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DEBUSSY: Images Pour Orchestre; STRAVINSKY: Symphonies for Wind Instruments; RAVEL: Pavane Pour une Infante Defunte – Suisse Romande/ Ernest Ansermet (1961) – HDTT

DEBUSSY: Images Pour Orchestre; STRAVINSKY: Symphonies for Wind Instruments; RAVEL: Pavane Pour une Infante Defunte – L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/ Ernest Ansermet (1961) – Decca/ HighDefinitionTapeTransfers.com (avail. in various formats) 192/24 DVD-R HDDVD-A 336 ****:

Swiss conductor Ansermet did some amazing things with his orchestra in Geneva, many of them originally issued on excellent London and Decca vinyls. This session was recorded in March 1961 in Victoria Hall there and has been transferred by HDTT from a commercial open reel four-track tape. James Walker was the producer and Roy Wallace the engineer. Usually HDTT has the date of the original recording and the source of the transfer on the package, but not in this case.

Ansermet did wonders for the French and Swiss music he conducted, even though his orchestra was not regarded as among the best in the world. He was a particular advocate of Honegger and Frank Martin. This is a fine performance of the Debussy Images, though I wish HDTT had listed the movements. It is up against the three-channel SACD in the RCA Living Stereo series by Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which has it over this one.

The Stravinsky Symphonies for Wind Instruments is one of first neo-classic works, though it uses some Russian folk songs. The high-pitched sounds of the work always seem to me to cry out for some percussion, but the work has none. Again, it is over-shadowed by the recent Blu-ray audio release from 2L, which we just reviewed here, which is multichannel and a terrific performance.

The familiar Ravel Pavane  is given a lovely performance by Ansermet’s forces, to bring this excellent program to a close. It has been transferred to digital using the very finest mastering gear and though only two-channel sounds superb, with no tape hiss.

—John Sunier

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