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EMI originally made the recordings in 1979 and 1983 and repackaged them in 2007 in their "Great Recordings of the Century" series.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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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa