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Customer Review

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dorati/Respighi classic, in up-to-date hybrid SACD format., 3 Dec. 2004
This review is from: Respighi: Ancient Airs & Dances (Audio CD)
Antal Dorati, Ottorino Respighi's music and I go back a long way, all the way to Dorati's mid-50s Mercury Living Presence monophonic LP of Respighi's first two parts of his Roman Trilogy ("The Fountains of Rome" and "The Pines of Rome") with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. Over time, I managed to collect all of Dorati's Respighi (adding up to a total of 4 albums), first on mono LP and then on stereo LP, up to and including this Philharmonia Hungarica performance of the full suite of "Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute" (by this time, in stereo only).
For reasons that escape me (probably a temporary change in musical tastes in the interim), I hadn't yet duplicated any of these on CD when they were released on this medium. For this particular work on CD, I had been in sort of a "limp along" mode for some years, with a recording by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Dorati and the Philharmonia Hungarica - particularly in this remastering that includes 2- and 3-channel SACD as well as the conventional CD signal that had itself been superbly remastered by Wilma Cozart Fine not all that long ago - makes it easy for me to retire that Ozawa recording.
Where Ozawa is downright flaccid interpretation-wise (despite the excellent BSO forces), Dorati's reading is rhythmically incisive where need be, warmly glowing elsewhere (in the slower sections), and beautifully luminous throughout. (Interestingly, a comparison of timings suggests otherwise: Ozawa's reading is nearly 3 minutes shorter than Dorati's, but limp nonetheless. The "tale of the tape" is often not the full picture.)
As is probably well-known, the Philharmonia Hungarica was comprised of Hungarian emigrés who escaped (most without their instruments) following the 1956 Soviet invasion. Dorati was their spiritual godfather from the outset, polishing the group into a virtuoso ensemble. (This pairing was to later record the complete symphonies of Haydn on the Decca label, a traversal that is still a milestone in classical music recording history.) This group plays as fine as any in these relatively small-scaled works (based on Italian and French lute music from the 17th and early 18th centuries), and of course is led by one of the greatest Respighi interpreters of all time.
The sound, dating from 1958 recording sessions, is fully up to the very high standards that Mercury established with its Living Presence series, perhaps the most uniformly excellent set of analog master tapes ever put together by a single label. (In fact, the CD layer sound is significantly better than that on the Ozawa/BSO recording, despite the latter being some 2 decades newer.) And, while the "ordinary" CD layer, with its fresh mastering by Mrs. Fine, is remarkable for its clarity, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to assess the DSD transfer from the analog master tapes to the SACD medium.
The playing time, at 54:32, is on the short side. Perhaps there would have been sufficient space to include either "The Birds" or "Brazilian Impressions" (other Respighi works that Dorati championed); perhaps not. Regardless, this hybrid SACD is very highly recommended.
Bob Zeidler
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 May 2011, 10:07:11 BST
This is a good review of a disc I have owned as an LP, CD and now SACD. The SACD is amazing for the quality of sound and reinforces why the major record labels should be releasing discs in this format, but at affordable prices for us all to enjoy.
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Location: Charlton, MA United States

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