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So much promised....so much compromised! If you want just the music look elsewhere.
on 9 June 2014
On paper this recording has all the elements: a celebrity narrator within the RSC tradition; accomplished singers; the "French" orchestra of the States, the Boston; a conductor who can combine depth with upbeat melody, supreme in lyrical finesse. So where did it all go wrong?
Well the musical content sags under the weight of narration of spoken text half way through, and one wonders whether this is a sort of academic exercise determined to desiccate a juicy fruity musical delight. Certainly one would have to possess the aesthetic sensibility of a rock to applaud the wholesale robbery of atmosphere and musical energy that occurs in this performance.
One might be able to wade through and ignore that with finger firmly placed over the remote's next track button, but for another and even greater problem.
That is quite simply the terrible sound engineering on this disc. True enough the digital technique delivers transparency and clarity, though not in a pleasant integrated package, but as for "4D" sound? Well I would have welcomed a bit of old fashioned 3D sound!
In other words, a soundstage representing a three dimensional space in which a performance with orchestra playing is taking place.
If like me you appreciate such geographical concepts and spatial reality with clearly defined left, centre and right plus a palpable sense of depth and presence in the different instruments and sections, plus much livelier playing, then...
AVOID AVOID and go for the superbly engineered versions on Philips (Haitink with the Concertgebouw and soloists Helen Watts) in glorious analogue or the digital later version on Erato (Jordan and the Suisse Romande) where this wonderful music has been superbly recorded in the Victoria Hall Geneva.
With the latter disc you also get a rarely heard Fair Melusina Overture and the famous Hebrides Overture which is played to the manner born....that is with some of the best string playing you will hear anywhere.
I think this is a fair trade for Judi Dench.