Sunday 29 March 2015

The Remastered Classics Review by Classical CD Review



With great delight, we would like to share the reviews of our remastered classics series (original Deutsche Grammophon recordings) published in March on classical CD review.The first review is for LaDamnation deFaust, Carmen, Symphonies Fantastique and Treemonisha
 
Here are four of the initial releases in Pentatone's excuting new releases in their QUAD series of fourchannel recordings made in the late 1970s and 1980s. All of these are Deutsche Grammophon recordings long available on recular stereo CDs. Now for the first time we can hear them as originally recorded in discreet four channel audio. It should be clarified that these disks contain two versions of the recording, one stereo for egulrar CDs containing the same trcks as on original releases, the second track, playale on SACD players contains the four quad channels as originally recorded. The latter is identified on monitor screens as as 5.0 channel as in order for an SACD plaer to select the multichannel verson on the disk, there must be at least 5 channels. However, to preserve the integrityof the originl recordings, the front center channel is silent; producers have resisted the temptaton to create a center front channel.. These famous recordings are now heard in a rewarding, bright, natural sonic perspective—and there is no question that the sound is remarkably enhanced..
 
Seiji Ozawa (b. 1935) surely has enjoyed a remarkable career, having been music director or associate conductor of many of the world's top orchestras, mentored byCharles Munch, Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. In 1973 he became music director of the Boston Sympony, a position he held for 29 years. He has been ighly honored with many awards and has madenumerous recordings However, few of his recordings are memorable, and these two reissues of Berlioz are examples. The Damnaion of Faust is a concreert work for four soloists, large chorus and ochestra, and this recording was made in Symphony Hall in October 1974. Symponie fanastique was taped in the same venue in in February 1973. The Boston Symphony plays beatifully, but there is little excitement in these erformances. The final two movements of the symphony should be a fiery listening experience, not experenced here. However, the fourchannel sound on both recordings is elegntly pristing with silky strings, strong brass and a fine replicaion of the warm acostics of Symphony Hall.
 
This Carmen was recorded in the Metropolian Opera House in Septemer 1972. Althouhh it is far from an ideal performance of Bizet's masterpiece, it won a Grammy Award as best opera recording of the year, which proves the fallibility of the Grammy Awards. Horn is a strong Carmen but she only comes to life in the final act. Tom Krause is an excellent Escamillo, and Adriana Maliponte a satisfying Micaela. Howeve, James McCracken is a poor José who often resorts to falsetto with disappointing results. Bernstein's conducting ranges from too slow to too fast. The Met Orchestra and Choruses and the fine .chidrens' chorus are superb. The aural picture is bright and clear, wellblanced, and often the fourchannels are used with imaginatin. A complete libretto is provided. This is a class reissue, but hardly an oustanding Carmen.
 
Scott Joplin's only known opera, Treemonsha ( the first, A Guest of Honor, was lost), was a failure at its premiere in 1911. It was not performed aain until a number of composers including Gunther Schuler discovered the piano score and orchestrated it. A number of performances were given with enthusiasic adience and critic reception. and even had a successful run on Broadway. It also won a Pulitzer Prize for "contributions to American music." This recording was made in RCA New York sudios in Octobe 1975, a production by the Houston Grand Opera conducted by Gunther Schuller. The opera tales place in in a former slave plantation near Texarcana (Joplin's home town), and the Red River in Arkansas. Treemonisha is an 18year old woman who is tauht to read, then leads her community against conjurers who prey on ignorance and supestition. She is kidnapped but rescued, and he opera ends with a jouous chorus in praise of the value of education. The music surely is pleasant enough, but hardly memorable. There are no big arias, and the opera does include a few ragtime interludes. This performance is surely excellent, and the recorded is remarkably clear and wellbalanced,
althoiugh no particularly"surround." A complete libretto is provided, but this is hardly an operatic treasure.
 
Cover art work is diffivcult to read as can be seen by te images above. It seems odd such abstract designs were selected for these major releases. The other negative feature is that the disks are in jackets attached to covers and iather difficul to extract. But these are small quibbes in an outstnding reissues.

Robert Benson

 
Here are five more fascinating issues in Pentatone's admirable reissues of original fourchannel Deutsche Grammophon recordings (four others are mentioned on this site (REVIEW). Check that review for technical information about these recordings. Again, regrdless of recording site, engineers have captured a totally natural, rich sonic perspective with ample sound from rear speakers to produce a splendid, satisfying sonic perspective.
 
Today is it easy to forget that Christophr Eschenbach's career began as a pianist after winning several major competitions, and this recording of the Emperor, made in 1977 displays his virtuosity. This is an admirable performance of Beethoven's mighty Emperor, and Eschenbach also displays his penchant for Beethoven in Concerto No. 3 also recorded in 1977 in which he leads he London Symphony from the keyboard. . Since then, Eschenbach;s conducting career has flourished and he was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra 2003-2008, and currently leads both Orchestre de Paris and D. C.'s National Symphony.
 
These recordings of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos were made in 1977 with Pinchas Zukerman conducting members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Forget about period instruments; these are modern, fullbodied instruments with rich sound, perfectly and stylishly played. Zukerman keeps the music moving nicely, and the fuorchannel recording offers the musicians nicely spread out in front with totally satisfying hall sound from rear speakers. There are a number of SACD recordings of this music, and this is one of the best.
 
This site expressed some disappointment in the Pentatone Remastered Classics Berlioz recordings with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, not because of audio, but because of Ozawa's conducting. He is more successful in this Ravel collection of some of the composer's gentler works. Le Tombeau de Couperin is a showcase for the Boston Symphony winds. and Ozawa captures music of the magic of Mother Goose. Ravel's music sounds elegant indeed in this miraculous multichannel sound. Again the orchestra is front, but the sound of Symphony Hall is ever apparent.
 
A gem in this batch of reissues is the SACD of guitar concertos of Guliani, CasteluovoTedesco and VillaLobos featuring famed Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes, (19331977). He was recognized as a titan of his instrument, appeared with leading orchestras and made numerous recordings. On this disk we have his elegant performance of iuliani's Concerto No. 2, and two works by his countrymen, CastelnuovoTedesco and VillaLobos. Both of these are audience favorites, and he plays them brilliantly. .The fourchannel adio vividly captres the colorful orchestration of the two Spanish works. The VillaLobos concerto is a articular delight, and this reissue is very welcome as an early SACD on Sony played by John Williams has long been delghted.
 
Hungarian pianist Támas Vásáry (b. 1933) enjoyed a remarkable career. He specialized in Mozart but also made many recordings of Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Brahms an the Racmaninoff concertos. He was a distinguished pianist in every way, also a conductor, and he can be heard in both capacities in this disk that coupes Mozart's Concertos No. 26, the Coronation concerto with the lesser known Concerto No. 14, K. 449. He leads the Berlin Philharmonic from the keyboard, and the performances have been captured with concerthall reality. It is unfortunate more music wasn't included; the playing time for this disk is but 55:13. Perhaps other recordings were not made in quad?
 
Yet to be released in this new Pentatone Quad series are: Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Schlomo Mintz and the Chicago Symphony conducted by Claudio Abbado; C. P. E. Bach's Symphonies for Strings with Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert; a collection of Debussy sonata performed by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players; Handel's Messiah conducted by Karl Richter; Haydn works for violin and orchestra performed and conducted by Pinchas Zukermann; ; a group of selections by Fritz Kreisler played by Sclomo Mintz; Liszt's Duex Legendes and Années de Pèeringage played by Wilhelm Kempf; string quintets of Schubert and Schumann with the LaSalle Quartet; Wolf's Mörike Songs with Dietrich FischerDieskau, and Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony in Stravinsk's Le Roi des Etoiles and Sacre du Printemps. Tantalizing, indeed!

Robert Benson