on 31 December 2010
It makes no difference that this CD is half DDD and half ADD sourced, and it makes no difference that the performances here are by world acclaimed musicians; Perlman, Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra.
The reading is excellent and tempi and drive are there in gobs, but the Achilles heal here is the producer: Suvi Raj Grubb.
Now, already back in sixties and seventies in the high-days of Vinyl LPs, all of the recordings under this producer (many with Barenboim / Mozart piano concertos) were showing this very same trend: They possessed an un-natural midrange harshness, a tilt towards the higher midrange section of the frequency, no real bloom to the orchestra and to the solo instrument and something that the ear would perceive as grit, slightly metallic, a manipulated balance of the sound.
You will probably say that the producer has barely to do with the sonic end results but this is a mis-conception: The producer will have a huge saying in how end results on the master-tape will sounds and he will strive to capture (or manipulate) a sound into what he perceive as pleasurable to him at the source in the control-room - and this is painfully audible on this CD.
Here we have top artists with top conductor with top orchestra in a great acoustic hall - and almost all is for nothing.
The sound does not really opens up - it does not arrive organically to the ear and at times, it sounds like coming from tiny holes (shower-like form) with meagerness and no opened-up sound-stage (of which other recordings with the Concertgebouw are known to possess).
I wonder how many listeners will sit through any of those oeuvres and enjoy the sound served here.
Sonically - this is a great let-down.
Artistically? well, these are great performances, but is it really a treasure of a recording?
on 23 October 2015
The recordings on this disc come from 1979 (the Brahms) and 1983 (Mendelssohn). They were brought together by EMI in 1988, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Concertgebouw, whose orchestra, conducted with fire by Bernard Haitink, accompanies the soloists in both works. I didn't even know this pairing existed until I picked it up second-hand, and I'm very glad I did, because it's quite wonderful. The Brahms Double Concerto must be the very devil to balance on a recording, and EMI here has both soloists, Perlman and Rostropovich, well to the fore -- too much so, in fact, as Santa Fe Listener says. So there is a touch of artificiality about the sound balance, but the orchestra nonetheless is given more than adequate presence, with the lower instruments getting their due. The orchestral sound -- it's late analogue -- isn't as refined as some Concertgebouw sound I've heard on Philips, but it's fine, and Haitink brings weight and drive to the music. It's very enjoyable -- not the most emotionally engaging of Brahms's big works, but one in which the two soloists cooperate genially, and the slow movement's first motif has the lovely quality of a folk song. In the last movement, a good time is being had by all. If you can live with the forward sound, you should like this.
No reservations about the Mendelssohn -- the balance of Perlman and the orchestra is well-judged, and I like it better than the more forward balance of many of Perlman's later DGG discs. The sound -- early digital this time -- is more refined than in the Brahms, though it isn't in the Telarc class. It's a robust performance that nonetheless doesn't lack elegance. Haitink brings an almost Brahmsian weight to the music without sounding sluggish, and Perlman's playing seems to me beyond reproach. The lovely slow movement is done with restrained elegance, and the hell-for-leather stuff in the finale is invigorating. All in all, a disc I'm very happy to have.