Under most other circumstances I would have to say Telarc’s sound on this recording is too ultrasmooth, but considering that it is serving the master impressionist Claude Debussy, it probably complements the music properly. For those listeners who fancy their impressionism mild and dreamy, this may be the best way to go.
My only concern with Paavo Jarvi’s interpretations of the Prelude a l'Apres-midi, Nocturnes, La Mer, and Berceuse heroique is that they seem more than a mite complacent. Next to classic recordings by Previn (EMI), Reiner (RCA), Karajan (DG), and Stokowski (London), Jarvi appears to lack some of their passion. Surely, in so serene a piece as the Prelude, this approach works perfectly well; but in something like the closing moments of La Mer, where the sea swells up and dances a literal storm, one senses little of the dramatic tension, the excitement and fervor, of the moment. There is, instead, a continued stream of soft, languorous relaxation.
Let me put it another way: These readings may be easy on the ear, and they may make for pleasant listening while driving along a busy interstate, but they aren’t the most compelling performances for first-choice listening in the home.
Telarc’s sound is, as I say, ultrasmooth and somewhat soft, but it’s very broad and deep across and through the stereo sound stage, with excellent dimensionality and a solid bass line. In short, this is a pleasing but hardly earth-shattering release.