Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #9 (From the
RCA 09026-62587-2 (BMG #D108097)
RCA number unk (shaded dog) LP
Fritz Reiner / Chicago Symphony Orchestra
London 400 047-2 CD
Kiril Kondrashin / Wiener Philharmoniker
Supraphon 1110 3140 ZA LP
Vaclav Neumann / Czeck Philharmonic Orchestra
This symphony is a masterpiece
and a must-have if you like classical music at all.
The Reiner / RCA CD brings us a superior performance
and excellent sound to match. It is the one to have
unless you can find the shaded dog LP – in good condition, of course. This
goose bump rendition is smooth, smooth, smooth, and the
largo movement flows like silk chiffon in a gentle breeze.
(I wax poetic sometimes.) The Kondrashin / London CD
is not too far, but is definitely, behind the RCA. I’ll
give it a not-too-distant second place. The Supraphon
LP is on a par with the London CD both in sound and performance.
It may be very hard to find though. I actually bought
mine in Prague some twenty-five years ago. Prague is
an absolutely gorgeous city, but I digress. Supraphon
did export some LPs into this country, so you might find
it in a used record bin. I recommend, though, spending
your time getting the RCA CD, which I’m sure is
available from BMG and other places. Best of all, if
you find a good copy of the shaded dog LP at a reasonable
price, by all means get it. By the way, if you run across
a London Phase Four LP with Antal Dorati, keep right
on going. It isn’t worth having.
Ariel Ramirez: Misa Criolla
Philips 420 955-2 CD
Jose Carreras – Tenor
Don’t think for a minute that this
is a liturgical mass sung by the Monteverdi Choir. It
isn’t. Actually I am very fond of that sort of
music, but again, I digress. This is a modern mass, c.
1964. However, Ramirez is not in the same vein as such
modern composers as Elliot Carter, Pierre Boulez, or
even Igor Stravinsky. This is wonderful music and is
sung magnificently by Carreras. Tenors, by some screaming
and screeching, can typically sing rather high notes
when singing loudly – even with their natural voice.
This piece of music, however, has many high notes that
are to be sung softly. That presents a problem that can
only be resolved by transitioning to falsetto (head voice).
Most all tenors can do this, but very few can do it gracefully.
Carreras is an absolute master at making this transition.
One isn’t even aware that he has made this transition
until you hear these high, but soft, notes coming forth
so effortlessly and so beautifully. I am reluctant to
pronounce everything as a must-have, but this one goes
over the line. Get it. As an audiophile, I am not a particular
fan of the Philips label, but the sound is excellent
on this one.
Gioachino Rossini: Rossini Overtures
Pentatone PTC 5186 106
Neville Marriner / Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Franz von Suppe: Overtures
Mercury Living Presence 434
309-2 (BMG D100088) CD
Mercury Living Presence SP 90269
Paul Paray / Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Decca SXL 2174 (ffss) LP
London number unk (ffss) blue back LP
George Solti / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Like the Brahms / Dvorak
dances discussed in issue one, these overtures are
lumped together because they are similar type music
that is lively, toe tapping, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The Pentatone SACD has startling definition, at least
on some tracks. There appears to be a slight difference
among tracks – but all are
very good. I did notice a trace of tape hiss (?) though.
Decca’s LP has superior definition as well – in
fact, the choice between these two would depend on which
overtures you like better. Get them both if you can.
I don’t have the Mercury LP, but the CD is a good
one. Of course it is no match for the SACD nor the Decca
LP. I’m sure there is a London blue back that is
as good as the Decca. Of my twenty some odd years in
the USAF, I spent eight of them in Europe. While there
I purchased many LPs of both labels from a number of
sources. For the most part, I preferred the New York
Nicolai Rimksy-Korsakov: Scheherazade
RCA RCD1-7018 CD
RCA LSC-2446 (Classic reissue) LP
Fritz Reiner / Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The illustrious career
of Fritz Reiner has many highlights. This recording
is one of them. I have heard several recordings of
this popular work over the years, but none has moved
me to abandon this one. I responded to an advertisement
in Stereophile magazine and spoke to some clown who
told me it would cost me $500 to purchase a mint original
shaded dog recording of this piece – assuming he could find one for
me. I won’t go into where I told him he could stuff
his shaded dog. If you are into vinyl, buy Classic’s
reissues for $30 or so. It is wonderful and has very
quiet surfaces. I can assure you the original did not.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check the
thrift stores and antique stores in hopes of finding
a good copy for a buck or two. It happens every day.
If you don’t do vinyl, the CD listed above is excellent.
My copy said it was made in Japan. I don’t know
what that means – if anything. Do they do something
Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1
RCA LSC-2252 LP
RCA 82876-61392-2 SACD
RCA 07863-55912-2 (BMG D100859)
Kiril Kondrashin / RCA Symphony Orchestra
Van Cliburn – piano
In 1958, at the pinnacle
of the cold war, a 23 year-old, 6’4” tall, 160 pound Texan
went to Moscow to compete in the Tchaikovsky competition.
He not only won that competition, but won the hearts
of the Russian people as well. Now what in the world
does this have to do with 21st century audiophiles? Well,
his story made headlines in virtually every newspaper
in the US, and this publicity spawned a plethora of record
sales of this piece that had won him that coveted prize.
To me that means there are a plethora of records in the
used record bins. Most are not worth ten cents, but many
are worth far more than the dollar or less, that they
are asking. If you don’t find a good one, then
get the SACD. It is not far behind the LP. Even the CD
is a must-have if that is all you can find. There is
a respectable CD on DGG with Martha Argerich at the piano
and one on Chesky with Earl Wild at the piano, but these
are not serious competitors. THERE IS NO COMPETITION
for this piece of music.
That was to be it for this edition, but
check below for a bonus:
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture
Decca SXL 2001 reissue by
Kenneth Alwyn / London Symphony Orchestra
No self-respecting audiophile,
even one who doesn’t care for classical music, should be
without a copy of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
It is fun music, and the more beer you serve your friends,
the louder they want you to “turn-it-up”.
Well, if you indulge in that sort of stuff – I
do – then give them the best. There are copies
of the 1812 from virtually every recording company known,
but most are not worth the effort it takes to put them
on the player. There is one exception, and only one,
the recording listed above. There is a real problem here,
since Alto has said -- and I have no reason to question
them -- that there will be only 2500 copies of this LP.
I’m sure there were many copies sold by Decca and
London (Yew York), but I owned the London blue back a
half century ago and it sounded good except for the last
dozen bars, or so, which were so distorted that it was
hard to tell the bells from the cannons (a slight exaggeration,
to make a point). I thought maybe it was inner groove
distortion from my modest record playing equipment, so
I bought a reel to reel tape recording only to find the
same distortion at the end. If that isn’t sad enough,
in all my hours spent thumbing through used records,
I rarely found any copies of this 1812 on either London
or Decca. If I did, they were trashed beyond salvaging.
Maybe someone on the net will sell you their copy of
the Alto reissue – hopefully for less than $500
though. The London or Decca is worth having in spite
of the bad ending, and the flip side is the best rendering
of Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien I have ever
heard. Of the “other” recordings, I own a
half dozen and have heard a half dozen more. They simply
suck. The vaunted Mercury recording, which I have on
CD, is near the bottom of the stack. Their cannons sound
like toy cap guns. The wonderful sound of the cannons
with their sharp recoil on the Alto reissue is really
ironic. They weren’t cannons at all. They were
muskets recorded at high speed, and then slowed down
to normal speed. That was probably an “empirical
miracle”, but it sure worked. Speaking of miracles,
it’s amazing how Alto cleaned up the distorted
ending of that recording.