RESPIGHI: Roman Trilogy – Texas Music Festival Orch./ Franz Anton Krager – HDTT

RESPIGHI: Roman Trilogy – Roman Festivals; The Fountains of Rome; The Pines of Rome / Texas Music Festival Orch./ Franz Anton Krager – 5.0, 24 bit/192k high-res digital with a 2.0 version – DTS-HD MA recorded live in public concert 11 June 2016 in the Moores Opera House, University of Houston by John G. Proffitt – HDTT ***1/2:

A fine performance of these familiar works with a stunning surround audiophile production.

It’s always nice to get a new recording of these three orchestral showpieces, and getting a fine surround recording is a real plus. This Blu-ray audio disc from the folks at High Definition Tape Transfers is a new recording, from June of 2016. HDTT has made its reputation with remastering of older recordings on prerecorded tape (and lately off actual older vinyls), but they seem to be moving toward adding brand new recordings, and that is to be applauded.

The Texas Music Festival Orchestra is in fact a youth orchestra, but don’t let that put you off. They do the Respighi proud. It’s hard to believe this is a non-professional group. And the Respighi can trip up any professional player, especially in some of the horn solos, which are here executed flawlessly.  The disc contains well written program notes, but oddly, the disc has no catalog number and no timings for the three works. It’s a bit sloppy, and something HDTT needs to work on.

I auditioned the 5.0 surround mix, and briefly listened to the included 2.0 mix as well. The surround is quite striking, along with the decision to put the trumpets in the rear channels for the Roman Festivals piece. The low end is quite good as well, especially during the well-known Pines of Rome finale. The only weakness here is the hall itself, which is perhaps not as reverberant as the music requires. I found the orchestra sound a bit distant for my taste, but that is subjective. Overall, this is a fine recording and performance. I’m not selling my Reiner RCA of the Respighi anytime soon, but it’s nice to have this modern multi-channel addition to the catalog, and I hope that the HDTT staff will continue to explore new recordings.

[Ah hah, but the Reiner on Living Stereo (coupled with Debussy’s La Mer) or on Analogue Productions (by itself) is only the first two – not including the Roman Festivals!  Though it’s not quite as good as the other two. And that one is only on the front channels – not a multichannel surround recording. Exton really loved the Roman Trilogy, and have released several versions on SACD, but several are only stereo, with three in surround: the Tokyo Sym. and Ballistoni, the Sao Paulo Sym. with John Neschling, and the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy…Ed.]

—Mel Martin

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