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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than some reviewers have suggested and as good as others have stated, 11 April 2014
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schumann: Piano Concerto in A; Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 73 "Emperor" (Audio CD)
I hesitated for a long time before ordering this disc entirely as a result of previous reviews that suggested that the sound quality of the Beethoven was considerably inferior to that of the Schumann although recorded at much the same time, place and with the same musicians - 1960-1, Chicago, Reiner.

As I already had the living Stereo version of the Schumann, more usefully coupled with Prokofiev 3 and plenty of excellent Beethoven alternatives, I was very doubtful about this particular issue. However, a friend of mine who is a hi-fi enthusiast whose judgement I could trust, assured me that, to his ears, there was nothing wrong with the Beethoven and that he also liked that performance greatly.

As a result I bought the SACD version of these recordings and am very pleased that I did. Like my friend, I too have nothing to complain about as regards the Beethoven sound as a recording and also enjoyed the performance. The Schumann is excellent and is a clear improvement over the Living Stereo version with all the expected gains in clarity, depth and realism.

Not wishing to challenge other reviewers' judgements over the Beethoven portion of this disc, I nevertheless feel that, in fairness, this may be an issue that has been somewhat exaggerated. My replay equipment is wide ranging, very revealing and normally merciless with poor recordings and in this case reproduced the sound very well.

Despite adverse reports as regards the sonics of the Beethoven I would suggest that this is still a very fine disc as regards interpretations of both works and that the recording of the Beethoven may play better on some equipment than others. The Schumann is an outstanding achievement on all counts. My advice would be to give at a try and trust to your own equipment and ears. You may be well rewarded!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The blockbuster here is the Schumann piano concerto recording., 13 Dec 2011
Judy Spotheim "SpJ Judy" (Belgium, Europe) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schumann: Piano Concerto in A; Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 73 "Emperor" (Audio CD)
Referring mainly to the audio qualities of this gem of RCA Living-Stereo SACD, we have here - controversial as it might look - a mixrd bag of sonic qualities, with the Beethoven Emperor being the lesser one.

It is hard to believe when hearing the Beethoven concerto that the transfer to SACD team was using the original triple track tape recording from 1960: The sound is slightly mellow, distance, a bit lacking in ultimate resolution and is limited at the bass range and dynamics all throughout (contrary to other Reiner's transfers to SACD).
It sounds like the transfer team, for whatever reason were forced to use a second generation tape-copy here.
It simply doesn't sound better than any DDD recording of this work and some of the Decca DDD recordings of this work sounds even better, (with piano sound that is much to be preferred) to wit; Decca /de Larrocha/Chailly, Decca Ashkenazy/VPO/Mehta, and RCA's Emanuel Ax/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Previn.

The Schumann portion of this SACD is almost heaven...!
It is taken from upfront closer to the microphones. The frequency range, the details, the dynamics, the width of the sound-stage, the orchestral nuances and the piano tone is good too, yet, it eluded RCA's engineer Lewis Layton who almost never could captured that degree of piano tone purity and fidelity that the Decca recording engineers had in their bag right from the beginning of the Decca piano recordings.

However, it is for the Schumann portion on this RCA Living-Stereo SACD that one should rush out and grab; a masterpiece of playing, conducting and insights. A Marvel.

One should be aware of the fact that SACD technology has a much higher sampling rate than the normal CD and that the dynamic range on SACD is about 120dB. The SACD utilizes a Direct Stream Digital (DSD) - these factors makes the SACD potentially the best of today's medium for storing and for playback.
Note that CD editions that offer a 24-bit/96Khz transfers are still in the realm of just a PCM and are subjected to the normal digital filter-clock.

As for the notion that a SACD "need" added speakers in the living room or in the listening room (wife acceptance factor gets into troubles here), and routing the signal through multiple channel amplification in order to enjoy play-back of SACD - this notion is grossly misleading.
One can comfortably and fully enjoy the super technology with the existing two front channel stereo playback system provided that your CD player can read a SACD. The benefits of the SACD does not - repeat, does not - lie in how many speakers and channels are present, but by the DSD technology which offers a higher sampling and higher dynamic range.
Many of the cherished SACDs do not have any signal information for the rear channels (the RCA SACDs) and more modern recordings have little to offer for the rear channels; at best, that rear-channel information offered is some sort of summation of what it is on the front channel - a summation and separation with some added reverberation that most of the time is quite unnatural.
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