I love Delius and finally we have 3 of his rarely heard concertos on one multi-channel SACD. I listened to this in Chandos' 5.0 speaker surround sound. These are beautifully played by all performers and I would rate the performances 5 stars. Tasmin Little is delicate and sensitive and soaring to great heights when the music calls for it. Paul Watkins plays the cello with similar beauty and sensitivity. The rapport between the two in the violin and cello concerto is rapturous. However, I wish I could say the same for the recording. Normally I love Chandos recordings and have been a fan for over 25 years. Ralph Couzens' recordings of the BBC Symphony done in Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, and at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and at other large venues are superb! In this recording Ralph Couzens, normally superb recording engineer, has decided to use a very distant microphone technique (further away than normal) in a very reverberant venue, All Saints' Church, Tooting, London. This venue has been used by Chandos many times before, but this time their microphone placement is too far from the orchestra. (I have the same problem with their recordings of the Choir of St John's College Cambridge, done by a different recording engineer, the mics are too far from the choir.) In this recording Tasmin Little sounds like she is in front of the orchestra, but the orchestra sounds too far away in the background and the winds sound so far away its ridicules. One gets the perspective that one is sitting in the tenth row from the soloist but the orchestra is about 25 feet further behind the soloist. This distance masks orchestra detail and location. Also, the center and rear channels are used for reverberation only but strangely there is hardly anything coming out of them, especially the rear ones. I've heard much better Multi-channel SACD recordings of orchestras done in large churches before, like Alia Vox label's SACD of Mozart's Serenate Notturne, K. 239, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, etc. recorded at the Collégiale du Château de Cardona (Mozart: Serenate Notturne, K. 239; Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 [Hybrid SACD]). Also I have heard better 2 channel recordings done in large churches like Karajan's Beethoven Symphonies recorded at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin from 1962 for instance (Beethoven: The Symphonies); the trick is proper microphone placement. So, in the end I was disappointed with this SACD, due to the poor recording technique used. But I'm still glad to have recordings of these rare atmospheric masterpieces.
A final minor criticism: This SACD came in a regular CD case. Chandos, like many other classical SACD makers are no longer using the Super Audio CD case that has the nice rounded edges. When I buy a Super Audio CD and pay the extra money, I like to feel like I'm getting something special, and the Super Audio CD case does that for me. So, shame on Chandos for abandoning the Super Audio CD case and bravo to BIS for continuing to issue SACD in the Super Audio CD cases.
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