“Hi-Fi Fiedler” – Boston Pops Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler – RCA Red Seal

by | Oct 4, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“Hi-Fi Fiedler” – Boston Pops Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler – RCA Red Seal multichannel SACD 82876-67895-2, 69:40 ****:

RCA Victor began recording in multichannel five years before the
introduction of the first single-groove stereo LPs in l958. They began
using two-channel 1/4-inch Ampex decks but soon moved up to
three-channel  1/2-inch models as the Mercury Living Presence
label had been doing from the start. The idea was to provide the mixing
engineers with more flexibility in preparing the final master for
production.  The center channel signal could be raised slightly in
level to bring a solo violin or piano more forward, and/or its signal
could be mixed in varying amounts into the left and right channels to
achieve a more uniform and balanced stereo soundstage.  But also
at this time things weren’t completely jelled as to stereo being
limited to only two channels. Alan Blumlein had never stated in his
original patent that only two channels were required. It was just as
easy to make tape heads with three channels as two.  But  the
single-groove stereodisc locked the format into two channels – it was
quite impossible to get three channels with the 45/45 system of cutting
and playback.

R. D. Darrell’s notes for the l958 stereo LP release state that the
three selections (the SACd has room for six) were specifically designed
for demonstrate the newest heights yet attainable in the never-ending
but ever-closer approach to perfect sonic replicas of the original
“live” symphonic performances. The first is the nearly half-hour suite
from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Le Coq d’or. This composer would easily be
the hi-fi choice among 19th-century composers for his kaleidoscopic
orchestral colors and drama – a perfect choice for the album. The other
two selections of the original LP are the pair of chestnuts Rossini’s
William Tell Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Marche slave. They are also
both full of coloristic elements that make the fullest use of the
modern symphony orchestra. Similar material recorded for a second LP
later fills out the SACD.  (The actual dates for this collection
were 1956, 1958 and 1960.) Chabrier’s sparkling España is another
natural for hi-fi demo purposes, with its brilliant dance impressions
and striking of tambourine.  The disc closes out with two very
familiar Liszt selections: the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and the Rakoczy
March.

Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops for 50 years and became the
best-selling conductor in history. His 78rpm disc of the tango Jalousie
had been one of the top-selling classical records in history – one
million copies. He had a lifelong goal of bringing light classical
music to the millions.  Perhaps he was celebrated more than was
his due, but Fiedler did have a way to bringing life and excitement to
just about everything he chose to conduct – and he had a catholic and
voracious taste for new works. Never before has the general public had
the opportunity to hear these examples of his work as the RCA engineers
heard them in the control room – from the original three channel tape
playback.  The soundstage is deepened and widened.  Even a
mint vinyl copy of the original pressing on a quality turntable doesn’t
equal the impact of this three-channel hi-res digital disc, and it’s
only around $10. 

– John Sunier

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