Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4
Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
Review by Karl Lozier
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SACD Number: Telarc Hybrid SACD/CD 60563
I was anxious to complete this review for this issue as a follow up to the recent Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony review on the Naxos label. Here will be found a very viable alternative to that performance. This recording is one of a relatively limited series. It was recorded just over twenty years ago all in the digital domain with the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) process. As an oversimplified explanation, consider the results to be nearly, but definitely not quite equaling the latest technical results in the recording department. Filtering and other technical procedures were then able to keep the original recording technique's flat response to 25kHz while preserving the filtering characteristics. For the very best playback on an SACD player, its 50kHz filter should be used. Nothing special needs to be done when using regular CD or DVD players. I believe that the first use of this recording was to make one of the earliest digital symphonic LP records.
Lorin Maazel's performance is simply quite good and definitely beyond being simply straightforward. There is definitely a singular vision that is consistent from beginning to end. It is relatively dynamic with a continuing sense of forward motion, or push, to an inevitable conclusion. It is not a relaxed interpretation. I find no negatives to this performance though my personal favorite remains Pierre Monteux's truly great recording on
LP [RCA LSC 2369]. When looking through Tchaikovsky's section at your "record store", pickup his
Symphony No. 2 (The Little Russian) a gem of a simply melodic symphony, not an almost great work, like his Fourth Symphony. The orchestra playing is spectacularly good as it was during George Szell's reign and some years after.
As good as the smaller Colorado Symphony Orchestra was on the recent Naxos recording, the Cleveland Orchestra was in a different league, namely the world class league consisting of the half dozen best in the world. The recording captures the orchestra's monolithic and powerful performance quite well if not quite as good as the very finest recordings. Bass response is the equal of the Naxos, the feeling of orchestral power superior, and the detailed insight into orchestral choirs in quieter passages such as the delightful third movement, not the Naxos' equal (remember it has a smaller orchestra which allows details to be more easily revealed). In forte passages the Telarc recording is hard to beat for clarity and detail that does not hold true of some of the other extended passages; a bit of a toss-up.
Some potentially very interesting information, to music lovers as well as audiophiles, is that the included
Rite of Spring was recorded exactly one year later than the Tchaikovsky symphony. As far as I know, the recording equipment and techniques were the same. The fascinating difference is that the recording venue had changed from the Masonic Auditorium to Severance Hall. My memory is not good enough to recall details, but somewhere near that time there was a change made for better recording quality or a forced change for a period of time while the traditional Severance Hall was being remodeled. Hopefully one of our thoughtful readers from the Cleveland, Stow or Akron area will let me know.
In any event, Maazel's reading of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is a fine one with no lack of forward propulsion. The Cleveland Orchestra is in a show-off mode here and could not be better. The sound quality is a slight but definite step above that accorded the Tchaikovsky symphony. Some sections are almost of demonstration quality. I am personally unable to recommend a better choice. Be put on notice that this recording is not in surround sound. It is a SACD recording, but in full range stereo only.