* BACH’s Greatest Fugues Scored for Double Orch.; SIBELIUS: Sym. No. 2 – Philadelphia Orch./ E. Ormandy – HDTT audio-only Blu-ray

by | Apr 7, 2016 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

************ MULTICHANNEL DISCS OF THE MONTH ***********
Two audio-only Blu-rays with four-channel surround and Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia.

* BACH’s Greatest Fugues Scored for Double Orchestra – Philadelphia Orch./ Eugene Ormandy – HDTT audio-only Blu-ray

* SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 – Philadelphia Orch./ Eugene Ormandy – HDTT audio-only Blu-ray

Here are two more of the HDTT super-fidelity transfers to audio-only Blu-ray using the DTS-HD MA multichannel audio codec at 24/192 resolution. They were both sourced from commercial RCA 4-track quad prerecorded tapes  dating from 1973 and 1972. So both have both a 4.0-channel surround and a 2.0 channel stereo playback option.

A single Blu-ray on one layer holds 25GB of data. This means it can store the musical information without audio compression. At 24-bit resolution, the sampling is usually done at 96,600 times a second vs. only 65,536 at CD quality. DTS-HD allows for a bit-to-bit representation of the original master tapes.

While Leopold Stokowski conducting his orchestra in his own arrangements and blown-up versions of the Bach fugues (on RCA Victor CD) is the standard, the Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra in surround (even if it is only 4.0 channels) is superior sonically, especially in this lovely transfer. Forget all the purist historical research by the musicologists about how these works were originally heard – Stokowski really gave them some pizzazz and in surround one can bask in the truly stirring sounds he produced from the orchestra. The originals may have been only analog tape but the result is certainly better than the original stereo CDs. Max Wilcox was the producer and Paul Goodman the engineer for these seven fugues.

In a way, these Blu-rays are like the PentaTone RQR series of bringing back in excellent surround fidelity four-channel recordings originally made back when none of the disc formats for quad were really successful. Only they are on audio-only Blu-rays instead of SACDs.


There are many recordings of the Sibelius Second Symphony, probably his most popular. This one, originally released as an RCA quad prercorded tape in 1972 is definitely one of the top contenders. There are others on SACD by the Berlin Philharmonic, The Cincinnati and Cleveland Orchestras, the London Symphony and Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw, and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, some of them are only stereo, not surround. The strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra sound in their usual richness, and it’s great to have this important work in surround.

The same producer and engineer were involved in this earlier production. This symphony marked the beginning of the artistic maturity of Sibelius. He struggled in it to throw off the influences of Bruckner and Wagner thought they can be heard in this work.

If you look at the groove pattern on the actual Blu-rays, you may be surprised how small a section of the disc is actually cut. There would have been sufficient space for both of these albums on one Blu-ray disc.

—John Sunier

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