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Classic Ansermet, and a "Legendary" La Mer8 mars 2012
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These recordings all exhibit the even-tempered clarity one associates with Ansermet's recordings of Debussy. I wanted, in particular, to comment on the 1957 recording of "La Mer" in this collection, as I originally got to know and love it in its guise as a "London Stereo Treasury" LP. Its sound, in common with a great many London early stereo recordings, featured a harsh-sounding frequency spike in the low-treble range (ca. 2.5 kHz). I suspect these recordings were originally mixed this way to compensate for common shortcomings in inexpensive hi-fi speakers of the day, but come off with a harsh, steely-sounding edge on more modern sound gear.
I was quite anxious to hear this beloved recording again when it came out on CD, but its first release as a budget-priced "London Weekend" CD was marked AAD, and indeed exhibited the very same harsh, steely-sounding spike at around 2.5 kHz which was all-too-familiar from the old Stereo Treasury LP.
In this later incarnation, however, in Decca's "Legendary Performances" series, it has obviously been remixed from the master tapes with a much more realistic and well-balanced equalization curve, and the difference is very gratifying. You can still find used copies of the London Weekend CD, but this is the one to get for this great recording of La Mer, in my view. It's a pity that Decca has let it go out of print already, but it can still be found used, and as a CD-R at ArkivMusic. I think this 1957 recording has also been released in one of the Australian "Eloquence" CDs, but I've not heard that one yet.
Classic performances from the source17 juin 2015
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Ernest Ansermet was one of the great conductors of the Twentieth Century who knew many of the French and Russian composers whose music he did so well, and even though his Suisse Romande Orchestra was not one of the most brilliant ensembles, many of his recordings are classics everyone should own. This disc is certainly one of them, especially since it includes a very interesting rarity, Debussy's last work, the ballet "Khamma." Arranged in chronological order of composition, the works on this disc give us a clear view of Debussy's transition from late Nineteeth Century to early Twentieth Century harmonic experimenter, from the open and sinuous sensuality of the Faun's Prelude, to the much thicker chromaticism of "Khamma." Going from " La Mer" to "Jeux", and then to" Khamma", Debussy's constant growth as a modernest is very clear; in fact, "Jeux" sounds like an advanced version of "La Mer," while "Khamma" goes beyond "Jeux," but the family resemblance is most striking. In addition, since almost every work here, except for "La Mer," has its basis in dance, the way each work progresses is close. Decca has brilliantly remastered these recordings, which were already among the best of their time, in striking 24 bit sound which shows what a great conductor Ansermet was for balancing inner parts in such a natural way so that you may feel you've never heard this music before, which, in the case of "Khamma," may be true. An essential disc which belongs in every music collection.