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Debussy: Images; Prelude; Nocturnes

Debussy / Tilson Thomas / Abbado
Release Date: 12/10/2013 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4806574   Spars Code: DDD 
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Nocturnes for Orchestra 1. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. 2 Images for Orchestra 3 1 Claudio Abbado, 2,3 Michael Tilson Thomas, cond; 1 New England Conservatory Ch; Boston SO Read more DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 6574 (71:06)

The late Claudio Abbado eventually recorded the Nocturnes with the Berlin Philharmonic. I admire both performances, though I prefer the BSO “Nuages” and the BPO’s “Fêtes” and “Sirènes.” The Berlin “Nuages” is faster and a bit on the dry side for my taste. It may be that Symphony Hall has more resonance than the Philharmonie and casts a pleasant patina of air around the sonority, but the drier Philharmonie yields spectacular detail. The couplings are excellent, too. In the Images , Michael Tilson Thomas holds his own against the versions of Ansermet, Boulez and Martinon, as does the recorded sound itself. What greater compliment could I pay him? The “Ibéria,” particularly in the outer movements, abounds with splashy color and precision. Listening to “Rondes de printemps” is somewhat like a game that could be called “See if you can find the tune.” It’s based on a melody that Debussy also used in one of his Préludes. Throughout the piece, it pops up in fragments, even in the accompaniment, before finally being stated in complete form. The conductor’s job is to prevent it from becoming “eye music” and let us hear it in its various disguises. Thomas brings it off quite nicely. Abbado’s Berlin coupling is also a formidable one—Erich Leinsdorf’s lovely suite of Interludes from Pelléas et Mélisande , to which Abbado adds the scene in the vaults below the castle. For me, that’s the difference maker since Leinsdorf’s own recordings, a studio effort with the Cleveland Orchestra and a privately-issued live one with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, have disappeared.

FANFARE: James Miller
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