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Debussy: Prelude A L'apres-midi D'un Faune; Nocturnes; Images; Le Martyre De Saint Sebastian

Debussy / Monteux,Pierre
Release Date: 11/20/2012 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4806567   Spars Code: DDD 
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un faune. Two Nocturnes. Images. La martyre de Saint Sébastien: Fragments symphoniques Pierre Monteux, cond; London SO DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 6567 (80:03)

The Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Nocturnes were originally issued by Decca London, the Images Read more and Martyrdom pieces by Philips. In fact, the Monteux symphonic fragments have already appeared on a Decca Eloquence collection that contained Debussy recordings by Haitink and van Beinum. When you have a career as long and a reputation as great as those of Monteux, it is almost inevitable that you will eventually rerecord some of your repertoire and here, he competes with his own earlier performances of the Images and Nocturnes , both of which are available, courtesy of ArkivMusic. Although the London Symphony Orchestra recordings were made by two different companies in two different venues, they share the same quality, what is apparently a quest for “atmosphere,” since the orchestra is not closely recorded (or, at least, doesn’t sound like it). Fortunately, detail is not shorted. He was 88 years old when he recorded the Images and the Martyrdom excerpts but I sense no faltering in energy. It was strange to watch him conduct since he was so businesslike and restrained while what emerged from the orchestra was usually more dynamic and powerful than what one expected to hear. Still, I prefer the even greater energy and “edge” of the San Francisco Symphony recording, made when he was still a youthful 75 (actually, the day before his 76th birthday). No doubt some of this is due to closer miking but it’s pretty competitive for a mono recording. I used to own Gigues and Rondes de printemps on an “extended play 45” (remember them?) before I finally managed to dig up the complete set on LP—and what an Ibéria . Actually, the mono era gave us some terrific Ibéria s, including Ansermet’s (a dull-sounding LP, brilliantly resuscitated by Decca Eloquence), and those of Ormandy, Reiner/Pittsburgh, and Toscanini/NBC. As performances, they are not overmatched by more recent recordings.

Although I think the Decca Fetes yields more detail, on the whole I still prefer the Boston Symphony Nocturnes , especially since the recording includes an appropriately seductive performance of the third Nocturne , “Sirènes,” which Decca, for whatever reason, did not choose to do. Recorded in 1955, when he was a mere 80, they have been captured in stereo and still hold up rather well. Of course, Monteux isn’t the only conductor who gave us authoritative Debussy performances—he isn’t even the only conductor who knew Debussy to give us authoritative performances, but you can buy with confidence that Debussy almost certainly would have approved of what you’re hearing.

FANFARE: James Miller
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