JEAN SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major – Philharmonia Orch./ Paul Kletzki (1955) – EMI/Warner Classics/ Resonance Recordings/ Hi-Q Records xrcd24 HIQXTCD26, c. 23’ [6/17/14] *****:
Well, this disc was quite a surprise. First of all, that recorded in July of 1955 it is in early stereo, because EMI at the time in Britain was issuing some stereo prerecorded tapes (since it was before the advent of the stereodisc in 1958), and perhaps this was one of them. Sibelius was still alive at this time; he died in 1957. The sonics are absolutely terrific on this carefully-processed xrcd (by JVC) from the original Abbey Road Studios tapes, without the multiple mics which became the fashion later on; this was probably done with just two mics and therefore the L-R information is considerable and it decodes beautifully to pseudo-surround channels using Pro Logic IIz or some other similar process such as Circle Surround. The famed Kingsway Hall in London was the recording venue. An additional plus is that the xrcd plays on all CD players without any decoding needed.
Second, the performance is superb. Polish-born Kletzki was also a composer, and his works were championed by Toscanini during the 1920s. When EMI’s Walter Legge formed the Philharmonia Orchestra he was its first conductor. He later was conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Suisse Romande Orchestra. He has a way with this most popular of Sibelius symphonies that just seems totally correct. It has a great unity as one movement flows very naturally into the next of the five movements.
There is considerable competition in other recordings of the work on SACD with natural surround rather than contrived. Neeme Jarvi’s set of all seven Sibelius symphonies is excellent, but I found No. 2 in that set bettered by Eugene Ormandy’s version on an old Columbia prerecorded tape, which is probably also available on a CD, and also decodes well to pseudo-surround. Then there are more recently recorded versions by Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony on LSO Live SACD and the one we had as Multichannel Disc of the Month: Maris Jansons and the Concertgebouw on RCO Live SACD.
There are also some award-winning recorded versions on standard CDs. So is it sensible to spend $50 on this gorgeous new version?; you decide. Perhaps if you have a very high end CD-only deck and no Blu-ray deck and want to hear what can really be accomplished on a standard CD.
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