Debussy: Images pour Orchestre
Ataulfo Argenta, conductor
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Pressing: FFSS, Blueback
Price range: $25-176, mean $70
Comments: This album is one of the relatively more valuable London bluebacks. For one, it stars the Spanish conductor Ataulfo Argenta, who died at the age of 44 in a tragic accident attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning (he reportedly sat in his car in a garage with the engine running). Before he died, Argenta made a handful of stereo recordings for Decca, including the London/Decca beknownst to most if not all classical audiophiles, Espana, with the LSO. He also recorded Tchaikovsky's 4th, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Alfredo Campoli as soloist, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Liszt's Piano Concertos with Peter Katin as soloist, Breton's Andalusian Scenes (very rare and valuable), Falla's Three Cornered Hat, Falla's El Retalbo, Halftter's Sinfonietta, another Spanish album including such works as Guridi's Ten Basque Dances and Albeniz's Navarra, more Music from Spain, Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto with Narcisco Yepes, and this Debussy album. A second reason why this Blueback may fetch higher prices is that it was never issued as a Decca SXL.
This is a nice album. The performance given by the OSR is pretty strong, though if I had to listen to an analog version of the Images, I'd probably go with Munch and the BSO on RCA (a little more punch and more balanced sound with wider soundstage), Martinon and the ORTF on EMI (better sound), or Haitink and the RCO on Philips (tighter perfomance, cleaner and better sound). Sound is still pretty decent for an early Decca, though I think this album suffers from some of the restricted dynamic range which I've heard on some of the early FFSS recordings. I've never seen an FFRR of this. This album has been reissued as a London Stereo Treasury, and I wonder if this would have better dynamics since it was cut using more modern technology. If I ever pick up a copy of the STS, I'll let you know.
Many of Argenta's London/Decca recordings have been compiled in the 5 CD boxed set of Decca Original Masters, which is still in print and can be purchased rather inexpensively.
*Moon and Gray gave this album a 7 for performance and 7 for sound in their book "FFSS".