A poised reading of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune L86, the flutes leading seductively, lower timbred winds, harps and strings providing lush background. A good sense of flow, important in a piece which would inspire one of the most famous ballets of all time. Lovely circular shapes in the strings, evoking perhaps the movement of a faun langorously turning its body, horn, winds and harps adding detail.
Many will buy this recording, though, for Le Martyre de saint Sébastien L124, a four movement orchestral suite. The first tableau, Le Cour de Lys, begins with tentative stirrings, executed with clear precision. Something is stirring. Sonorous strings and winds murmur. Though Sébastien is a saint, the imagery is erotic. Debussy and his contemporaries were no prudes. Turbulence in the Danse extatique, the pace agitated yet languid, bright sharp chords shining. For a moment a dark, menaciung rumble before a glorious finale. The strings elide nicely in the third tableau, The Passion, echoed by darker motifs. At once a sense of forward thrust and sensual response. Particularly lovely winds, colours intensified by deeper, more mysterious undertones. A new motif emerges, delicate, bright figures meeting somnolent overtones, winds and brass calling forwards. A particularly beautiful final movement with well shaped long lines, strings shimmering against a hushed backdrop, culminating in triumphant blaze.
Le Martyre de saint Sébastien here creates a bridge between the sensuality of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and the vigour of La Mer. Heras-Casado and the Philharmonia capture the variety and textures that give life to this piece : lines comprising multiple, ever-changing figures, always in motion. The Dialogue between Wind and Sea flows exuberantly. A refreshing, open-air feel, surgiung and subsiding. There are dozens of recordings of this piece but this is reliable enough to stand on its own merits.