This is the first SACD we’ve received from the very active German label Membran – they have a huge SACD discography, mostly featuring performance by the Royal Philharmonic – and they don’t have a distributor in the U.S., more’s the pity. The label signed in l993 the largest-ever classical recording contract with one of the world’s outstanding orchestras, and it has resulted in over 150 albums thus far. If this one sample is any indication, SACD fans will want to explore the Membran label extensively.
The only difference from the other orchestral series with major symphony orchestras is that this recording was made in the studio instead of as live recordings, using Abbey Road Studio One in London. Both the performance and sonics are magnificent – the SACD providing a viable competition to the other excellent multichannel SACD version of the Carmina Burana – Telarc’s – which we reviewed here.
The orchestra-only portions sound stronger – more forward and less muffled than on the Telarc SACD. The strings stand out strongly in their rhythmic figures during those passages early in the work. The chorus though sounds a bit more recessed and so do some of the vocal soloists. But on the other hand a couple of them sing really loudly and they need to be back a ways compared to the Telarc SACD. Both recordings share gangbuster bass drum whacks – Telarc doesn’t have the exclusive in that department here.
The packaging is also unique, with a heavy duty super jewel box but then a cardboard sleeve with rounded corners to match the special jewel boxes. But no translations are supplied – a serious ommission. I would have a hard time making a decision between these two glorious recordings of this still-exciting music (just enjoyed a live performance of it and after all these 70+ years it still hasn’t lost it’s audience attraction).
— John Sunier