The Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra – Sopot was founded 24 years ago, has participated in many major concerts and music festival worldwide and made many recordings. Conductor Rajski is known as a guest conductor thruout the world and is Artistic Director of the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Warsaw. I found both performances to be energetic and fleet, benefitting from the smaller symphonic forces involved, which were more similar to what was normal in Beethoven’s time. The Seventh especially demonstrates a balletic, dancelike feeling thruout, which is what I find most appealing about this one, my favorite of the nine. The playing is precise and the ensemble sound the equal of any of the world’s finest orchestras.
However, I must admit my attention was primarily on two technical aspects of this release. (I didn’t even get out any of other Beethoven symphony recordings to compare. The album’s title – “Tacet’s Beethoven Symphonies” – suggests that Ludwig is being forced to share the limelight with something else here.) First is the fact that the stereo layer was recorded originally on tube gear using tube microphones – it’s one of the German label’s several “tube only” recordings. The Seventh Symphony was issued at the same time on a 180-gram stereo LP which I will review separately in an upcoming LP feature. However, I made a quick A/B test of the two tubey recordings, and found them nearly identical. With some careful listening I determined that there was very slightly more clarity on the SACD and it was also free of the slight rumble heard on the LP during silences in the music. The vinyl did have a somewhat more warm sound – probably due to fewer solid-state components involved – basically only my Grado phono preamp, since my AV preamp was on Source Direct and my amps are tube monoblocks.
Then I compared the tube-only stereo mix to the “real surround” 5.0 channel option on the SACD. Tacet is the label which places the performers around the listener rather than just going with hall ambiance on the surround channels. So adding ProLogic II to the stereo tube-only mix to compare with the real surround 5.0 layer was really unfair, and it made the sonics a bit muddy anyway. Although the stereo direct tube-only feed was very nice and warmer sounding, I have to admit I prefer surround sound for music – even when taken to the extremes which Tacet does on this disc, putting half the orchestra behind the listener. One does become awfully involved this way!
– John Sunier