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Is this SACD all smoke and mirrors...?
on 3 May 2012
What was I doing at 5 o'clock on the 15th of November 1988? Well, according to the receipt of my CD of the Elgar works, I was buying the first incantation of the CD from Bauermeister Booksellers in Edinburgh!
It's probably difficult for younger people to appreciate the effect CDs had on the music lovers of my generation. Prior to the advent of these 'musical beer mats' (as a popular Radio 2 presenter christened them!), music was available on vinyl lps (susceptible to pops, clicks and scratches no matter how careful you were with them) or cassette tapes, which tended to stretch, wobble and suffered from 'print through' which spoiled so many recordings.
All of a sudden, these little silver discs arrived which 'lifted the veil' between the medium and the listener. All, it seemed was right with the world. Well, 24 years later, has the CD improved and is it worth splashing out yet MORE money on a recording which, like me, you have owned on vinyl, cassette and CD?
Well, the answer has to be a resounding YES!!
The Elgar works have so much presence that my original CD purchase all those years ago now seem as dated as the vinyl and tape they replaced. The Bass line is so firm and detail which has been hidden is now revealed. It's like hearing these iconic recordings for the first time. There are one or two slight drawbacks. Sir John's moaning and groaning has been minimised and the clatter during the dying chord of the 'cello concerto has been erased. AND, it has to be said that the recording reveals that du Pre wasn't always in the very centre of each note.
But who cares? In the 'Sea Pictures' Dame Janet's voice is revealed in all its dark, authoritative glory and, again, more detail in the orchestral writing is revealed.
I suppose it'll be only a matter of time before EMI find another way of selling the same recording we have purchased (many times!) before but if this is a favourite recording then do try to sample it.