Many labels have celebrated the Debussy centennial with major releases in 2018, offering fresh digital recordings of his works, as well as important reissues. This album of Vladimir Ashkenazy performing Debussy's Préludes, Books I & II offers a studio recording of the first book and a live recital tape of the second, which may be problematic for listeners who want consistent recorded sound. There is no problem with the first half of the program, where Ashkenazy demonstrates a rapt sensitivity to nuances and details, and these are easily heard in the clean digital recording made on October 29, 2017 at the Tonzauber Studio in Vienna. However, the second part of the disc was recorded live at Hunter College in New York on November 20, 1971, and the combination of analog hiss and the background noises of the audience interferes with the sound quality of Ashkenazy's playing, if not completely obscuring his interpretations. Listeners must make an effort to hear the piano, which seems to have been recorded at some distance from the stage with a single microphone. Yet collectors of Ashkenazy's recordings will appreciate the historic value of this Paladino Music release and accept the deficiencies for the sake of what can be heard.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson