GEORGE GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris – Earl Wild, p. (Rhapsody)/ Boston Pops Orch./ Arthur Fiedler – RCA Victor/ Analogue Productions 3-channel SACD CAPC 2367 SA, 32:59 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) [6/10/14] *****:
This was one one of the generally excellent 40-something Living Stereo recordings of the Golden Age of Classical Recording which BMG released around 2005 as mostly three-channel SACDs. The original sessions in Boston’s Symphony Hall were produced by Richard Mohr and Lewis Layton was the recording engineer in 1959.
Both are demonstration-quality recordings and performances, perhaps the most lively and enjoyable of all the competing versions of both Gershwin works. Even if one has heard both pieces countless times and may fear another hearing, the top-flight enthusiastic work of Fiedler and the Boston Pops makes both of them the most pleasurable experiences. I would call them landmark recordings. The three channel hi-res reproduction makes for a deeper and more detailed orchestral soundstage, even if your center speaker is not up to the quality of your left and right front speakers. And if all three are identical, you’re really in for a treat. Earl Wild’s piano part is never swallowed up by the orchestra in the Rhapsody in Blue, and the instrumental imitations of Paris car horns really stand out in American in Paris.
The problem here is that the BMG/RCA 3-channel SACD of 2005 is still available, and is only $12 at Amazon, whereas this new APO remastering (which doesn’t even become available until next month) is listed at $42. Plus the original $12 SACD includes three more Gershwin selections: The complete Concerto in F, Variations on “I Got Rhythm,” and the Cuban Overture. (The team for those three changed; it was Peter Dellheim and Anthony Salvatore.) And the final plus: the two discs sound identical. (If you are a SACD fan, I would suggest looking into most of the BMG/RCA SACDs on Amazon. Here is our original review of the 2005 disc, and we covered many of the series around that time.) And one other little beef: there is absolutely no mention on the new APO SACD of it being three front channels only. That caused me some grief and confusion the first time I ran into it with a Vanguard SACD.