Debussy / Images For Orchestra / Munch

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Claude Debussy

  • This is one of the most magnificent Golden Age Classical titles we have played in longer than I can remember – we put it in the top 1-2% of their best sounding releases, a nice place to be
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording combines amazing richness with transparency, and even at its loudest, it is still smooth and sweet
  • It is very unlikely that all but a few of our best customers have any records in their collections that sound as good as this one!
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings that Living Stereo made possible in the ’50s and early ’60s is clearly evident throughout these pieces, something that the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern records
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, and for recordings of Debussy, that is quiet indeed

DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! It’s also a better performance than the famous Reiner. Munch understands this music perfectly.

This vintage Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Images For Orchestra Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For On Images For Orchestra

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

Side One

  • Gigues
  • Rondes De Printemps

Side Two

  • Ibéria
  • Par Les Rues Et Par Les Chemins
  • Les Parfums De La Nuit
  • Le Matin D’un Jour De Fête

All Music Guide on Images Pour Orchestra

The three works which collectively form Claude Debussy’s Images for orchestra, not to be confused with the two sets of piano works that go by the same title, are among the more immediately accessible and directly expressive of his later pieces. Although intended to be performed in succession, the Images are frequently heard independently of one another, especially the second, “Iberia,” which remains among the composer’s most frequently played orchestral works. The three works, which continue to be published as separate titles, were initially released at different times, with the first being composed and published several years after the second and third.

“Gigues” was written from 1909-1912, and has a decidedly English flavor. Debussy quotes the English folk tune “The Keel Row” throughout as the tune ebbs and swirls in the colored orchestral texture, surfacing in one instrument, fading back into the texture, and then resurfacing on another instrument. Debussy makes striking use of the oboe d’amore in the opening “Gigues”—indeed, it can be said that this unique instrument constitutes more of a musical “theme” than does any actual melody. A plaintive tone predominates; the few hints of joyfulness are clearly the product of wistful fantasy.

The central “Iberia” (1905-1908), itself divided into three movements, is more outgoing in nature (as French representations of Spanish music and culture almost invariably seem to be). The celebratory yet undeniably aristocratic atmosphere of “Iberia” owes a great deal to the earlier Fêtes from the Nocturnes, which rides the same fine line between the vernacular and the high-minded. Debussy’s score even calls for guitars and castanets, a remarkable request at that time. There is a decadent flavor to “Parfums de la nuit,” whose nocturnal activities form the center of the piece dawn arrives with the feeling that nothing has actually happened.

Further Reading