Debussy: Images (CD review)
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EMI originally made the recordings in 1979 and 1983 and repackaged them in 2007 in their "Great Recordings of the Century" series.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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.