Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Franck); Boston Symphony Orchestra
(Stravinsky) Pierre Monteux cond. – RCA Red Seal Living Stereo
multichannel SACD (3-chan.) 82876-67897-2, 74:08 ****:
Two classic Living Stereo recordings that were originally each limited
to a single LP, but it does seem a bit surprising to find them as
hi-res disc mates. The connection is obviously that Monteux
conducted both recordings, though with two different orchestras. Ah,
this was back in those sunny days when our major symphony orchestras
were recording frequently. And for U.S. record labels too.
Monteux had been conducting the famous Franck symphony almost since he
started on the podium – only a few years after the composer had
premiered the work. Monteux’s 78s of the Symphony with the San
Francisco Symphony were standards in that era. This stereo taping
happened in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in 1961, with the Stravinsky
recorded in Boston in l959.
The Franck work, a textbook example of his cyclical theme construction,
seemed at least some years ago to serve as the introduction to the
classical symphony for many first-time classical listeners. I
remember as a young man tapesponding (like emails today only with a
tape recorder and little 3-inch reels of tape you sent back and forth
in the mail) with a fellow audio buff elsewhere in the country.
He was very excited on one tape about the new record he was digging by
“Cesear Frank and His Symphony!”
I compared a Classic Records vinyl reissue of the Franck with the SACD.
It was a huge improvement over the two-channel SACD mix, displaying
more clarity and depth of soundstage. But the three-channel
SACD brought the hi-res optical disc ahead of the LP. However,
the disc is marred by being crudely lopped off at the conclusion well
before the ambience dies away. Could it be the last foot or two
of the master tape (they’re always stored tails out) became damaged or
completely lost in recent years? The LP doesn’t suffer from this.
The BSO Petrouchka recording was a revelation in 3-channel SACD. Never
have I heard such precise spatial location of all the soloists and
instrumental groupings. Stravinsky’s scoring is often very
chamber-music-like, which helps. The sad tale of Petrouchka is so
clearly discerned in the very programmatic score that you can almost
visualize the poor little fellow in your mind’s eye.
– John Sunier