Debussy: Images (CD review)

Also, Nocturnes and Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune. Andre Previn, London Symphony Orchestra.  EMI 0946 3 91966 2 3.

You'll want to buy, borrow, or hear this reissued album if for no other reason than to enjoy Previn's reading of Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune. It's one of the most sensuous, sinuous, intoxicating versions on record, and it leads off this all-Debussy album. You'll find it at once an impressionistic aural fantasy and a literal sound picture, music filled with as much feeling as description.

Next up are the Images for Orchestra--crystalline, sparkling, every facet a shining gem. But here's the funny part: It was the first time that EMI had recorded digitally, and according to the conductor, "the Japanese gentleman running the machines said to me that it would be very difficult, and costly, to make intercuts. ...And we went out and played 'Gigues,' and then all the other pieces, in one--and that's what you hear on the record."

Finally, we get the three Nocturnes, three more short impressionistic tone poems, which began life as "Three Twilight Scenes" but turned into a study of the color grey, a noisy public festival, and a song of the ocean and mermaids. Lovely works and lovingly interpreted.

EMI originally made the recordings in 1979 and 1983 and repackaged them in 2007 in their "Great Recordings of the Century" series. They appear to be the same as the company released earlier in several other LP and CD issues. There is no mention on the back of the case or in the booklet insert about using Abbey Road Technology to reprocess the sound. I suppose the idea is that the digital recordings were good enough to begin with, and no further fiddling with them was necessary. Certainly, the music still sounds splendid--nuanced yet dynamic, delicate yet robust, and well detailed all the way around.

I know there are other fine recordings of these Debussy works on disc, from the likes of Haitink (Philips), Martinon (EMI), Argenta (Decca), Simon (Cala), and others. But it's hard to find such a good combination of performance and sound as you'll find here in this Previn re-release.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa