By the turn of the twenty-first century, times were starting to get hard all over the music industry, and that included classical music, which saw an impact. Giants like Sony, Philips, and EMI were slowing down, the latter two companies soon to dissolve or be taken over by other companies; Decca and DG had fewer new releases each month; and Michael Tilson Thomas became so annoyed with RCA for not continuing his orchestra's contract, he and his San Francisco Symphony formed their own recording company. He and his orchestra were not alone. It seemed as though only Telarc and Naxos kept plugging along.
In any case, the bigger companies began also finding that there was more money in their back catalog than in re-recording the same repertoire with expensive orchestras, so for a time they started assembling more reissues than creating brand-new releases. Thank goodness for small favors because at least we began getting some of the best older material than ever in greater quantity and for lower prices. This 2002 release, Essential Debussy, from DG is a case in point. It contains twenty-six of the composer's most popular works from some of DG's biggest stars.
|Herbert von Karajan|
The sound spans the years from 1958 to close to 2002, with the median age being around twenty-five to thirty years old. Some of it sounds a bit better than others, of course, but most of the material has a kind of bright quality that doesn't quite add up to luster or brilliance. It's more like a forward upper midrange with little deep bass or high treble, resulting in a sound that's easy to listen to but not particularly state-of-the-art. Still, you get value for your money here, and for the casual listener, especially, it makes a fine introduction to Debussy.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: