At long last it appears that at least some record companies are taking advantage of modern recording techniques such as DSD recording to provide the listener with significant improvements in the quality of the listening experience now available to music lovers. This recording is an example of what can now be technically achieved. Large dynamic range coupled to wide frequency response provide the listener with what has been missing since the advent of CDs; the results are startling.
Turning to the artistic merits of the recording I have some personal reservations. For my own taste I found the interpretaion to be somewhat clinical and lacking in real red-blooded emotion that one expects for this music. It is certainly inferior to the now old version produced by Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra some time ago - what a pity DSD recording wasn't about then.
Crikey, I am having mediator fantasies, being the 4 between a 3 and a 5 star review.
To be honest I can see both points of view ... this performance wouldn't rank as anything near over the top. Certainly the violinists don't cane their bows, but I'm totally OK with this. I like that, in this performance, it's possible to absorb the detail of Prokofiev's amazing ballet (in suite form of course).
This relatively more subdued performance is helped inordinately by a very dry acoustic. In 5.1 this works very well, and certainly in technical terms this is one of Telarc's better efforts, beautifully balanced. However, in stereo (both CD and SACD) it's not so great. For some reason the stereo mix does lack a bit of power/punch. Given that power and punch certainly have a place in this work, that is a tad problematic.
Still, if you're after an SACD of Romeo and Juliet, I think it's quite likely you'll find this is (currently) the best of the lot. Jarvi handles the tempi really well - he keeps control of any tendency to accelerate/rush into the more dramatic/passionate pieces, but he doesn't linger either ... he doesn't drag out the more reflexive sections.
I am not sure I could answer the question 'is this primarily a horizontal or vertical account?' I really don't know. It strikes me that it is essentially a very balanced account. What it perhaps occasionally slightly underplays in terms of expressive possibilities is, I think, compensated by detail.
This magnificent score it treated equally magnificent in this performance. Jarvi sees it more as an orchestral showpiece, and Cincinnati players are enjoying themselves enormously. They tackle with great ease even the most demanding virtuosic passages, while never sticking out of the whole in some impressive tutti sections. Every time when Prokofiev enters the full strings, the sound lifts off emotions to fantastic heights. Jarvi has an incredible ear for detail, and the recording is equally transparent, even the quietest solo instruments far in the background are audible as much as they should be. I was impressed by the strings, violins in particular. They sound sweet, bursting with passion and emotions, but never overblown or sentimental. In the scenes with Romeo and Juliet they are light and transparent, and can mourn in tragedy and devastation at the opening of "Romeo at the Grave of Juliet", while the brass instruments sound menacing. I would prefer more weight at "Death of Tybalt", but that's just a really minor complaint, compensated more than enough with the dynamic outburst at the very end of that number. This disc is a great joy to listen to. Jarvi is sensible to every mood change, his tempos are well judged and rhythmic pulse steady. The orchestra is not just responsive, but totally committed to light and shade every single note or passage. Fast music is playfully furious, happy episodes burst with joy and sad moments are devastating. The recording captures all those qualities in their full glory, as customary with Telarc. I'm not sure that this kind of approach would necessary work as good in the theatre with the ballet dancers on the stage, but as a concert piece and orchestral showpiece it's a stunner.
One call this 'ballet music' because it was written to be danced to, but Prokofiev has here written a tone poem that can stand alongside any other ever written by anyone. The full-length ballet is probably better for purists, but this recording, of the three orchestral suites fashioned from the full-length music makes for better listening. This recording is excellent wth both the drama and the lyricism of the work being paid full attention. Listen to it and marvel at Prokofiev's brilliance, brought to life by a superb recording.