Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2L Recordings' Trace of Impressions on Hybrid CD/SACD

What a wonderful surprise--yet another in a series, I should say--from Morten Lindberg of 2L Recordings. Trace of Impressions contains exquisite performances from two of my favorite composers of all time...Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. It's not surprising that a CD would contain a programme made up entirely of these two French masters, since their histories and themes are so entwined, but I'm amazed at the freshness of the selections. Trace avoids the obvious "hits" and focuses on what we classic rock aficionados call "deep tracks"--hidden jewels in the repertoire. While I am familiar with such pieces as the moody, dreamy "Beau Soir" from Debussy and the Sonate Posthume from Ravel, there's so much here to discover.

Performed by Anders Kjellberg Nilsson on violin and Svienung Bjelland an piano, these duos are beautifully captured in the now-familiar Sofienberg Church in Norway. I say familiar since this venue has been perhaps the most common choice for Morten--the church is able to contribute all of the warmth and decay you'd expect from a Norwegian church, and yet it's able to convey loads of detail. For most of you involved in high-end audio, that's become the new standard of perfection. You want to be romanced and comforted (and sometimes challenged with careful helpings of dissonance) with Ravel and Debussy, but you want to hear everything that's going on in the recording as well. My love of Debussy, after all, is defined by the almost otherworldly tone and timbre to his compositions. Ravel, who acts as a bridge between Debussy's lyricism and the tonal shifts that would arrive after the turn of the century, also seeks to preserve that distinct French charm. Trace of Impressions excels at preserving those dreamlike qualities while providing a more modern focus and purity.

On a personal note, I had this recording at the ready as my parents came to visit my sound room in Colorado for the first time. Both of them are huge Debussy fans and have a profound love for "Clair de Lune"--so much so that they recently took me out for dinner at a steakhouse in Ouray and asked me to request this song from the pianist in the dining room. It made the celebration even more special for them. I had this disc playing when they walked into the door, and even though I doubt they were familiar with the piece that was playing, they both asked "Debussy"? They're not seasoned classical music fans, but they immediately made the emotional connection.

What this means is this: if you love Debussy and Ravel, this recording will make you melt.

According to the liner notes, the selections here are offered as proof of the influence of impressionist paintings on the music of both composers, mated with the "dynamic" Far East influences of the time. 2L recordings always seek to inform and educate the listener in complex and entertaining ways, and it's always a unique challenge to confirm these observations. So you get a gorgeous recording full of some of the most bewitching music ever composed--I will be playing this at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest next month--and you can fine-tune your classical music knowledge as well. This harkens back to the great classical recordings of the late '50s and early '60s, where copious liner notes in very small print completely dominated the back covers of LPs. 2L usually offers this information in a more succinct and attractive manner--the website is an especially helpful accessory in this regard--but you will listen and you will feel like a better person afterward.

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