AM

mc ukrneal, do you wish to try another group before the end of 2nd round, next Sunday ?
Hmm. It is tempting. If there is one that needs an additional vote, you could send it my way.

As to the results so far: That E1 is winning really boggles my mind a bit. I could accept H1, but E1 does not wear well for me. And I was struggling to understand what others see in it beyond the great sound. It may be as I feared then
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on May 29, 2012, 03:09:14 AM
I personally really prefer E1 to H1 (A2 is a different story). I don't know what I would have voted but H1 would have been last, despite its technical quality. I find this reading really too soft, emptying the score from all its tension and violence. I'd call this interpretation optimistic, and La Mer is not particularly optimistic...

I send to you the Eastbourne group (in which Brian and Drasko are voting too), it's one voter behind others.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 29, 2012, 03:30:01 AM
I send to you the Eastbourne group (in which Brian and Drasko are voting too), it's one voter behind others.
Ok. I like that it will be three versions I have not yet heard - It will be a totally fresh opinion.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 30, 2012, 12:24:36 AM
Here are my comments for Groupe d’Eastbourne:

Again, I fear that the beauty of the sound from the first version (C3) will simply seduce people to the dark side! :) C3 was barely acceptable in terms of interpretation though.  B4 was fine in the first clip, but outstanding in the second. I was really bowled over by it. G2 seems to be lacking as well, but I think it edged out C3. So my ranking:
B4
G2
C3

C3 – A bit dry start – not much mystery. Hmmm. This one seems flat to me or subdued. There is no sense of awakening. As it moves on, it seems to improve somewhat, but I cannot quite put my finger on the issue. To think this was a clear winner in its group. It does have a nice ending (clip 1), but I thought otherwise quite dull. There was no nuance or subtlety, no pixie dust. The second clip is better, but again I am struggling to stay engaged. This is a first for me in this piece. Toward the end of clip, things got a bit more interesting. I think it simply does not portray the sea/waves well and this feeling for me is lost. Disappointing. Ranking: 3

B4 –  I was starting to think I might be in the wrong mood, but this one has already what I think the other lacked – a sense of rocking/sway, mystery/tension in the piece.  It could have even more tension and flow, but overall ok. The flute sings nicely in its solo. Some imprecision in entrances hurts, especially when the cellos come in, though the spell is quickly re-established.  Edgier second clip, probably because of how fast it is taken, which I rather liked. It creates more contrast, which I think is a positive for La Mer. One of the most successful second movements I’ve heard in terms of making an impact (though not necessarily my favorite). This is the only version in Eastbourne that left me wanting to hear more. Ranking: 1

G2 – Also a rather subdued start. Some sweetness and longing at times, but lacks some of the impressionistic feel the piece needs (and missing the rock/sway it needs), but it does create some impressionable peaks on the highs.  Also some great beauty towards the end of clip 1.  The second clip has a sense of flightiness, but creates edge (tension) through the dissonances more so than some.   Ranking: 2
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 02, 2012, 05:08:22 AM
Sorry for taking a while, the last couple of weeks have been particularly hectic and exhausting. School half-term break has just started now though, so I have much more time! :)
 
My votes for the Paris group:
D2 – This was one that I didn’t rate highly at all in the first part of the comparison. On listening again to the first movement of this performance, I still do not particularly like some parts of the interpretation, but am actually enjoying it more than last time. And the orchestral playing is generally excellent. The second movement is better, although in my opinion, lacks excitement, enthusiasm and the urges of desire that this movement presents. A little too relaxed in other words. However, again I must mention that the orchestra is excellent. I don’t think the conductor is really encouraging the orchestra enough though, and sometimes the balance isn’t quite perfect. Ending handled very beautifully though. Overall, not bad, but not a performance that brings out as excited a response from me that many others do! 5/10

B3 – Another recording that seems too relaxed, seeming to lack enthusiasm, and certainly lacking in excitement. Some very beautiful playing, and some gorgeous moments the opening, for example is very good. Generally the whole first half bears far better than the second half. Lots of wonderful dynamic contrast, and the tempi are generally great. But from the celli section solo, it just lacks energy, and is far too slow. Hmmm... interesting approach to the final chord... not quite sure if it worked in my opinion... Onto the second movement! From the beginning, a very fascinating approach. Very very clear articulations, maybe a little too sharp in places. Very energetic, and also exciting, but perhaps just lacking that extra bit of urge and passion that I look for this movement. 6/10

C2 – The first movement was very good indeed!  Overall, great choices of tempi, some very beautiful orchestral playing and a good control from the conductor. Not much to fault with this performance really, maybe there could have been just slightly more energy, and perhaps more dynamic contrast. Very powerful performance of the ending, very moving! Second movement now.  Very playful, I love the choice of tempo. Great playing from the orchestra, but still lacking that extra bit of urgency, desire, and energy which I believe are the main themes of this movement. This is a very good performance, and certainly the best out of the three here, just wish it had a little more excitement. 7/10

So, order of votes:
3) D2
2) B3
1) C2
Please can you send me another group as well, Discobole? Thank you! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 02, 2012, 10:44:39 AM
This message is just sent to remind you that the second round of this blind comparison will end tomorrow evening, Sunday, June 3, at midnight CET/UTC+2, in roughly 26 hours.
Don't forget to post your comments and your vote on your group before this time, or tell me if you need more time so that I wait for you.

I hope everyone is interested by these very diverse versions :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 02, 2012, 01:48:42 PM
Sorry, completely slipped my mind, but I'm sure I'll make it for tomorrow evening.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 02, 2012, 06:43:11 PM
Eastbourne

NB: I listened only to the second clip from each at first, using the first clip as tiebreaker. I did require a tiebreaker!

C3: I liked this quite a lot. The sound quality is really incredibly good. There are, though, moments which seem to be rather soft in focus (the first violin tune; the repeat of this material goes better) and where the pace seems to hang for a moment (4:00). The final couple minutes manage a very good slide from the frenetic climax to the peaceful ending. Happy to say 8/10.

B4: I voted for this recording's first movement last time out. And I feel vindicated because the second movement is fantastic! Love the opening pace, the woodwinds 0:55-1:00. This reading is really very exciting, partly because it's so fast, partly because there is such physical force at moments like 1:37. We are obviously dealing with a truly unique interpretation, even faster than my favorite very fast performance (EDIT: names deleted to preserve mystery!). 3:58, again so much mystery. I feel guilty liking such a speedy account, but this has such character, such exuberance, and the playing glows with a warm loving energy I find irresistible. It's probably too odd to be a first choice, but I would listen to this disc quite a lot if I owned it. 9/10

G2: Slightly more recessed sound is my very first impression. I do like the opening, though, very sharp trumpets, excellent violins at 0:50, surging motion clearly felt around 5:00, actually this is an excellent account! Three really good recordings here. I liked C3 a lot, but B4 and G2 are each truly inspired and I am sad I have to vote for only one. G2 feels in places as fast and energetic as B4, but in other places I can sense the greater diversity of feeling in this account. I rate G2 a score of 9/10 as well.

For sound quality and sheer excitement, B4 would be my first choice, but G2 strikes me as the more "complete" reading. I decided to use a tiebreaker - the first clip! Again I'm in a fix - I simply love the impressionistic brush-strokes of G2's first movement, particularly in quiet moments like 1:50-2:30, though you could argue that this feels more like a very calm lake than a sea! I also find a couple climaxes underpowered. By the end I had tired of it a little bit. Pity, because the second movement was such a delight. B4 I heard once already and gave an 8/10; my enthusiasm continues. Also, I now believe B4 to either be a live recording or a fairly old recording in unnaturally good sound. I hear quite a bit of performance noise which does not detract from the excellence. B4 wins the tiebreaker.

First choice: B4
Second choice: G2
Third choice: C3

Wow, a difficult group with two truly excellent readings!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 03, 2012, 05:48:55 AM
Groupe de Jersey votes! :D

E1 – Beautiful, hushed atmosphere at the opening. A very lively feel afterwards, creating a wonderful flow. Very powerful  ending, I love the way the horns are brought out here. Excellent percussion as well. My only criticism is that this is the most ‘uneven’ performance I have heard so far, a more episodic feel to it. May not be a bad thing though. Onto the second movement, certainly very playful. I love this movement for the incredible energy and sense of urgency and desire, and I think this performance tends to be successful in getting those themes through, it is very expressive and the tempo is a good choice. Although, at the main climax of this movement, probably my favourite part of the whole work, maybe it lacks just a little extra enthusiasm, only a little. Incredibly gorgeous, extremely well handled ending to this movement. Very good overall, with lovely sound quality and it’s certainly very evocative and enjoyable. 7/10

H1 – Throughout most of the movement, the orchestra and conductor seem rather relaxed, presenting a far calmer sea through what is a very ‘nice’ performance. There’s not much wrong with it, and the climaxes are generally well done, although most of the performance lacks a little enthusiasm and tension when needed, nothing really ‘grabs’ me like some of the other performances do. Onto the second movement – Some very nice orchestral playing, well controlled, very warm, expressive. More enthusiasm and energy than the first movement, although for me, still just a little too relaxed, I tend to judge this movement on the climax towards the ending, which I have said is probably my favourite part of the whole piece, and I like to have it more ‘driven’ and the word I always use ‘urgent’. And I would have liked to have more harp as well! So, overall, a very ‘nice’ performance, just a little too relaxed. 6/10

A2 – I remember liking this one in the first round, and saying that I would be excited to hear more of the performance. And I certainly am – just re-listening to the first movement though, and I agree completely with my comments from the first round that it is a very enthusiastic, brilliant performance. Although a little messy at times, the orchestra is absolutely wonderful, giving a very enthusiastic, beautiful performance. I enjoy it very much! On from the incredibly powerful performance of the ending, onto the second movement. Very atmospheric, magical and expressive, and playful too! The climax was done very well, great energy and passion, and the layers are controlled very well. Gorgeous ending too. Overall, outstanding! 9/10

So, voting order:
3) H1
2) E1
_____________________
1) A2
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 03, 2012, 07:01:01 AM
I'm not sure I will be able to post my comments in time for the end of the turn; if I wasn't, could I have a little extra time? I can certainly post my thoughts tomorrow afternoon.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 03, 2012, 07:09:55 AM
I'm not sure I will be able to post my comments in time for the end of the turn; if I wasn't, could I have a little extra time? I can certainly post my thoughts tomorrow afternoon.

OK I'll wait for your vote tomorrow ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 03, 2012, 07:52:33 AM
OK I'll wait for your vote tomorrow ;)

Thank you so much :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 03, 2012, 09:34:04 AM
Dieppe. In the order you gave them to me: F1, H4 and E4.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 03, 2012, 09:42:00 AM
So you vote for them in this same order ?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 03, 2012, 09:54:57 AM
So you vote for them in this same order ?

Yes.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 03, 2012, 11:56:39 AM
Huh, made it, really hasty listening this time. Hopefully I'll have more time for final round. I think I recognize both C3 and B4 but tried not to let that skew the impressions (but once the idea gets into your mind it's difficult to get rid of it).

Eastbourne:

C3 - Awesome!!! Where really this one stand above is textural balance, conductor has incredible ears, even in busiest loudest climaxes everything is audible, yet for all the detail it never gets bogged down. Tempos are more or less middle of the road, flow seamlessly with tension arising from the texture rather than from pushing and pulling or exaggerating dynamics. To some it might sound bit cold but not for me. Orchestra has strong but slender sounding strings, crisp piercing trumpets, precise but somewhat nondescript horns (I like them bit more brassy), excellent winds, not that much blend across the sections (me like). Sound is clear and analytical modern, probably multimiked, maybe even with some fake reverb (violin solo).

B4 - Now this is completely opposite conception of orchestral sound, plush and huge with far more homogeneity and strings/brass blend. More outwardly dramatic reading than C3, achieved more through dynamic shifts and shear volume of the sound. Which can get really impressive, but also murky and lose some detail, for instance climax prior to cellos solo comes across as huge awash of sound, but trumpet flourish at the beginning of Jeux de vagues is pretty inarticulate ... The whole of second movement is rather too aggressively taken for my taste, forced play with little repose. Sound is very good stereo, judging by fair amount of tape hiss at the very beginning, 60s most likely.

G2 - All of my comments from first round still stand, only thing is the more I hear it the less I like it.

ranking:
1 -C3
2 - B4
3 - G2
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 04, 2012, 01:49:29 AM
What a very enchanting group, I really enjoyed listening to the recordings it contained, definitely; here's my vote for the Jersey group, thanks again for giving me some extra time, Discobole! :)

E1 - Brilliant and intense introduction, with a very clear and splendid sound quality. The whole movement is pervaded by a thrilling, evocative atmosphere and a great harmonic richness, beautifully expressed by the colourful orchestration (woodwinds and percussion are stunning). Dynamics is excellent and gives energy and passion to the piece; also the choice of the tempo and the phrasing are very good. Melodious and suggestive finale, with a gorgeous and powerful climax.
The second movement shows the same atmosphere of the first one, incredibly beautiful, playful and expressive, adding also a touch of tension and mystery; it has great energy and evocative power. The perfomance of the orchestra is superb, all the instrumentation and the themes merge brilliantly, creating a wonderful flow of music; percussion and brass are very well handled. Same speech for dynamics and tempo, whic are excellent.

H1 - The opening is bright and suggestive, and the solo of woodwind is quite melodious and intense; overall also in this performance, the orchestral playing is very beautiful, with splendid dinamics and a remarkable phrasing. The choice of the tempo is interesting: the movement sounds rather fast in the first half, whereas the rythm choosen in the other one seems to be slightly slower, especially in the final climax; thought the effect is very good. The atmosphere is less ethereal and harmonic compared to the previous recording, but it's a bit more powerful and impressive, extremely passionate.
Again, the second movement repeat the brilliant playing of the first, beautifully balanced and handled; the rythm doesn't change speed during the piece and it's rather involving. The atmosphere is tense and thrilling, but also powerful and having a great effect, enphasized by a stronger use of percussion and brass.

A2 - The performance of the orchestra is outstanding here; it sometimes doesn't sound as precise and clear as the others, but the deep passion, the huge intensity and the enthusiasm expressed perfectly counterbalace that. The opening has shows a great tension and beauty, it evokes me waves getting stronger and stronger, ready to strike you with their overhwlming energy. The final climax is absolutely gorgeous and powerful, I really liked it. Wonderful dynamics and choice of the tempo.
The second movement is very beautiful and thrilling, suggestive and mysterious; also in this part, the energy and enthusiasm expressed are very involving. The climaxes are very well played by the orchestra and are very gorgeous; the use of the glockenspiel and the harp is excellent and the solos of the woowinds are quite vibrant and melodious.

Ranking:
H1
A2
E1
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 04, 2012, 02:01:35 AM
I should be able to post my vote for my third group within the next 2 hours, if you don't mind waiting? :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 04, 2012, 02:45:09 AM
Not at all, I'll publish results in the evening.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 04, 2012, 05:31:33 AM
Not at all, I'll publish results in the evening.

Thank you for waiting!

Votes for l'Eastbourne!

C3 – Despite the rather dull opening to the first movement, this is a rather nicely flowing performance. The orchestra is controlled extremely well in terms of balance, and there is some very expressive, beautiful playing. I particularly enjoyed the celli in their section solo. And the way the ending was handled was very good indeed, especially in the final chord. However, quite often at other places there is a lack of contrast which limits the excitement of the music. Onto the second movement! The control of the orchestra is absolutely superb, and generally this movement is done very well. My only criticism is that I would have preferred more tension and ‘weight’ at the climax; I know I am always going on about that bit in particular, but it is probably my favourite part of the whole piece! Overall, good! And, I am very impressed with this conductor! 7/10

B4 – A very enthusiastic orchestra from the very start, and they provide a very enjoyable performance. The sound, despite probably being rather old, is very warm and wonderful, though some of the details become slightly unclear, and the gong is completely inaudible at the end! The climaxes are exciting, and the choices of tempi are great. A superb dynamic contrast too! Second movement – A great sense of playfulness, full of energy! In my eyes, this is exactly how this movement should be done. The climax I am always being extra critical of when rating performances is done with extreme urgency and excitement here, exactly how I like it. Out of the 9 performances of this movement in the 3 groups I have done for this part of the comparison, this is easily my favourite. And for that, I have to give it: 10/10! Excellent!

G2 – I remember marking this very highly in the first round. It certainly is a performance full of character, and it has many nice moments. However, on listening again, I think the sound is a little dry, and there are places in need of a little more expression. I agree with my earlier comment that the orchestra clearly are very enthusiastic though. Very powerful ending though.  Second movement. I do really like the orchestra, very expressive and enthusiastic. They give this movement a very joyous interpretation, if not as exciting as the other performances.
Voting order:

3) G4
2) C3
____________
1) B4

I love this piece SO much! :) Thanks, Discobole, really enjoying this comparison.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 04, 2012, 06:03:14 AM
I love this piece SO much! :) Thanks, Discobole, really enjoying this comparison.

And thanks to this comparison, I'm beginning to like the work. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 04, 2012, 02:41:53 PM
I'll post the results tomorrow :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 05, 2012, 12:52:41 PM
I'll post the results tomorrow :)

ahem!  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 05, 2012, 12:56:31 PM
Very excited! :D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 05, 2012, 03:41:17 PM
Here I am, sorry for the delay, I had an Abbado concert tonight :P

So, as planned, 1 version is qualified in each group. Some of the group rankings were very tight right until the end. Here are a few details and the eliminated versions :

Jersey group

Tables : http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/8087512Jersey.jpg

1. E1 ---> qualified
2. A2 ---> éliminated
3. H1 ---> éliminated

3rd : H1 - Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (Philips, 12/1976)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GjTOh9qJL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

2nd : A2 - Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic (Columbia/Sony, 16/10/1961)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51e1Kri7umL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Eastbourne group

Tables : http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/4014012East.jpg

1. C3 ---> qualified
2. B4 ---> eliminated
3. G2 ---> eliminated

3rd : G2 - Serge Baudo, London Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI, 1/1986)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41F74PASVBL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61nK-33OeKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

2nd : B4 - Herbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker (DG, 9-10/3/1964)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/616X577Qu-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61LLZz15lhL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Dieppe group

Tables : http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/7764612Dieppe.jpg

1. H4 ---> qualified
2. E4 ---> eliminated
3. F1 ---> eliminated

3rd : F1 - Jean Martinon, Orchestre national de l'ORTF (EMI, 1973)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61EhrxttxyL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51D24ciyhSL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wPPVJC1FL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

2nd : E4 - Michael Tilson Thomas, Philharmonia Orchestra (CBS, 1982)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41SFE2K6Q4L._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51v2TXynRhL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Bichain group

Tables : http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/6020832Bichain.jpg (there is a little mistake on the count of Anaxagore, actually A4 is behind D1, therefore third in the global ranking)

1. G4 ---> qualified
2. D1 ---> eliminated
3. A4 ---> eliminated

3rd : A4 - Evgueni Svetlanov, Orchestre national de France (Naïve, 25/1/2001)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/415PA89MMEL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

2nd : D1 - Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 19/7/1954)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41C49ARYBWL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Paris group

Tables : http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/7627972PAris.jpg

1. D2 ---> qualified
2. C2 ---> eliminated
3. B3 ---> eliminated

3rd : B3 - Jean Fournet, Česká filharmonie (Supraphon, 27/10/1963)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61ur1xEuA8L._SL500_AA280_.jpg)

2nd : C2 - Charles Dutoit, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Decca, 1989)
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51v%2Bvyt1F3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


FINALISTS

C3
D2
E1
G4
H4


I'll send you the links during the day, for sure ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 05, 2012, 03:48:08 PM
I count the following participants for the finals, for now :

Brian
Drasko
Lisztianwagner
madaboutmahler
mc ukrneal
Opus106

But do not hesitate to join for this big final round, with 5 great and mysterious versions !
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 05, 2012, 08:55:32 PM
Interesting results. In particular, it looks like GMG has a different opinion when compared alone against the other forums. In particular, E1 would not have won and B4 was a clear winner on GMG (with three firsts and a second). I wonder if that is just luck (few participants) or a real trend. Still, an intriguing twist to the results.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 05, 2012, 11:52:19 PM
Given that both first and second round went exactly as I voted I have very little to object. 8) Some interesting titles here. I'd love to hear Svetlanov and Fournet, and one of the recordings that left Munch and Desormiere in the dust is Tilson Thomas, I've heard that years ago and have absolutely no recollection how it was.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 05, 2012, 11:58:27 PM
Given that both first and second round went exactly as I voted I have very little to object. 8) Some interesting titles here. I'd love to hear Svetlanov and Fournet, and one of the recordings that left Munch and Desormiere in the dust is Tilson Thomas, I've heard that years ago and have absolutely no recollection how it was.
The Svetlanov surprised me - that was not what I was expecting. I enjoyed that one in the first round. The Berntein was also a surprise, though I guess it shouldn't have been. I never associate him with this type of music, but he really has its measure in full. Alas, I didn't get a chance to listen to the MTT version...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 06, 2012, 01:29:23 AM
Very sorry Karajan's recording didn't go on; I'm looking forward to starting the final turn now :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 06, 2012, 02:14:51 AM
What interesting results!

So it was Karajan I liked so much?!!!!! Gosh... Well, Ilaria must be pleased at least! Shame it didn't get through, it was actually my favourite out of the 9 I compared in this part of the comparison, and the only one I gave 10/10! I think I better revisit that recording!

I am also keen to get the Bernstein now which I rated very highly. Probably my favourite after the Karajan in this part of the comparison.

I'm amazed that Martinon is out as well... I'm sure I would have voted for him if I had done that group as well. ;)

Sigh... a few of the performances that I didn't like so much have made it through to the final... I am particularly excited to hear the rest of C3 and G4 though, and shall go into the others with an open mind as well. ;)
Looking forward to it, thank you, Discobole! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 06, 2012, 02:45:40 AM
So it was Karajan I liked so much?!!!!! Gosh... Well, Ilaria must be pleased at least! Shame it didn't get through, it was actually my favourite out of the 9 I compared in this part of the comparison, and the only one I gave 10/10! I think I better revisit that recording!

Of course I am, you know the Karajan is my favourite recording of La Mer ;) Pity it has never been in my groups....
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 06, 2012, 03:33:27 AM
Of course I am, you know the Karajan is my favourite recording of La Mer ;) Pity it has never been in my groups....
I agree - it was very good indeed (and my favorite in its group). I thought it about on par with the Bernstein - not sure which I would have picked between them. But now I don't have to! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 06, 2012, 03:50:24 AM
Of course I am, you know the Karajan is my favourite recording of La Mer ;) Pity it has never been in my groups....

:D I need to listen to the recording in full again. The only thing I didn't like about it when listening to it in the comparison was that the tam tam was inaudible at the end of the first movement... ;)

I agree - it was very good indeed (and my favorite in its group). I thought it about on par with the Bernstein - not sure which I would have picked between them. But now I don't have to! :)

I agree, I think the Karajan and the Bernstein were easily my favourites out of the 9 I compared for this part of the comparison!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 06, 2012, 04:27:16 AM
I agree - it was very good indeed (and my favorite in its group). I thought it about on par with the Bernstein - not sure which I would have picked between them. But now I don't have to! :)
:D I need to listen to the recording in full again. The only thing I didn't like about it when listening to it in the comparison was that the tam tam was inaudible at the end of the first movement... ;)

I agree, I think the Karajan and the Bernstein were easily my favourites out of the 9 I compared for this part of the comparison!

 :D ;D

Bernstein's recording surprised me in a very positive way: I had never listened to it before, but I found it incredibly evocative and thrilling; the orchestral playing was outstanding, extremely powerful and involving. An excellent version, no doubt about that.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 06, 2012, 06:09:57 AM
I agree with you on the Bernstein version, I was surprised myself when hearing it and could not leave it out of the contest. It is incredibly full of vigour, violence, it is colorful and lively, which is frankly quite what Debussy asks for. This version is more authentic in a way than many "French" versions (as Fournet or Baudo, even if I like those).

Karajan is a classic, and this listening showed there are good reasons for that.

I love this Svetlanov version, it is very special, I listened to it a lot during my pre-listenings, even if I already knew it well. It is unique, I think no other orchestra has ever been more intimate with this score than the ONF at this time. And the genius of Svetlanov is to offer a fresh visit of La Mer, fascinated by its every detail without losing tension (the climaxes are so powerful !). And therefore fascinating (and this orchestra was so good 10 years ago !)

It appears I didn't count Lisztianwagner correctly, actually E1 is qualified on a wider margin as he put it first, not last ! And for the same reason Bernstein is 2nd of the Jersey group, not 3rd. Haitink is last.

I'll post links tonight, probably late, coz I have another concert. Not Abbado this time but Rozhdestvensky in Shostakovich's 10th :P :P 8)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 06, 2012, 06:14:30 AM
I'll post links tonight, probably late, coz I have another concert. Not Abbado this time but Rozhdestvensky in Shostakovich's 10th :P :P 8)

Sounds as if you go to quite a few good concerts then! ;) I'm actually seeing La Mer live this Sunday, Rattle conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. This comparison has made me even more excited about it, and will probably make me even more critical of the performance! :D

Looking forward to the final part! :) 
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 06, 2012, 06:30:51 AM
It appears I didn't count Lisztianwagner correctly, actually E1 is qualified on a wider margin as he put it first, not last ! And for the same reason Bernstein is 2nd of the Jersey group, not 3rd. Haitink is last.

I'll post links tonight, probably late, coz I have another concert. Not Abbado this time but Rozhdestvensky in Shostakovich's 10th :P :P 8)

No problem, it was my fault that I didn't specify the right order; anyway thank you for your kindness :)

I'm very curios to listen to the final part and to know the results! ;D

Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 06, 2012, 08:24:02 AM
Not Abbado this time but Rozhdestvensky in Shostakovich's 10th :P :P 8)

Wow, you're lucky!!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 06, 2012, 03:13:14 PM
Sounds as if you go to quite a few good concerts then! ;) I'm actually seeing La Mer live this Sunday, Rattle conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. This comparison has made me even more excited about it, and will probably make me even more critical of the performance! :D

Wow, you're lucky!!

Frankly, the season in Paris has its bad sides and I'd love to live in Berlin for music. But still, there are some good things sometimes ;)

@madaboutmahler. La Mer with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment... Yes I saw this program, it was played on Monday in Paris but I didn't go (I'm more Salle Pleyel than Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and frankly I had doubts on the orchestre in this program... But it is still interesting, and Aimard in Ravel, that should be great too)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 07, 2012, 02:09:16 AM
@madaboutmahler. La Mer with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment... Yes I saw this program, it was played on Monday in Paris but I didn't go (I'm more Salle Pleyel than Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and frankly I had doubts on the orchestre in this program... But it is still interesting, and Aimard in Ravel, that should be great too)

Yes... I am rather interested in how this particular orchestra will sound in this repertoire. I find it interesting that Rattle has programmed a whole evening of impressionist music for an orchestra who barely venture outside anything written after Brahms! But the programme is irresistable, and I am very excited to see Rattle live. I'll be seeing him live again in the summer, conducting the Berlin Phil in Ligeti/Wagner/Sibelius/Debussy/Ravel (great programme!) at the BBC Proms. :D

Just recieved the links for the final part - looking forward to it, thank you! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 13, 2012, 02:13:49 AM
Comments for the La Mer Final Blind Listening:

This group was a bit disappointing group for me. I think G4 and H4 were far more interesting than the rest. G4 stood out in the end – it characterized the piece well, showed lots of detail, and played with restraint, which allowed this version to really play with color the most effectively. G4 was a real joy in the middle movement in particular, but also had a strong ending. H4 wasn’t far behind – also very good. But the rest were leagues behind for me (and this really stands out in direct comparisons when small clips are played back to back). One thing that seemed to work, despite everything, was the end of G4 (the last 30 seconds or so). I’ve compared this moment against the others and clearly this one is different. The highs have been subsumed into the main orchestra and this effect I find pleasing (as they rise out of it), though C3 tries to do something similar, just not with the same impact.  So my final ranking was: G4, H4, E1, D2, C3.

C3: First movement - slow, tame opening. Dull. There is no tension, no swells/waves. Where is the contrast? Even the peaks are flat, which is a real let down. Second movement – more or less the same critique, though perhaps a bit improved. Third movement carries over all the issues from the previous movements, though they are finally starting to show some tension across parts of the movement. Orchestra is quite in synch, which is good, and they produce an attractive sound. Some of the solo bits that stick out are quite well played. Overall though, this one is a dud, lacking excitement throughout most of it. Ranking: 5

D2: Some contrast at the start. Still, could be more. The swells/waves are at least evident. But this too has a certain blandness and lack of contrast. Better toward the end of the movement. Playing is good. Second movement is more or less a continuation, again with too little tension/contrast. There is some nice phrasing here, but it never seems to turn into anything consistently until we get half way through the movement and then it at least holds the interest. Third movement starts darker, but doesn’t really ever get off the ground.  When it finally does so, the impact is totally lost, because the stuff that leads up to it is so bland and the end has little impact. Ranking: 4

E1: A little more mystery in the first clip compared to D2 or C3, though not consistently engaging. There is at least some sense of waves/swells (and contrast) here. There is some lovely wind playing at times. The tutties are handled quite well. The second clip is light and flighty and contrasts fairly well with the first. On listening to this version again, I think I just prefer a bit more weight or edge here than they give it, but it seems to work taken on its own terms. Unison playing sometimes comes under threat. Third movement strikes me as again uneven. Tuttis are wonderfully done, but the stuff in between is uneven (loses speed and urgency). Overall, a mixed result, and not one I would want to return to. Ranking: 3

G4: Understated beginning lends it strength as it goes on and the phrasing is stronger, with a much stronger sense of swells and waves. Lots of subtlety! Phrasing at the end of the clip is quite interesting and lends strength to the whole interpretation even though it never hits the peaks as some other versions do. Second clip is just so well done. The different effects really stand out here – a delightful movement (just a joy to listen to) and very well played. I could listen to this one over and over (love the impact at 1.45-1.50 for example). The third clip has some great tension as the wind and sea combine here (and so much detail). Finally, we have an ending that matches the spirit of the piece!  The balance of the orchestra compared to the others is different too (and this one creates effects and impacts not heard elsewhere – just listen to the last 20-30 seconds, where the trumpets are only lightly audible over the lows playing away and then those highs rise out of it – quite thrilling, both hearing the lows more strongly and then the crescendo of sound that crashes down). Overall, this one is excellent! The more I hear the more I like it. The instruments themselves seem to rise in and out, which totally reinforces the style of the piece.  Ranking: 1

H4: Stylish start. First clip is nicely done, with interesting phrasing. I think I preferred the more restrained approach of G4 in some ways. There is a nice depth and transparency to this one. Another good second clip. This one was a bit more hectic feeling than G4. Another good ending in the last clip, though I think the spirit of the ending is stronger in G4. This one has less of a feeling of wind and sea in the early going (losing a bit of detail in places) , but I still really enjoyed it. The peaks are really something.  Overall, this one was a good recording. Ranking: 2.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 14, 2012, 09:33:14 AM
Hoping to be able to post my vote this evening. Just finished C3 now, so 4 more to go. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 14, 2012, 12:10:13 PM
Here's my vote! :)

Final:

C3 – First movement is well controlled, as I remember saying in the last part. The orchestra is very good technically. In terms of expression, some of the players perform beautifully, while some provide very straight forward readings of their parts. Some moments are rather dull. Not all, some are very beautiful. And overall the movement sounds rather disjointed... with not enough contrast...
Second movement – again, the control of the orchestra is superb, but the playing is just too straightforward in most places, lacking in spirit and excitement. And the climax needs to be more yearning, in my opinion, it’s not bad here, certainly enjoyable, rather light though. Gosh... the number of times I have said that in this comparison... Karajan got it perfect! ;) Onto the last movement, this is better. Definitely an agitated feel, and finally the percussion seem to have woken up. ;) Still room for much more excitement and expression though. Very nice middle, very atmospheric. And the ending was actually very good. So, overall, a performance that got better and better as it went along, with some very good moments. What lets this performance down is the rather poor start.

D2 – An improvement on C3’s first movement certainly. Some moments I very much enjoyed, but others seemed to just be plodding along in a very dull, slow way. Didn’t like the performance of the ending of the movement, far too harsh and ‘boastful’. The second movement is far better and actually is rather successful. Very playful and enjoyable, with excellent playing from the orchestra, although lacking excitement and tension a little in my favourite part. I was rather disappointed with the opening of the last movement, lacking aggression and excitement. I thought the transition into from the opening to the middle was poorly handled. Nice oboe solo, would have preferred slightly more of the violin harmonics though. Strange use of dynamics towards the end, not sure if I like it particularly. I didn’t like the handling of the ending to be honest. Overall, this performance was a bit of a disappointment, and I am surprised that it beat recordings like the Karajan and the Bernstein to get to the final.
E1 – Here’s one I remember being rather impressed with previously, and I am enjoying it again here. I enjoy the lively, rather joyous approach to the movement.  Powerful ending! Great tempo for the second movement, well controlled, the orchestra playing with a really enjoyable sense of playfulness and fun. Overall, this movement is very well done, very good ending too. Excellent opening to the final movement, great dynamic contrasts, really enthusiastic, expressive playing from the orchestra. A very thrilling opening! The middle section is very beautiful, all the colours blended together very nicely, maybe would have liked just a little more of the violin harmonics, I just love that genius stroke of texture there! Getting towards the end now, the orchestra really is excellent, I love their sound. And the conductor is excellent, I really like his interpretation, and the control of the orchestra, and balance is excellent. This really is brilliant!

G4 – Such a beautiful warm sound from the orchestra, with incredibly expressive playing. Absolutely gorgeous! Maybe lacking a little excitement in one or two places, but really, there is little to fault in this performance. And I still very much like the original take on the ending, very beautiful indeed. Onto the second movement, again, beautifully performed with such a warm sound. Very well detailed and articulated, with excellent balance (often with very different choices, which are always interesting to hear and do make sense!). And my favourite bit is done EXCELLENTLY, pretty much perfect to me really! So joyous! I may as well announce the winner already! ;) Really thrilling opening, the orchestra is truly amazing. Wonderfully controlled middle. Following from the very passionate lead into the allegro, the performance of the ending really captures the spirit and really is spectacular. The whole performance is outstanding, engaging, expressive, enthuastic, warm and pretty darn perfect throughout!

H4 – Well, this is an excellent performance of the first movement. Very well controlled, with great detailed and wonderful playing. I very much like the choice of the tempi too. Like in G4, there are very few faults I can find in this performance, in one or two places the balance didn’t quite seem perfect, but only slightly off. Amazing performance of the ending to the movement. Second movement now. Hmmm... not sure what happened to the glockenspiel player, quite a few wrong notes at the beginning... and being a percussionist that did annoy me a bit, but the performance is so great so I didn’t let it distract me too much! This is a truly brilliant performance, very engaging, playful and fun! My favourite bit was done rather well, although I didn’t really like the use of accents, and it seems lacking compared to G4. A very thrilling start, very aggressive and powerful. A gorgeous middle. Great ending, very engaging playing, really exciting. I love the tempo! Overall, a very good performance.

I think it’s probably obvious that G4 gets my first vote. Absolutely outstanding performance, to me it’s pretty perfect. D2 is my least favourite, some nice moments, and the second movement is done rather well, although much of the rest is dull and overblown. I’m amazed it has made it to the final to be honest! C3 had wonderful moments, just not quite on the same level as my top 3. G4 being first, it was rather hard to choose between the other two for the 2nd and 3rd place. Eventually decided on this.
Voting order:
5) D2
4) C3
________________
3) H4
2) E1
1) G4

Thank you very much, Discobole. I have really enjoyed the comparison, and am very excited to find out the results. As a result of the comparison, I shall be buying the Koussevitsky, Bernstein, relistening to the Karajan (which I do own but never thought to be as good as I found in the comparison!!!!), and also purchasing my top three. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 14, 2012, 02:14:53 PM
I'll call this a provisional ranking. I might not be around for the weekend, if so these are the final choices. I've listened to each recording at least once attentively. If time permits I'd like give few more spot listening to all, particularly to H4 and E1, and do a more detailed write up. But if not, here:

1) C3 - flawless (and I really mean that)
2) H4 - nicely atmospheric, orchestra bit ropey but nothing detrimental
3) G4 - fantastic orchestra, especially as it seems live recording, but too often I had impression that I'm listening  to gorgeously played bits rather than complete, flowing piece.
4) E1 - sure has lots of panache, but bit broad stroked for me with occasional lack of subtlety.
5) D2 - mostly quite lovely with some wonderful detail, but orchestra sounds bit anonymous and interpretation ultimately too static, with not enough forward momentum at places. 
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 15, 2012, 06:52:30 PM
I still have some listening to do, but for now, my god! G4! After hearing the way they manage the last 30 seconds, I stared at the computer screen in amazement and was so delighted that I laughed out loud. Amazing!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 16, 2012, 08:46:08 AM
My thoughts...

C3: How did this reach the second round? The first movement was exceptionally dull - not even subtle or cultivated, but simply boring, with no ocean-wave movement. Plodding. I don't like the flautist's work, or maybe how they are recorded, and when I checked the first movement's timing, I expected it to say 10:30, not 8:47. The second movement is much better, because it has to be. (I liked the second movement in Eastbourne.) There are signs of life! The movement grows in energy and brightness as it moves along, too, and the climax is fantastic. The quality of the sound really helps in the finale, because there is a lot of detail and depth and the orchestra starts sounding first-rate. Well-drilled. Maybe almost too studied. I put a lot of weight in how exciting the very ending is, and this one is a bit lightweight on horns and trombones around 6:45. I don't feel propelled properly into the very last seconds, despite the awesome orchestral detail.

Ultimately, really good second movement, good finale, but such a boring first movement. Rating: 6.5 out of 10. Ranking: fourth.

D2: The first movement is slower than C3, but more interesting due to the way certain things are phrased. Lots of good orchestral detail. But at 5:44 a moment I like to hear strutting instead sees the wind taken out of the sails. Maybe a little unwilling to indulge in sways of tempo the way I'd like to hear. The second movement's opening has basically no mystery, no surprise to it. The first few minutes are really fast, but not nearly as savage as Karajan had been. The finale is kind of... German? 2:00-3:00 feels genuinely perilous and kind of scary. We almost lose the strings at 7:44. I don't like the prosaic trumpet solos at 8:10 and the very ending kind of sounds like a mess, especially the one moment where we can the trumpets and they're screwing up. Final chord reveals the age of the recording.

I found this less compelling than C3, because at least C3 consistently attracted my praise in two movements of three, whereas this one was... I also don't know how it entered the final round when, say, Karajan, or Baudo, or Haitink, missed. Rating: 4 out of 10. Ranking: last.

E1: A really individual interpretation throughout, with the conductor making choices of emphasis or tempo or balance which, even after listening to so many readings, make me take notice of something new. The trade-off is that I sometimes don't like them. The orchestra is technically extremely competent but not at all 'French' to me. At 3:20 in the second movement I found myself tiring of the speedy tempo, although I start to really like it later in the same movement. The finale reinforces my impressions of the performance: aggressive and exciting, with lots of surface fun but there's just so much constant hustle and bustle. My initial guess was Chicago/Solti, but I checked and was wrong. The oboe cues me to an American sound, as does the general breadth and power. I realized that Decca would have overmiked the Chicago brass and my suspicions have now turned to another conductor/US-orchestra pairing I would expect to supply high-voltage to-the-hilt romanticism that is fun but not very Debussian: Ashkenazy/Cleveland. But I feel completely stupid for thinking I could guess a recording in this competition! Don't judge my foolishness.

All told, a super-exciting account that's not the most idiomatic or poetic by any stretch. The kind of thing you'd call a "guilty pleasure", and I see mc ukrneal had serious issues with its advance to the final round. I can understand why but still enjoy the recording. Rating: 7 out of 10. Ranking: third.

G4: A live reading. Wow, I love the prominence of the harp at 1:27 in the first movement. Love the many solos here, and the cellos (closely miked!) at 4:50 deliver some of my favorite phrasing from the whole competition. Starting at 7:50, though, we get a crescendo that may be the weirdest I've yet heard: it starts seemingly much too late, but once it finally reaches full strength with the churning violins leading the way, it's hugely powerful. Not sure I could make this a first choice, but it is really interesting. Oh goodness the cor anglais at the start of II. is a wonderful solo. And the strings with tasteful portamenti, the conducting vibrant and with great dynamic contrast. All the excitement of E1, but without the vulgarity. The fun here is in the exceptional phrasing by a top-class orchestra. Oh goodness the violins at 4:48. This will be my runaway winner, I predict! The first 90 seconds of the finale are stunning. What a joy the cellos are around 5:35. This is absolutely a keeper. I just want to hear if the band can stick the ending... as at the end of the first movement, 7:20 lacks power but 7:30 brings it up to the right level. The ending... AAaaaaa! How the trumpets sound out over the din and everyone's lines (those flutes!!) are clearly sung! How do they manage one last crescendo on the penultimate chord?! Incredible!

I had doubts at first but they've been destroyed. A live recording, too! Rating: 9.9. Ranking: first!

H4: Oh wow. This is nearly as good as G4. Actually it's superb throughout and had I not heard G4 I'd be happy to crown this the winner: nothing ever goes wrong, and there's a great forward momentum throughout without getting carried away the way E1 does. This has many virtues, including an excellent second movement, a first movement which is only lacking in the first 30-40 seconds, and a finale which rustles up great excitement. The episode at 4:20 in clip 3 is probably handled better here than in any other contestant. And from there on out it's an absolutely fantastic rise to the finish with huge power, although the last 10 seconds are where G4 sets itself out as my favorite. Superb sound too.

A phenomenal recording from start to finish, which I'd love to have in my collection. Only the extraordinary circumstance of G4 keeps it from first place. Rating: 9.5. Ranking: second.

Final tally:
1. G4
2. H4
3. E1
4. C3
5. D2

In head-to-head listening, I actually found it VERY difficult to decide between G4 and H4. Ultimately I was swayed by G4's unique greatness in the last 10 seconds, and by the slightly more distinctive orchestral playing. But I can't help shaking the feeling that H4 is in many other ways an equal or maybe even a superior reading!

Know what G4 has that nobody else does? It's the second-to-last chord: every other orchestra and conductor have reached maximum volume/excitement/power when they hit this chord, and the results tend to be thrilling, but G4's orchestra actually manages a crescendo on it. In its tiny span we actually get one last increase in voltage - a climax nobody can beat.

I was surprised to hear the recording I was raised on, Tortelier/Ulster, is not participating in the competition. Still, I think in Karajan I may have found a great alternative, and in G4 and H4 even better ones. Those recordings are stunners, and C3 would have been right alongside them were it not for the unfortunate first movement.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 16, 2012, 09:26:33 AM
Glad we shared pretty much the same feelings over the recordings, Brian! I was blown away by G4 too!

H4: nothing ever goes wrong


Was I the only one to hear the glockenspiel mistakes in the second movement? ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 16, 2012, 09:28:57 AM
Thanks for the votes some of you already gave.

Let me remind you that the blind comparison will end tomorrow evening, in 27 hours 1/2 from now.

I'm still waiting for the following participants :
- Lisztianwagner
- Opus106
- Drasko (if he wants to change his ranking)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 16, 2012, 09:32:07 AM
Let me remind you that the blind comparison will end tomorrow evening, in 27 hours 1/2 from now.


So excited to see the results! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 16, 2012, 09:33:29 AM
My thoughts...
I didn't want to comment until you posted, but our thoughts are very similar on the 'winners'. I was quite pleased with both and I see we were both blown away by the ending of the one we chose. I was disappointed by E1 in the previous round (especially as there was a competitor there I felt was much better, but when compared against the last two (same choice from both of us), well it crushes those.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 16, 2012, 12:51:37 PM
...(especially as there was a competitor there I felt was much better

I never had a chance to listen to the Bernstein, but alongside Karajan's and two of the finalists here, it is destined for a place in my shopping cart after this is through.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 16, 2012, 01:06:22 PM
I understand that, Brian, Bernstein is really one of the versions which made me feel very enthusiastic. To be clear, I listened to 100 versions or so, and Bernstein was one among 8 only to reach my supreme 5 star note (14 versions had 4,5 stars, 17 had 4 stars, etc.) 8)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 16, 2012, 01:19:02 PM
Bernstein was one among 8 only to reach my supreme 5 star note

Tell us more! Have any of the finalists achieved 5 stars? How many? But of course don't tell us which ones  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 16, 2012, 01:48:59 PM
No, none of the finalists. The highest pre-listening score among finalists is 4.5 star and the lowest score is 3.5.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 16, 2012, 11:35:04 PM
No, none of the finalists. The highest pre-listening score among finalists is 4.5 star and the lowest score is 3.5.
Fascinating. I'd be interested to hear your views after you reveal. One thing I enjoyed with the Monteverdi is that I could listen and re-listen across all the contestants, which made the task both easier and harder. I enjoyed being able to take any one of them in a particular place and compare to another in that same place, which you were able to do here on a bigger scale.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 17, 2012, 03:08:57 AM
I'll definitely tell you a little about my listening sessions, and all the versions I did not select, after the end.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 17, 2012, 03:24:11 AM
I'll definitely tell you a little about my listening sessions, and all the versions I did not select, after the end.

I am also interested to hear your thoughts on the recordings too, Julien. Interesting that none of the final 5 recieved top marks from you! So very excited to see the results revealed! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 17, 2012, 10:23:08 AM
--begin--


C3 - The most 'pastoral' of the lot, I thought. Suits much of the music well.
H4
G4 - Lots of energy, but perhaps a tad much?
E1
D2 - Sounded a bit 'disjointed'.
That's the order

--end--
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 17, 2012, 12:26:50 PM
Funny that, as varied as all the votes have been, we all agree on one thing: H4 is second-best! Makes me wonder if it will win by amassing so many second-place votes. I wouldn't be at all disappointed by that outcome, by the way.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 17, 2012, 12:47:50 PM
I'm writing the comments; if I don't finish doing it before midnight, please, let me have a little extra time.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 17, 2012, 12:49:47 PM
Yeeees no trouble at all 8)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 17, 2012, 01:59:47 PM
Still waiting :-\
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 17, 2012, 02:53:52 PM
(http://www.sheknows.com/graphics/emoticons/waiting.gif)

Well, I hope for this vote tomorrow, so that I can publish the results during the day.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 17, 2012, 04:57:54 PM
Thank you for this comparison, I enjoyed it very very much! ;D What a pity I couldn't listen to the Karajan, that's my favourite version. I was very impressed by Bernstein's recording, E1 and G4, what excellent performances! I'm really looking forward to seeing the results! ;D

C3 -  The opening of the first movement is splendid, calm, intense and suggestive; excellent dynamics which captures a beautiful atmosphere, very expressive and emotionally powerful. The orchestral playing is marvelous, but I sometimes had the impression that it wasn't totally well balanced and that the instruments didn't completely support each other, creating a slightly duller sound and lacking some intensity. Nice, enjoyable tempo. The situation seems to improve in the second movement; the choice of rythm is rather interesting: it sounds a bit slower compared with other recordings (for example E1 and G4), while in the central climaxes it becomes a bit too rash.  Though there is much orchestral brilliance, great passion and atmosphere which pervades the piece is  certainly involving. The third movement is maybe the best one of the three parts; the introduction is very impressive and full of thrilling energy; lyrical and intense middle section (woodwinds and percussion are great and well-handled). Wonderful rythm at the end which makes the finale powerful, vibrant and playful.

D2 – Hmm, I have conflicting impressions about this recording. The performance of the orchestra is rather brilliant and remarkable, with a clear and precise sound; it also shows many moments of deep beauty, great enthusiasm and evocative power. However the phrasing doesn't always sound fluent and the themes don't seem to be perfectly harmonized. Intensity and dynamics are good, I liked them. Better performance in the second part, with a beautiful, melodious playing by the orchestra; the whole movement is rather atmospheric and suggestive, expressing energy  and enphasis, but it lacks a bit of tension and mystery.
The third movement shows a rather haunting and  thrilling opening; overall the atmosphere appears tense and moving, with a hectic enough pace and a nice orchestral playing.

E1 – The opening is brilliant and intense, with a very clear and splendid sound quality. The whole movement is pervaded by a thrilling, evocative atmosphere and a great harmonic richness, beautifully expressed by the interpretation of the orchestra (in particular, woodwinds and percussion are stunning). Dynamics is excellent and gives energy and passion to the piece; the choice of tempo and the phrasing are very good as well. Melodious and suggestive finale, with a very gorgeous and powerful climax. The second movement shows the same atmosphere of the first one: incredibly beautiful, playful and expressive, also adding a touch of tension and mystery, while the intensity and the evocative power are absolutely involving. Gorgeous and very well played climaxes, with an amazing solo of woodwinds and a marvelous use of the glockenspiel and the harp.
The third movement is definitely overwhelming; really tense and haunting, at the same time so vibrant and enthusiastic! The performance of the orchestra, very well balanced, is superb; the colours and the instrumentation merge together brilliantly creating a wonderful flow of music, starting from the powerful opening and continuing till the thrilling, passionate finale. The dynamics and rythm kept are very moving, excellent job by the conductor.

G4 – Along with the Bernstein and E1, this one is the version I enjoyed most. The opening has  great tension and beauty, absolutely impressive and touching. Excellent dynamics and tempo, very well controlled; the phrasing is extremely fine, all the themes blend together very melodiously. The orchestral playing, is warm, clear and full of passion and ethusiasm, maybe slightly lacking energy in the middle section; anyway overall the intesity and the expressive strenght showed really help to capture the evocative, magical atmosphere of the sea. Absolutely gorgeous, powerful climax at the end of the first movement. The second movement is very passionate, suggestive and mysterious: like the previous part, the orchestration is very colourful, brilliant and well handled (I appreciated use of harp and glockenspiel a lot, what ethereal sound), the climaxes strong and powerful and the atmosphere expressed incredibly beautiful and striking. A perfect prelude for the third movement, which is absolutely thrilling, the most  impressive and enthusiastic of the group; outstanding performance of the orchestra, incredibly suggestive, gorgeous and intense, in particular in the finale, which is definitely ravishing and with and overwhelming energy.

H4 – Quite enjoyable, remarkable performance. The first movement starts in a very melodious,  beautiful way, with a really good sound quality and a great orchestral brilliance; overall the orchestral playing is incredibly enchanting, colourful and passionate. The tempo is excellent, giving suggestion and intesity to the piece, especially in the finale, which is extremely energetic and impressive; brilliant dymanics, maybe slightly too loud brass in some sections (this aspect in the whole recording). The second movement expresses a persuasive, evocative atmosphere; the interpretation is tense, but warm and playful, with a so ethereal sound of harp! Instead the glockenspiel didn't completely satisfy me, it sometimes seems to have a bit too dull sound. The final movement shows a very powerful, thrilling opening and it certanly expresses much energy during the whole piece; the middle section is gorgeous there the use of the glockenspiel becomes more  harmonic and lyrical. Very brilliant finale, not as aggressive and enthusiastic as other recordings, but strong and involving enough; nice tempo and dynamics.

In order:
5. D2
4 C3
3 H4
2. G4
1. E1
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 18, 2012, 12:42:15 AM
Thanks ! I'll publish the results during the day.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 18, 2012, 12:05:45 PM
RESULTS

Thanks to you all for participating. I counted 19 voters on 3 different forums to define the absolute best version 8) The ranking is very tight but the average ranking allowed me to solve the minor issues (as G4=H4) and, anyway, the winner is clear.
Here are the tables of preferences and of votes :

http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/201255merfin.jpg

And the final ranking :

1. E1
2. G4
3. C3
4. H4
5. D2

5th : D2 - Carlo Maria Giulini, Los Angeles Philharmonic (DG, 1980)

Clearly (according to critics but I checked it carefully during my pre-listening sessions) the best version by Giulini. Still a model, but it lacks tension, and if it certainly is one of the most beautiful orchestras of the comparison I don't find it always captivating...
My note in pre-listenings : ★★★★

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41W2BGQV9NL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Yg6piJY1L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

4th : H4 - Michel Tabachnik, Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO, 6/2010)

The biggest surprise among finalists, and it is frankly deserved. A lively and even violent reading, but the orchestra has weaknesses (strings in particular). Still an excellent recent version, in a very francophile tradition !
My note in pre-listenings : ★★★☆

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61HzJJWNzEL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

3rd : C3 - Pierre Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra (DG, 3/1993)

A technical achievement (but the mixing helps to blur a little the orchestral defects here or there), a true "reference" when you really want that. Far better than Boulez first take. But it sounds artificial and frankly (I think) lacks something, spirit, tension. A conducting lesson but I believe the score is more expressive...
My note in pre-listenings : ★★★★

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/419YVZXFHBL._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51z0N%2BEKk3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

2nd : G4 - Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra (DG, live 14/8/2003)

Of course it is wonderful (despite a few misshaps, as the strange trumpets absence at the end of the first movement), and even better in this kind of international reference than Boulez. But I still find it very artificial, very beautiful but lacking the spirit I believe one can feel in Debussy. In the end it reminds me of Strauss tone poems more than of French music. Well done but not very subtle. Still, you loved it, and it just missed the very last confrontation.
My note in pre-listenings : ★★★☆

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51v4n4weyoL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

1st : Vladimir Ashkenazy, Cleveland Orchestra (Decca, 4/1986)

My favorite version among finalists, and clearly one of the most phenomenal I know. When I discovered it I was frankly astonished by its power, the beauty of the orchestra (not really the most perfect but not far from it) and the capacity of the conductor to sculpt the music and let the musicians offer great moments of intensity. This great version deserves to be rediscovered and better known !
My note in pre-listenings : ★★★★☆

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4156ARS4C9L._SL500_AA300_.jpg) (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Z254VX4SL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Lisztianwagner on June 18, 2012, 12:24:08 PM
What incredible results!! :o So, my favourite recording is the Ashkenazy, how brilliant! It was included in my groups for the whole comparison, I enjoyed it very much; such a thrilling, expressive and poetical interpretation. ;D The Abbado also impressed me a lot, what absolutely gorgeous music!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 18, 2012, 12:24:48 PM
 :o :o :o :o :o

If I may be permitted to brag:

E1: ... The oboe cues me to an American sound, as does the general breadth and power. ... another conductor/US-orchestra pairing I would expect to supply high-voltage to-the-hilt romanticism that is fun but not very Debussian: Ashkenazy/Cleveland.

Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 18, 2012, 12:33:08 PM
I am rather surprised! But also somewhat delighted! The Abbado I shall definitely be getting, great that it comes with Mahler 2! I've never been too keen on Abbado's Mahler, but if he is that special with this orchestra in La Mer, I can imagine the Mahler being a great performance too. The Ashkenazy! I would not have thought that! I shall definitely be getting that! And it's wonderful that the one that has won the comparison is also the one that can be purchased at the cheapest price on amazon! ;)

Thank you very much for this wonderful comparison, Julien, I have loved it all! So, what's next? ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 18, 2012, 12:46:32 PM
2nd : G4 - Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra (DG, live 14/8/2003)

Of course it is wonderful (despite a few misshaps, as the strange trumpets absence at the end of the first movement), and even better in this kind of international reference than Boulez. But I still find it very artificial, very beautiful but lacking the spirit I believe one can feel in Debussy. In the end it reminds me of Strauss tone poems more than of French music. Well done but not very subtle. Still, you loved it, and it just missed the very last confrontation.
My note in pre-listenings : ★★★☆
Raises hand. Sheepishly admits he owns this, because he bought it for the M2 (which is excellent), but cannot even remember if he really ever gave La Mer a chance! Properly chastised, he sits, happy his wallet will be saved another trip to the checkout....

So many surprises. Now I understand why I was underwelmed by C3 - its Boulez. Thanks again for organizing this. Good thing the French don't play in Euro 2012 until tomorrow, because we might have had to wait a while! (but gosh darn it, I really wanted Croatia to go through over the Italians...sigh....)

:o :o :o :o :o

If I may be permitted to brag:


Good one! I'm terrible at guessing orchestras blindly.

I am rather surprised! But also somewhat delighted! The Abbado I shall definitely be getting, great that it comes with Mahler 2! I've never been too keen on Abbado's Mahler, but if he is that special with this orchestra in La Mer, I can imagine the Mahler being a great performance too. The Ashkenazy! I would not have thought that! I shall definitely be getting that! And it's wonderful that the one that has won the comparison is also the one that can be purchased at the cheapest price on amazon! ;)

Thank you very much for this wonderful comparison, Julien, I have loved it all! So, what's next? ;)
Since this is with Lucerne, you can find it on youtube. Start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5ruipURIGQ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5ruipURIGQ) I must credit this very version, which I saw on the Mezzo channel, as providing my breakthrough with Mahler. Until then, I was lukewarm to Mahler. And it is hard to get these Lucerne concerts on cd - most are DVD only. Anyway, you can see what you think...no waiting! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 18, 2012, 12:48:52 PM
Good one! I'm terrible at guessing orchestras blindly.

I usually am too. Case in point: I realized Boulez hadn't been eliminated and knew he couldn't have been left out of the bracket, but couldn't figure out if one of the five was Boulez.

Tabachnik might be the biggest surprise. It's really good.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: madaboutmahler on June 18, 2012, 12:56:35 PM
Thanks for this, Neal - had a little listen to one of my favourite moments in the first movement and it sounds very good indeed. Definitely a cd I shall be getting very soon! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 19, 2012, 01:01:50 AM
Cleveland in two of the Top Five places!  Not surprising  8)

My well-known allergy to Abbado's Mahler has kept me from hearing his Lucerne La Mer. Discoble's criticism ("....the strange trumpets absence at the end of the first movement....very artificial, very beautiful but lacking the spirit...reminds me of Strauss tone poems more than of French music. Well done but not very subtle.") comes close to what the Hurwitzer said about it:


"The performance of La Mer is more interesting [than the Mahler Second], when it isn’t simply weird. Among Abbado’s ideas: an evident attempt to minimize the impact of the big brass choral as much as possible at the ends of both the first and third movements. He entirely ignores Debussy’s dynamics in the first-movement lead-in (no crescendo from brass, timpani, and suspended cymbals, and strangely loud upper woodwinds). The big final crescendo is so loud and vulgar that it sounds like another piece, but it has to be said that it’s also very exciting."

Those two capsule reviews do not make me want to rush out and buy it. But you guys loved it? You like loud, vulgar, brassless Debussy?  ;D  Well, maybe I do need to hear it myself. The lack of brass will surely disappoint me though.

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 19, 2012, 01:34:03 AM
Cleveland in two of the Top Five places!  Not surprising  8)

My well-known allergy to Abbado's Mahler has kept me from hearing his Lucerne La Mer. Discoble's criticism ("....the strange trumpets absence at the end of the first movement....very artificial, very beautiful but lacking the spirit...reminds me of Strauss tone poems more than of French music. Well done but not very subtle.") comes close to what the Hurwitzer said about it:


"The performance of La Mer is more interesting [than the Mahler Second], when it isn’t simply weird. Among Abbado’s ideas: an evident attempt to minimize the impact of the big brass choral as much as possible at the ends of both the first and third movements. He entirely ignores Debussy’s dynamics in the first-movement lead-in (no crescendo from brass, timpani, and suspended cymbals, and strangely loud upper woodwinds). The big final crescendo is so loud and vulgar that it sounds like another piece, but it has to be said that it’s also very exciting."

Those two capsule reviews do not make me want to rush out and buy it. But you guys loved it? You like loud, vulgar, brassless Debussy?  ;D  Well, maybe I do need to hear it myself. The lack of brass will surely disappoint me though.

Sarge
You can see for yourself on youtube (as well as the Mahler I posted above): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyoM2UqdYOE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyoM2UqdYOE). Personally,I think it works, but if you think it should sound a certain way, I'm not sure you will like it. It is true that there is restraint, where others let go earlier, but I think it adds to the impact all the more when it finally comes (it also differentiates it).

Still, I think I might have preferred the Bernstein and Karajan above it. The Bernstein was just wicked in every way - that's the one I would get first.  And if you look at only GMG votes, Bernstein would have beaten E1, the eventual winner, in the previous round.

However, I have noticed that GMG opinion differs quite a bit. The final results from GMG would not put E1 first, but rather G4 (Abbado). For me, above all in importance, was the connection to the sea. As long as I felt this was maintained, I was willing to overlook a lot of things I might not normally overlook (for example, I am normally a stickler for playing in tune and not making mistakes, but impressionistic music should be judged by a different criteria in my opinion). Boulez (C3), for example (and in my opinion), utterly and totally fails in this. I would argue that it is he who is vulgar and fails to capture the spirit of the piece.  With the same reasoning, it does not disturb me that the Tabachnik version (H4) has some technical moments, because for me the sweep of the brush (so to speak) is of more importance (and he is quite effective).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 19, 2012, 03:55:29 AM
Still, I think I might have preferred the Bernstein and Karajan above it. The Bernstein was just wicked in every way - that's the one I would get first.

Already have Bernstein, both his recordings actually: New York and the more expansive Santa Cecilia (on DG). Since I tend to like La Mer more broadly paced (Giulini, Sinopoli....Celibidache  ;D ), I actually prefer the DG. Of the Top Five I don't have Ashkenazy (which I've ordered) or, not surprisingly, Tabachnik..who'd have guessed?  :D

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 19, 2012, 04:12:27 AM
Viz. brassless . . . do I surmise correctly that this is a matter of a muted trumpet fanfare figure which, after (or at about the time of) the première, someone pointed out to Debussy as being similar to a patch of Dukas? So that Debussy simply struck that bit out, although not a few conductors since have 'restored' it.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 19, 2012, 04:17:34 AM
Already have Bernstein, both his recordings actually: New York and the more expansive Santa Cecilia (on DG). Since I tend to like La Mer more broadly paced (Giulini, Sinopoli....Celibidache  ;D ), I actually prefer the DG. Of the Top Five I don't have Ashkenazy (which I've ordered) or, not surprisingly, Tabachnik..who'd have guessed?  :D

Sarge
Should have guessed you'd have them all! :) Tabachnik was a major surprise. But a quite pleasant one too.

Viz. brassless . . . do I surmise correctly that this is a matter of a muted trumpet fanfare figure which, after (or at about the time of) the première, someone pointed out to Debussy as being similar to a patch of Dukas? So that Debussy simply struck that bit out, although not a few conductors since have 'restored' it.
That's a good point. For the first few times, I actually thought it was a mistake (despite liking it), but then read up on it and realized it was meant to be that way. Like it or dislike, the difference in impact is quite significant.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 19, 2012, 04:24:11 AM
Viz. brassless . . . do I surmise correctly that this is a matter of a muted trumpet fanfare figure which, after (or at about the time of) the première, someone pointed out to Debussy as being similar to a patch of Dukas? So that Debussy simply struck that bit out, although not a few conductors since have 'restored' it.

No, it isn't that. This is the question of Abbado's balancing of winds and brass in first movement's final climax. I even remember when the disc was released, M first called it for delaying the brass entry in the crescendo, exposing the winds.   
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 19, 2012, 04:29:15 AM
Viz. brassless . . . do I surmise correctly that this is a matter of a muted trumpet fanfare figure which, after (or at about the time of) the première, someone pointed out to Debussy as being similar to a patch of Dukas? So that Debussy simply struck that bit out, although not a few conductors since have 'restored' it.

The brass parts that were removed are in the last movement, yes? I don't think that's what Hurwitz meant, and Discoble specifically mentions the first movement. But I could be wrong. If it really is matter of edition, then Abbado can be forgiven. If not, damn him  ;D

Edit: I see Drasko cleared it up.

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 19, 2012, 04:37:32 AM
Thanks for the enlightenment as ever, gents!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 19, 2012, 04:50:13 AM
Still, I think I might have preferred the Bernstein and Karajan above it. The Bernstein was just wicked in every way - that's the one I would get first.  And if you look at only GMG votes, Bernstein would have beaten E1, the eventual winner, in the previous round. ... With the same reasoning, it does not disturb me that the Tabachnik version (H4) has some technical moments, because for me the sweep of the brush (so to speak) is of more importance (and he is quite effective).

Alas, I never had a chance to hear the Bernstein in this competition. My final ballot denotes the extreme difficulty I had deciding between Abbado and Tabachnik; I picked Abbado because it was 'unique' and 'special.' But for the same reason, I might go with Tabachnik and the other best recording I heard, Karajan's, as my library references... but most certainly feeling the need to hear the Bernstein.

Very surprised how harsh I was / we were on Giulini.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 19, 2012, 05:13:07 AM
Alas, I never had a chance to hear the Bernstein in this competition. My final ballot denotes the extreme difficulty I had deciding between Abbado and Tabachnik; I picked Abbado because it was 'unique' and 'special.' But for the same reason, I might go with Tabachnik and the other best recording I heard, Karajan's, as my library references... but most certainly feeling the need to hear the Bernstein.

Very surprised how harsh I was / we were on Giulini.
I'm not (entirely). I love Giulini in opera. But I am less convinced after that. And the LAPO does not always produce a sound that I like, though I feel they do get a raw deal sometimes as well.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 19, 2012, 05:30:34 AM
Well, when I look back in retrospect now, I think I thoroughly stick with my comments and rankings in this blind comparison. Don't think I'll be buying any of the finalists I don't already have (Boulez and Abbado). 

Actually I'm not that much surprised Ashkenazy won, it came almost all the way the last time BBC 3 Building a Library was doing La Mer, ultimately coming second behind Haitink. It is well played, well recorded, one-size-fits-all performance that is acceptable for most (like Perahia in the Chopin Ballade comp. btw).

Somewhat ironically on my shopping list will end up recordings I haven't heard in comparison. Some that I missed buying previously as Koussevitzky and Bernstein or look interesting on paper as Svetlanov or Fournet.

I've already ordered the Svetlanov actually, it's available at MDT's clearance sale for 3 euros. So whomever is interested act quick as it'll probably be first come, first served.

Discobole, which transfer of Coppola you used? I have that one on private transfer from 78s and I'm considering whether should I upgrade. I was pretty annoyed when Andante Debussy box went out of print before I got it (and Prague Spring box and VPO playing 20 century box). If you used Dutton could I ask you to pass me that first movement clip (if it is still available) so I could compare it with what I have?


Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 19, 2012, 05:54:33 AM
I used the Andante transfer for Coppola. I'm still looking for the 1928 version btw, I know it was available on some blogs a few months ago.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 19, 2012, 06:11:03 AM
Don't have the 1928. Mine is also 1932 (HMV DB-4874-76), got it several years ago from someone at rmcr.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 20, 2012, 04:57:48 AM
Which recordings were included in the comparison? And how large was the sample of opinions?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 20, 2012, 05:02:57 AM
Which recordings were included in the comparison? And how large was the sample of opinions?

David, if you check the previous pages you will find the details of the eliminated recordings at each stage of voting (prior to the last one, of course) alongside tables of who-voted-for-what.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 20, 2012, 05:59:30 AM
David, if you check the previous pages you will find the details of the eliminated recordings at each stage of voting (prior to the last one, of course) alongside tables of who-voted-for-what.
Thanks -- apparently 19 participants voted their preferences among samples of 32 recordings.

Final 5 (ranked in order of vote totals):
1.   Vladimir Ashkenazy, Cleveland Orchestra (Decca, 4/1986)
2.   Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra (DG, live 14/8/2003)
3.   Pierre Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra (DG, 3/1993)
4.   Michel Tabachnik, Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO, 6/2010)
5.   Carlo Maria Giulini, Los Angeles Philharmonic (DG, 1980)

2nd round eliminations:
Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 19/7/1954)
Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic (Columbia/Sony, 16/10/1961)
Herbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker (DG, 9-10/3/1964)
Jean Martinon, Orchestre national de l'ORTF (EMI, 1973)
Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (Philips, 12/1976)
Michael Tilson Thomas, Philharmonia Orchestra (CBS, 1982)
Serge Baudo, London Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI, 1/1986)
Charles Dutoit, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Decca, 1989)
Evgueni Svetlanov, Orchestre national de France (Naïve, 25/1/2001)
Jean Fournet, Česká filharmonie (Supraphon, 27/10/1963)

1st round eliminations:
Piero Coppola, Orchestre de la société des concerts du Conservatoire (HMV, 1932)
Arturo Toscanini, BBC Symphony Orchestra (HMV, live 12/6/1935)
Serge Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA Victor, 1938-1939).
Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1/6/1950)
Roger Désormière, Česká filharmonie (Supraphon/Ultraphone, 10/1950)
Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1956)
Eduard van Beinum, Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (London, 5/1957)
Igor Markevitch, Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux (DG, 5/1959)
Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, Orchestre national de la RTF (Montaigne, live 1962)
Charles Munch, Orchestre national de la RTF (Montaigne, live 1962)
George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra (Columbia, 11-12/1/1963).
Ernest Ansermet, Orchestre de la Suisse romande, (Decca/London, 1964)
John Barbirolli, Orchestre de Paris, (EMI, 12/1968)
Alain Lombard, Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg (Erato, 10/1975)
Michel Plasson, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse (EMI, 1987-1988)
Sergiu Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker (EMI, live 1992)
Jean-Claude Casadesus, Orchestre national de Lille (Harmonia Mundi, 1993-1994)

edit: corrected to include Fournet
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 20, 2012, 06:11:03 AM
Thanks -- apparently 19 participants voted their preferences among samples of 31 recordings.

But it wasn't all uniform. Some listened to two or more groups in the same round.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 20, 2012, 06:24:22 AM
But it wasn't all uniform. Some listened to two or more groups in the same round.
The first round had 8-12 votes for each group (of A to H, 8 groups). THe second round had 10-13 votes for each group (5 groups). The final round had 19 votes for 5 finalists. As you said, some voters in early rounds voted for multiple groups.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 20, 2012, 06:26:15 AM
The bracketology aspect of this repels me, rather.  Hence, my non-participation.

And yet:  the end result is still an interesting matter for discussion; no argument, there.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 20, 2012, 06:32:01 AM
The bracketology aspect of this repels me, rather.  Hence, my non-participation.

And yet:  the end result is still an interesting matter for discussion; no argument, there.

There is no perfect way. One could throw 20-30 into the ring at once, but I listened to 15 versions of a short Monteverdi Madrigal and had trouble keeping them straight all the time (let alone a 30 minute piece). One could also use another methodology, but that too starts to get complicated fast. Or, there could be many more rounds, but that drags it out. It's hard to do something that is fun and simple. This seems as good as any way to me. If you have alternative ideas, feel free to share.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 20, 2012, 06:37:02 AM
The bracketology aspect of this repels me, rather.  Hence, my non-participation.

And yet:  the end result is still an interesting matter for discussion; no argument, there.


I'm sad I didn't get to hear Bernstein and Svetlanov, but as ukrneal suggests, it's simply impractical to listen to all 31... the only alternative I can think of is the old M-forever-style games where we limited ourselves to 4 clips at a time.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 20, 2012, 06:38:45 AM
There is no perfect way. One could throw 20-30 into the ring at once, but I listened to 15 versions of a short Monteverdi Madrigal and had trouble keeping them straight all the time (let alone a 30 minute piece). One could also use another methodology, but that too starts to get complicated fast. Or, there could be many more rounds, but that drags it out. It's hard to do something that is fun and simple. This seems as good as any way to me. If you have alternative ideas, feel free to share.

No, no, dear fellow, I did not mean to seem to criticize the methodology, which I am sure was as well contrived as might be.

And if folks is having fun, it is a complete success, I should think.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 20, 2012, 08:27:19 AM
...if folks is having fun, it is a complete success, I should think.
If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 20, 2012, 08:31:04 AM
What, no Jean Fournet & the Czech Phil?!?! ; )
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 20, 2012, 08:37:58 AM
What, no Jean Fournet & the Czech Phil?!?! ; )

?

Pretty sure I listened to Fournet as part of this competition.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 20, 2012, 08:45:09 AM
?

Pretty sure I listened to Fournet as part of this competition.

Oh, I must have missed it in glancing o'er Dave's summary : )

There it is: at the bottom of the second eliminations : (
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 20, 2012, 08:47:35 AM
?

Pretty sure I listened to Fournet as part of this competition.
Corrected above. And now I think I'll go listen to Gatti and the French National Orchestra play La Mer.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 21, 2012, 09:05:10 AM
I've prepared a general ranking today. The ranking is made according to the 3 numbers at the end of each line : 1) round of elimination; 2) group rank at elimination; 3) average ranking at elimination.

1. E1 - Vladimir Ashkenazy, Cleveland Orchestra (Decca, 4/1986) 3/1
2. G4 - Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra (DG, live 14/8/2003) 3/2
3. C3 - Pierre Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra (DG, 3/1993) 3/3
4. H4 - Michel Tabachnik, Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO, 6/2010) 3/4
5. D2 - Carlo Maria Giulini, Los Angeles Philharmonic (DG, 1980) 3/5
6ea. A2 - Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic (Columbia/Sony, 16/10/1961) 2/2/1,92
6ea. C2 - Charles Dutoit, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Decca, 1989) 2/2/1,92
8. B4 - Herbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker (DG, 9-10/3/1964) 2/2/2
9ea. D1 - Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 19/7/1954) 2/2/2,1
9ea. E4 - Michael Tilson Thomas, Philharmonia Orchestra (CBS, 1982) 2/2/2,1
11. H1 - Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (Philips, 12/1976) 2/3/2
12. B3 - Jean Fournet, Česká filharmonie (Supraphon, 27/10/1963) 2/3/2,08
13. G2 - Serge Baudo, London Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI, 1/1986) 2/3/2,15
14. F1 - Jean Martinon, Orchestre national de l'ORTF (EMI, 1973) 2/3/2,2
15. A4 - Evgueni Svetlanov, Orchestre national de France (Naïve, 25/1/2001) 2/3/2,3
16ea. F2 - Eduard van Beinum, Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam (London, 5/1957) 1/2/2,56
16ea. F3 - Sergiu Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker (EMI, live 1992)  1/2/2,56
18. E3 - Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1956) 1/3/2,44
19. H2 - Jean-Claude Casadesus, Orchestre national de Lille (Harmonia Mundi, 1993-1994) 1/3/2,6
20. G1 - Igor Markevitch, Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux (DG, 5/1959) 1/3/2,64
21. A1 - Michel Plasson, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse (EMI, 1987-1988) 1/3/2,67
22ea. B2 - Alain Lombard, Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg (Erato, 10/1975) 1/3/2,75
22ea. C4 - Charles Munch, Orchestre national de la RTF (Montaigne, live 1962) 1/3/2,75
24. D4 - Ernest Ansermet, Orchestre de la Suisse romande (Decca/London, 1964) 1/3/2,78
25. A3 - Serge Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony Orchestra (RCA Victor, 1938-1939) 1/4/2,75
26. F4 - Piero Coppola, Orchestre de la société des concerts du Conservatoire (HMV, 1932) 1/4/2,89
27. B1 - Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, Orchestre national de la RTF (Montaigne, live 1962) 1/4/3
28. C1 - Arturo Toscanini, BBC Symphony Orchestra (HMV, live 12/6/1935) 1/4/3,25
29. H3 - George Szell, Cleveland Orchestra (Columbia, 11-12/1/1963) 1/4/3,3
30. E2 - Roger Désormière, Česká filharmonie (Supraphon/Ultraphone, 10/1950) 1/4/3,33
31. G3 - Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra (RCA, 1/6/1950) 1/4/3,36
32. D3 - John Barbirolli, Orchestre de Paris (EMI, 12/1968) 1/4/3,44

And, to answer karlhenning's questions, 32 versions were selected but I listened to almost 100 to prepare this comparison. It was not easy to decide in the end, I did probably made avoidable choices (Barbirolli for instance), but I guess a more limited selection would have meant no Tabachnik for instance, or no Baudo...
In the end this is only kind of a game. The Ashkenazy version is only the best version of this comparison made in 2012 with these precise 32 versions. It is not a definitive result, just an indication about what versions could be interesting to know and eventually buy (and I'm happy to see that many among participants have decided to buy versions whcih are actually not always finalists, and I completely agree about the value of some of them, as Koussevitzky, Coppola, Bernstein, Svetlanov...)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 21, 2012, 10:25:48 AM
I've prepared a general ranking today

16ea. F3 - Sergiu Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker (EMI, live 1992)

Nice to see my favorite Celi at least in the middle of the pack. I would have guessed he'd be at the bottom with Barbirolli. But I think his unique interpretation has merit...well, more than that: I think it most effectively gives us a sense of the sea even if it doesn't give us a true sense of Debussy's intentions. I recently read a review that was impressed with the acceleration at the end of the last movement in a certain performance (I can't recall which conductor). It's not a depiction of the sea but rather the growing excitement of the human observer of the sea. Celi's broad grandeur in the same measures gives us the sea itself. And in the end, I prefer that.

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 21, 2012, 10:31:09 AM
Gosh, and I must have Celi conducting that piece, somewhere at home . . . .
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 21, 2012, 10:38:46 AM
Gosh, and I must have Celi conducting that piece, somewhere at home . . . .

If you don't have it Karl, I can send you a copy. I've got several on hand. It really is unique. Here are the timings between the critical darling Karajan, and Celi:


Celibidache/Munich  13:10  8:43 11:18

Karajan/Berlin           8:32  6:10  7:51


Sarge   
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 21, 2012, 10:40:05 AM
Very kind, Sarge! I shall check, but I am sure it's there.  It's a while since I listened, but I remember being enthralled when I did listen.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 21, 2012, 12:39:58 PM
This comparison made me curious about the Ashkenazy recording. My prejudices suggest it would not be to my taste -- pumped up and highly dramatized, like his Sibelius. I found it on Mog and listened. If anything it's even more pumped up that I would have imagined. Definitely not to my taste. But it is so well executed and convincingly done that I couldn't help admiring it -- and so I bought a copy! If nothing else it offers significant contrast to the recordings I prefer (some of which were included in the survey and ranked highly).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 21, 2012, 02:55:40 PM
A fun one that might have proved interesting for comparisons is Stokowski's version with the LSO. The sound is sumptuous although as to be expected certain Stokowskisms do interrupt the, err...flow.

A good ride all around, though.







Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 21, 2012, 02:56:34 PM
My prejudices suggest it would not be to my taste -- pumped up and highly dramatized, like his Sibelius. I found it on Mog and listened. If anything it's even more pumped up that I would have imagined. Definitely not to my taste. But it is so well executed and convincingly done that I couldn't help admiring it

This more or less perfectly summarizes why I placed it only third on my ballot, behind Tabachnik and Abbado.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 21, 2012, 03:05:48 PM
A fun one that might have proved interesting for comparisons is Stokowski's version with the LSO. The sound is sumptuous although as to be expected certain Stokowskisms do interrupt the, err...flow.

A good ride all around, though.

I listened to it before I made the selection and, frankly, I did not consider it at all as a candidate for this comparison. At its best (first movement) it is just vulgar and musically, er... wrong. At its worst it really lacks precision and is completely boring. Of course the orchestra is good and sounds quite well, but still, this version might be the worst I've ever heard. I gave it the lowest score on my personal list, along with a horrible Schuricht version with RSO Stuttgart (1952).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 21, 2012, 10:00:07 PM
I listened to it before I made the selection and, frankly, I did not consider it at all as a candidate for this comparison. At its best (first movement) it is just vulgar and musically, er... wrong. At its worst it really lacks precision and is completely boring. Of course the orchestra is good and sounds quite well, but still, this version might be the worst I've ever heard. I gave it the lowest score on my personal list, along with a horrible Schuricht version with RSO Stuttgart (1952).

You may not like it but four Amazon reviewers like it. And I like it. So obviously somebody out there likes it. Hence my curiosity at having it put in front of a panel.


Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 21, 2012, 11:18:10 PM
You may not like it but four Amazon reviewers like it. And I like it. So obviously somebody out there likes it. Hence my curiosity at having it put in front of a panel.

I generally try to be quite objective in my selection, and do not select only versions which are to my taste but which have a chance to "win" in the end. But I can make mistakes, of course. Maybe Stokowski is better than Ashkenazy. Again, the result of a comparison is only the result of the precise selection which has been made, determined by the precise panel contributing on a precise date, etc. It has no universal value. You can do another blind comparison on La Mer next week if you want, with a different selection, a different panel, and different results...

Still, the Stokowski version would never have passed the first round, but that's only my experience speaking.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 22, 2012, 06:56:50 PM
I generally try to be quite objective in my selection, and do not select only versions which are to my taste but which have a chance to "win" in the end. But I can make mistakes, of course. Maybe Stokowski is better than Ashkenazy. Again, the result of a comparison is only the result of the precise selection which has been made, determined by the precise panel contributing on a precise date, etc. It has no universal value. You can do another blind comparison on La Mer next week if you want, with a different selection, a different panel, and different results...

Still, the Stokowski version would never have passed the first round, but that's only my experience speaking.


:'(


Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 23, 2012, 03:07:01 AM
:'(

Not everyone's views and experience deserve equal consideration, eh, Don? But those of us who've benefited from your recommendations over the years are grateful.

I just noticed your "new" tagline quoting Prokofiev. How timely for me. My wife and I were discussing him only yesterday in the context of 20th C. symphonists and agreed that his persistent playfulness and good humor distinguished him. I'm always surprised when folks seem to miss that and think he should be sarcastic or "grotesque," biting instead of joshing. He even survived life in the Soviet Union under Stalin without having that entirely suppressed and supplanted by Shostakovian anguish.

As for La Mer, I think Gatti's new release likely to hold up over time against my other faves. (His Tchaikovsky and Mahler certainly have!) And though I'm already experiencing a wee bit of buyer's remorse over Ashkenazy (how likely am I to listen more than once or twice to a recording that violates my aesthetic sensibilities regarding the piece?), I'm still interested in hearing it over the hi fi instead of the PC.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 23, 2012, 03:47:52 AM
Out of curiosity, I've applied some differnt analyses and approaches to measuring the results. Here are my conclusions:
1. In any scoring scenario I devised, E1 always came first.
2. Similarly, G4 always came second. This is because the votes are nearly identical, with one extra 1st place vote for E1 and one extra 3rd place vote for G4.
3. D2 always comes last! It had ZERO votes for first place, and the most for last (12 votes).
4. In all my scenarios H4 and C3 swap places. The reason is that despite C3 (Boulez) getting more first place votes, it also got more 4th and 5th place votes. H4 got ZERO votes for last place and only 4 votes for 4th (meaning 79% were neutral or positive to G4, while just over 50% were positve or neutral to C3)
5. The results don't change for all practical purposes. They do where distribution of results is different (as you would expect), but it's a negligible impact.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 23, 2012, 04:10:23 AM
A fun one that might have proved interesting for comparisons is Stokowski's version with the LSO. The sound is sumptuous although as to be expected certain Stokowskisms do interrupt the, err...flow.

A good ride all around, though.



I have the LP! I don't think I've listened to it since I acquired a CD player (27 years ago). I'll spin it this afternoon.

Not everyone's views and experience deserve equal consideration, eh, Don?


One of my favorites (Sinopoli) wasn't included in the comparison either. But I don't fault Discobole. He couldn't include every recording. Choices had to be made and, in this case, his views are more equal than ours (his comparison, his choices)  ;)  I think he made a great selection, including both historical and modern recordings with a great variety of interpretive differences (hey, Ansermet and Celi in the comparison; can't get much more extreme than that).

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 23, 2012, 05:27:42 AM
One of my favorites (Sinopoli) wasn't included in the comparison either. But I don't fault Discobole. He couldn't include every recording. Choices had to be made and, in this case, his views are more equal than ours (his comparison, his choices)  ;)  I think he made a great selection, including both historical and modern recordings with a great variety of interpretive differences (hey, Ansermet and Celi in the comparison; can't get much more extreme than that).
I don't fault him for that, either. And certainly not for recognizing that the comparison is no more nor less than what it was, with no pretense to completeness or definitiveness. Were I choosing competitors, I would have included more recent recordings and fewer historical issues -- but it's disco's comparison, not mine, so what I might have chosen instead doesn't really mean a thing!

I'm not familiar with Sinopoli's. Looks long OOP but admired enough for Arkiv to "reissue" it!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Sergeant Rock on June 23, 2012, 05:41:47 AM
I'm not familiar with Sinopoli's. Looks long OOP but admired enough for Arkiv to "reissue" it!

It's included in the cheap 16-disc Sinopoli edition offered by Amazon It (http://www.amazon.it/The-Art-Sinopoli-Orchestra-Giuseppe/dp/B0079J27DS/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1340462402&sr=1-1)

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 23, 2012, 02:19:53 PM
I don't fault him for that, either. And certainly not for recognizing that the comparison is no more nor less than what it was, with no pretense to completeness or definitiveness. Were I choosing competitors, I would have included more recent recordings and fewer historical issues -- but it's disco's comparison, not mine, so what I might have chosen instead doesn't really mean a thing!

I'm not familiar with Sinopoli's. Looks long OOP but admired enough for Arkiv to "reissue" it!

Well, I offered a very limited amount of historical versions, less than a third date from before 1960 ! And the dominance of the 1960s is really the result of the extreme number of versions made in the first years of stereo recording.

...-1939 : 3
1940s : 0
1950s : 6
1960s : 8
1970s : 3
1980s : 6
1990s : 3
2000-12 : 3

Gatti is one of the worst recent versions I heard. But it's not a surprise, he's generally a disappointment, and the ONF is at the weakest point of its history...

Sinopoli is an interesting version, but really, it didn't have a cahance to win because of a very disappointing Philharmonia Orchestra. It was quite in the same taste as Celibidache or Svetlanov, but with an inferior technical achievement. Hence the non-selection.

I'll try to clarify all that with comments on all versions I've listened in a few days.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 23, 2012, 04:44:50 PM
:'(

Not everyone's views and experience deserve equal consideration, eh, Don? But those of us who've benefited from your recommendations over the years are grateful.

I just noticed your "new" tagline quoting Prokofiev. How timely for me. My wife and I were discussing him only yesterday in the context of 20th C. symphonists and agreed that his persistent playfulness and good humor distinguished him. I'm always surprised when folks seem to miss that and think he should be sarcastic or "grotesque," biting instead of joshing. He even survived life in the Soviet Union under Stalin without having that entirely suppressed and supplanted by Shostakovian anguish.

Thank you kindly, Dave. I think I'm blushing! ;D

Quote
As for La Mer, I think Gatti's new release likely to hold up over time against my other faves. (His Tchaikovsky and Mahler certainly have!)

Might have to give that one a try!

Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 23, 2012, 04:55:24 PM
I have the LP! I don't think I've listened to it since I acquired a CD player (27 years ago). I'll spin it this afternoon.

Awesome! 8)

 
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 23, 2012, 05:09:45 PM
Gatti is one of the worst recent versions I heard. But it's not a surprise, he's generally a disappointment, and the ONF is at the weakest point of its history...

Sinopoli is an interesting version, but really, it didn't have a cahance to win because of a very disappointing Philharmonia Orchestra. It was quite in the same taste as Celibidache or Svetlanov, but with an inferior technical achievement. Hence the non-selection.
Translation: "I didn't like Gatti's La Mer. I don't like Gatti. I don't like the Philharmonia Orchestra, either. And I tend to confuse my opinions with objective reality."
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Discobole on June 23, 2012, 05:42:10 PM
As a forum is a place to express one's opinion, I didn't think it would be so confusing for someone if I didn't say "IMO" in every sentence. But I promise I'll try.

So, IMO there are a lot of technical mistakes in the Sinopoli recording, which are IMO flaws as IMO it doesn't sound as Debussy intended it IMO. But of course anyone can say anything and anything I say is just an opinion, so if a trumpet hits the wrong note it is just my opinion to say it is not good, maybe it is actually a sign of musical genius and I am really dumb.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 23, 2012, 08:22:07 PM
Translation: "I didn't like Gatti's La Mer. I don't like Gatti. I don't like the Philharmonia Orchestra, either. And I tend to confuse my opinions with objective reality."

 ;D ;D

Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Opus106 on June 23, 2012, 11:41:04 PM
Translation: "I didn't like Gatti's La Mer. I don't like Gatti. I don't like the Philharmonia Orchestra, either. And I tend to confuse my opinions with objective reality."

Translation: Someone just dissed something I like, so I'm going to confuse his clearly stated opinion for a supposed objective reality and be petulant.

;D ;)

C'mon, David, it's not the first time in GMG that a member has stated his or her opinions of recordings with words like 'worst' (he did say "I heard") and 'disappointment' . :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: DavidRoss on June 24, 2012, 11:41:00 AM
Translation: Someone just dissed something I like, so I'm going to confuse his clearly stated opinion for a supposed objective reality and be petulant.

;D ;)

C'mon, David, it's not the first time in GMG that a member has stated his or her opinions of recordings with words like 'worst' (he did say "I heard") and 'disappointment' . :)
"Petulance" is the right word, Navneeth -- but you're applying it to the wrong poster.  See the series of responses starting with this post: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,20461.msg638768.html#msg638768 

If you follow the thread from that point on, it should be very clear who's being petulant, who is going out of his way to offend someone whose opinion differs from his own, who regards his own opinion as holy writ, and who lacks the wit to recognize others' attempts to make peace and instead of responding with gratitude and graciousness and acknowledging that reasonable people's tastes may differ, chooses to respond by expanding his attacks.

And it should be equally clear that rather than the petulant response to slighting my taste that you mistook my post for, it was a pointed reminder of the difference between fact and opinion, offered only after subtler reminders had failed.

This is a great place when we share our experiences with the wonderful music we love. It's not so great when it degenerates into adolescent pissing contests. Gentle reminders usually suffice to keep all but the most deranged well within the bounds of civil discourse.

Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 25, 2012, 04:48:42 AM
If we're talking about recordings that weren't chosen for this particular comparison I'd like to mention few that I like, for this or that reason, regardless whether I think they could have gone far in the actual comparison.
Dimitri Mitropoulos with NYP is wonderfully taut and flowing performance in really disappointing boxy, airless and colorless sound from Columbia, annoying to think that they could just two years later produce fantastic sound for Mitropoulos' Shostakovich 5th.
Manuel Rosenthal with Paris Opera Orchestra on Addes, nicely piquant version, not perfectly played but ultimately again compromised by odd early stereo recording with crude spotlighting and then receding of instruments.
Mravinsky with Leningrad, not particularly idiomatic but superbly interesting very angular conception, more zig-zaging than ebb-and-flowing, more fauvist than impressionist, decently but not flawlessly played in front of tubercular audience in early 60s Leningrad.
Sinopoli with Philharmonia, his penchant for open textures and odd detail I find most appealing in La Mer as elsewhere, and I have to disagree with Discobole, I can't find any similarities between Sinopoli's and Celibidache's concepts of the sound, view of the piece, or goals they trying to achieve. I like the former as much as i dislike the latter.
But I'd have to agree with him on Stokowski, I have it and I really dislike it, his merciless taffy-pulling makes me nauseous. But it's not just in La Mer, I've yet to find a Stokowski recording that like. Question of non matching aesthetics I guess.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Drasko on June 25, 2012, 04:53:02 AM
BTW, has Pierre Dervaux's La Mer with L'Orchestre des Concerts Colonne (now that an orchestra you don't hear much about nowdays) ever made it to CD. I remember seeing LPs around, but never heard it?

And has Cluytens ever recorded La Mer? Not that I'd miss it all that much.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on June 27, 2012, 02:34:21 AM
If you don't have it Karl, I can send you a copy. I've got several on hand. It really is unique.

Found it, Sarge! I shall give it a spin to-day.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 27, 2012, 04:33:48 AM
Given his reaction to Gatti, I'm interested to hear what happens when Discobole's copy of the Deneve arrives. They are very different accounts.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison : Debussy, La Mer
Post by: Brian on June 30, 2012, 06:02:05 PM
Now listened to Bernstein. Yes, had it entered the final round, I likely would have taken it #1!