A superb sounding but ultimately frustrating disc,
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This review is from: Lubeck Philharmonic Live 4 (Audio CD)
Heavens, but this is a frustrating disc, and a challenging one to review. If I had to summarise, I would say that this is a (mostly) superb, natural-sounding recording of an under-powered orchestra playing orchestral showpieces in a fine acoustic. And there is also a notable 'gotcha' I must mention...
You want more?
Sonics first. And the good news. This Cybele-engineered disc sounds quite superb. Key to this is an essentially unfussy, and un-mucked around recording which presents a real orchestra, playing in a real acoustic, in a startlingly natural way. Everything is unforced, but properly in its place. Dynamics are notably fluid, expanding into climaxes in a surprisingly realistic way. It's approach is rather like older Chandos recordings, but (I suspect) with the DSD recording allowing even greater see-through.
So, if you like crushing boom 'n tizz, Telarc's bass drums or surgically dissected and re-assembled recordings where every instrument gleams, then this is not for you. Avoid!
Needless to say, However, I just love this sound to bits.
The music. Oh dear, I've written over 200 words, and have yet to mention that the opaque disc name amply disguises the fact that the pieces on offer are the Richard Strauss tone poems 'Don Juan' and 'Til Eulenspiegel', together with the Stravinsky 'Rite of Spring'. All are spectacular orchestral showpieces, just begging for big-band fireworks.
They don't materialise, regretfully. To paraphrase the immortal Morecombe and Wise/Andre Previn sketch of yore, the Lubeck orchetra does at least play the right notes, AND in the right order. But they are massively underpowered to deliver them at full strength. As a result, the Don's frenetic swagger and ultimate disintegration fails to excite, Til's sly wit becomes po-faced and...
A digression. I remember, in the good old days (ha!) only crack orchestras and conductors, drilled to within an inch of their lives, were allowed anywhere near the 'Rite'. Now everyone and his dog plays it - and twice on Sundays. Just because orchestras nowadays CAN play the Rite without major catastrophes, however, doesn't mean that they SHOULD. The result is the sort of underwhelming performance we get here. Technically correct but uninvolving and -yes - even plodding at times.
And the gotcha? It's the bass drum, dammit. Needless to say, the hanging scene from 'Til' and much of the 'Rite' depend on a meaty, extended bass thump from this big-boy. For much of the recording, however, it seems to have wandered off-stage. I kept wondering if they could only afford a teeny Fisher-Price Bass drum; alternatively, the percussionist responsible had forgotten to turn up. My last possible explanation was that the conductor had developed an aversion to the instrument after being attacked as a youngster by a rogue one.
Strangely, it finally turns up in the last sacrificial dance of the 'Rite'. But by then it's just too late.
(auditioned on SACD layer)