This is the latest in a sizable series of DVD-As and SACD issued by the German MDG label employing the trademarked Swiss technology known as 2+2+2. It employs the center and subwoofer channels of the six-channel complement to feed an additional pair of front speakers mounted the same distance above the L & R speakers are those speakers are separated from one another. The intent is to make better use of these two channels in creating a more realistic frontal soundstage and a wider sweet spot. And it does, though it takes quite a bit of effort. I have a stack of such 2+2+2 discs to review but various logistical concerns have caused delay. Hope to do a special feature on them soon. However, all the discs sound fine played back as 5.1-channel mixes, and this one was so captivating I just couldn’t wait to review it.
The second disc for MDG from the Berlin Flutists, this is a sonic delight. The ensemble was formed in 1996, no doubt inspired by the 12 Berlin Philharmonic Cellists. The flutists are not confined to Berlin Philharmonic members, however. They cover the full range of pitches, with a gigantic contrabass flute appearing their group photo, and a guest performer added on piccolo. The arrangements are just superb – in some convincing one that perhaps the particular work should have originally been written for a flute ensemble rather than the orchestra, or piano or whatever it was written for. This was my thought hearing the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which already has the flutes in its orchestral opening.
Ravel’s The Tomb of Couperin also works beautifully in the all-flute transcription, although it made me think an all-recorder version would be even more in tune with the pseudo-Baroque style. Almost anything by Bach makes a workable transcription for most any instrument or instruments, and his keyboard concerto in C minor BWV 1060 makes one forget that a keyboard is used in the original version. The one atonal work got included for its title The Waves of the Sea and the Flutes, and inspired the disc’s title. However, I found it painful. A major change of pace occurs with the last two selections: Hora Staccato, followed by a five-movement suite of the familiar music for The Pink Panther by Henry Mancini. The natural spreading out of the 14 flutists is well accomplished by DG’s surround mix, making both two-channel options sound a bit crowded together and too flutey.
– John Sunier