BSO / Munch – Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 "Italian" & Symphony No. 5 "Reformation" (2006) [Hybrid-SACD] {PS3 ISO + FLAC}

Felix Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 “Italian” & Symphony No. 5 “Reformation”
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Charles Munch (conductor)
SACD ISO (2.0/MCH): 2,37 GB | 24B/88,2kHz Stereo FLAC: 1,04 GB | Full Artwork | 5% Recovery Info
Label/Cat#: RCA Red Seal “Living Stereo” # 82876-71616-2 | Country/Year: US 2006 (1957, 1958, 1960)
Genre: Classical | Style: Viennese School

One has to chuckle at some covers. The picture depicts the Arch of Titus, with what possibly is a pine tree at the edge of the photograph. Yet, when one turns to the jacket of Respighi’s ‘Pines of Rome’ in the same SACD series, what does one see? Very few, if any pines.

This SACD of vintage Munch performances also includes a cherishable bonus, the famous scherzo from the octet.
It is interesting to compare the ‘Italian’ symphony to Szell’s 1962 performance, also on SACD. The only deficiency in the Munch is the absence of the first movement exposition repeat, which Szell observes. Szell’s performance could well be described as ‘brilliant’, the outer movements bursting out of the starting blocks and maintaining this pace to the end. Some might find this verging on the militant.

Munch’s tempi are less fleet. Indeed, all the movements in this disc strike a happy medium. The orchestra is recorded slightly more closely than Szell’s Clevelanders. The string sound of the Boston orchestra consequently sounds fuller. The woodwinds have a slight but appealing nasality which I gather represents the orchestra’s Gallic tinge during the Munch era. The brass has presence and bite, without blare. Throughout the performances of both symphonies, I was reminded of Munch’s conducting of Berlioz. Szell’s phrasing sounds leaner, more streamlined, and aimed to contain longer stretches of music.

In contrast, Munch’s style, especially amongst the strings, presents more highly moulded and articulated phrasing. Every now and then, the strings will ‘dig in’ over some notes, before relaxing the pressure to allow details from the woodwind to suddenly shine through. One is reminded here of Berlioz’s orchestration and melodic writing, with the quicksilver and unexpected handovers of melody from one set of instruments to another. This is not to say that Munch’s performance is maverick, nor that he moulds the music in a style at odds with the composer’s intentions. The shifts in emphasis are subtle, but audible if one is alert. In other words, there is more to discover the more one listens, unlike some superficially more exciting renditions. ( Szell is brilliant and not superficial, although charm is jettisoned along the way.) Munch’s inner movements may in principle lean towards the stately, but because of the detailed perspectives, especially from the woodwinds, there is so much of interest that one welcomes unhurried tempi. These comments I aim mainly at the ‘Italian’. I am almost certain he weaves the same individual magic in the ‘Reformation’, but as I barely know the piece, I’m not familiar with the standard interpretative formulae for these nuances. This is the first time I have actually found the ‘Reformation’ symphony semi-interesting, so it must function as an enthusiastic welcome.

The sound has remarkable little tape hiss, and is typical of the Boston recordings from this source. The strings are warm and solid, the brass not as piercing and obviously virtuostic as at Chicago, the stereo spread rather wide but without a hole in the middle, the orchestra bathed in a lush but not overresonant acoustic.

Copyright © 2006 Ramesh Nair and


Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 "New World" and other orchestral masterworks (2005) [Hybrid-SACD] {PS3 ISO + FLAC}

Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 “New World”, Carnival Overture / Smetana / Weinberger
Fritz Reiner / Chicago Symphony Orchestra
SACD ISO (2.0/MCH): 2,43 GB | 24B/88,2kHz Stereo FLAC: 1,15 GB | Artwork | 5% Recovery Info
Label/Cat#: RCA Red Seal “Living Stereo” # 82876663762 | Country/Year: US 2005, 1955-1957
Genre: Classical | Style: Romantic

This performance exemplifies the magic that occurs when a perfect symbiosis is achieved between a music director and orchestra. Nothing sounds forced or contrived, and when Reiner takes some slightly unusual tempo liberties in the Largo the performers seem to innately understand his intent and everything flows and makes perfect sense. Reiner emphasizes the minor/major key changes in the Scherzo to brilliant effect, and the 4th movement dazzles with energy and virtuosity. The Carnival Overture, Smettena and Weinberger are lovely surprise ornaments to a must-have Symphony No. 9.

The multitrack transfer reflects the 3-mike original recording (left, center and right channels only) and does not add engineering to a splendid recording. This disc is like a time machine bringing the listener back to a main floor center seat a Orchestra Hall. The strings reveal their wooden resonance, and you can hear the buzz of string on frets during the bass pizzicato passages. That said, we are talking about 1950’s recording technology and I have heard more detailed SACDs. Still, the difference between the CD and SACD multichannel layers is not subtle.

I’ve known and loved the Solti/CSO “New World” recording for years; it is now relegated to the re-gifting pile. If you are a Dvorak fan, buy this disc.


Coryell, Bailey & White – Traffic (2006) [Hybrid-SACD] {PS3 ISO + FLAC}

Coryell, Bailey & White – Traffic (2006)
SACD ISO (2.0/MCH): 2,81 GB | 24B/88,2kHz Stereo FLAC: 1,14 GB | Artwork
Label/Cat#: Chesky Records # SACD 322 | Country/Year: US 2006 | 5% Recovery Info
Genre: Jazz | Style: Fusion, Contemporary Jazz

The latest Chesky Jazz recordings, The New York Sessions, are, to me, the best recordings ever because they are the most natural sounding ever. They always record live, not in studios, with minimal but highest quality technical equipment. There is no multi-tracking, overdubbing or compressing what makes the music sound so natural with its original dynamics. The lack of technical equipment may be the reason for the natural, pleasing sound of so many Jazz records of the 50`s, even the monaural ones, combined with the highest quality technical equipment of today Chesky makes the perfect sound. Listening to Cheskys for the first time you will recognize they are out of the ordinary, but I think you`ll have to get familiar with them to hear that they are best. In some of the booklets there are diagrams showing the positions of the musicians during the recording session. That was not necessary, you can see them when playing the record.
Uncommon for Chesky, this is an electric line up and Coryell and his guys are playing jazz-rock fusion of the best kind most time, eight of ten are originals plus Hendrix`s Manic Depression and Monk`s Misterioso. The whole thing sounds like jamming and improvising with fantastic solos and thrilling interplay, sometimes relaxed sometimes aggressive, always attracting. For example: Bailey and White are demonstrating for 7 minutes what “Drum & Bass” does mean to jazz men. One can use this instruments in another than a stupid way. If you like modern intelligent fusion by a small group, mixed with wonderful relaxed acoustic guitar tracks, here`s one for you.


Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child Is Father To The Man (1968) [Audio Fidelity 2014] {PS3 ISO + FLAC}

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child Is Father To The Man (1968) [Audio Fidelity 2014]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 49:28 minutes | Scans included | 3,11 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 946 MB

Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper’s finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project into even wider pastures, taking in classical and jazz elements (including strings and horns), all without losing the pop essence that makes the hybrid work. This is one of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late ’60s, a time when you could borrow styles from Greenwich Village contemporary folk to San Francisco acid rock and mix them into what seemed to have the potential to become a new American musical form. It’s Kooper’s bluesy songs, such as “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and “I Can’t Quit Her,” and his singing that are the primary focus, but the album is an aural delight; listen to the way the bass guitar interacts with the horns on “My Days Are Numbered” or the charming arrangement and Steve Katz’s vocal on Tim Buckley’s “Morning Glory.” Then Kooper sings Harry Nilsson’s “Without Her” over a delicate, jazzy backing with flügelhorn/alto saxophone interplay by Randy Brecker and Fred Lipsius. This is the sound of a group of virtuosos enjoying itself in the newly open possibilities of pop music. Maybe it couldn’t have lasted; anyway, it didn’t. (more…)