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Debussy: Images, Nocturnes, Etc / Andre Previn, London So

Release Date: 09/18/2007 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 91966   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Performer:  Peter Lloyd
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraAmbrosian Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Images. Nocturnes André Previn, cond; Ambrosian Ch; 1 London SO EMI 91966 (74:43)

I well remember the thrill of buying these performances of the Prélude and Images when they came out on LP in the U.K. (the Read more style="font-style:italic">Nocturnes , recorded in 1983, have been added to bulk out the playing time). I even remember taking out the scores from the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester to enhance the experience. The thrill of the state-of-the-art digital recording was actually the primary impetus for the purchase of these 1979 recordings, and the quality on this reacquaintance remains jaw dropping. The recording team for all works presented here was the legendary producer Suvi Raj Grubb and the nearly legendary engineer, Christopher Parker. To top it all, the London Symphony of that time included some of the foremost instrumental soloists of the day, and they all shine here.

The Prélude features the solo flute of Peter Lloyd, who languishes his way almost sexily through the long opening solo. Delicacy is the watchword of this entire performance. Textures are exquisitely balanced, while the telepathic communication between woodwind and horn soloists is a joy to hear. Images is no less fine. Its three sections are allocated a track each on the disc. The held-breath atmosphere of the opening is heard against a miraculously silent background. Finely observed rhythms save the first movement (“Gigues”) from ever sagging, before “Ibéria,” a Debussian tribute to Spain, bursts irrepressibly onto the scene. I adored Anthony Camden’s oboe solos in particular of the second section (“Ibéria”). The party atmosphere of “Le matin d’un jour de fête” seems to reflect the joy in music-making the musicians were clearly experiencing at the time of recording.

The Nocturnes have as an added bonus the wordless contribution of the superb Ambrosian Chorus. Again, delicacy and sensuality is the order of the day. “Nuages” is so elusive it hardly seems to exist at all. As we listen, there seems to be a fear that this will all disappear, or is simply a product of the listener’s imagination. “Fêtes” convinces us of the tangibility of the experience (resplendent brass; and how well the ascending harp glissandos are caught by the recording). And then—what sirens we have here! The voices are placed perfectly in the aural picture, far enough back to lose all corporeality, yet near enough for us to appreciate their elusive beauty.

As far as other recordings are concerned, there are few to sit alongside these. Abbado’s beautiful Berlin recordings of the Nocturnes and the Prélude (DG 471 322) were rightly praised by Michael Fine in his 2003 Want List, but Previn also captures the essence of this marvelous music. I still recognize Haitink’s version (currently on Philips 464697) as top of the pile, but Previn is right up there, snapping at his heels.

Even today, the London Symphony in top form remains one of the world’s great orchestras. At the time of these recordings it was in its absolute heyday. Will the unpredictable, uneven yet sometime genius Gergiev help to recapture those halcyon days in his new post at the Barbican? This disc comes recommended, unhesitatingly. By the way, Mike Ashman’s informed and enthusiastic notes offer a window into the recording session as well as talking authoritatively about the pieces themselves.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Peter Lloyd (Flute)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 10 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (07/02/1979 - 07/03/1979)
Composition written: France (1892 - 1894). 
Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1912; France 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 37 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (07/02/1979 - 07/03/1979) 
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Ambrosian Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 26 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (04/12/1983 - 04/15/1979) 

Sound Samples

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Images: I. Gigues
Images, II. Ibéria: 1. Par les rues et par les chemins
Images, II. Ibéria: 2. Les parfums de la nuit -
Images, II. Ibéria: 3. Le matin d'un jour de fête
Images: III. Rondes de printemps
Nocturnes: I. Nuages
Nocturnes: II. Fêtes
Nocturnes: III. Sirènes (with women's choir)

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