I beg to differ on the appellation of “multichannel” to this hi-res disc. All three of these selections were only recorded on two-track tape originally, so the so-called multichannel SACD option is exactly the same as the stereo option here – standard two channels. Which seems needless duplication. This would have been a fine opportunity to process the L minus R information of the original tapes and offer a peusdo-surround 4.0 or 5.0 option on the multichannel, but the purist approach of this reissue series evidently doesn’t bend to that. I was surprised to see the original recordings date from 1961 and 62, because Heifetz was always asking the mixers for more of a sonic “spotlight” on himself in front of the orchestra, and the best way to get that would have been to record in three channels instead of two, and more of the recordings from the late 50s were three channel.
Anyway, these are clearly a big improvement over the standard CD reissues of the past, and give the original LPs and the Classic Records vinyl reissues a run for their money – depending on the superiority of your turntable system vs. your SACD player. Heifetz’ big technique is presented in all its glory front and center in a big sound in these tuneful but not overplayed violin concertos. The Vieuxtemps is the real discovery here – it had not been performed for years until Heifetz dug it up. Its undeniable virtuosity seems completely at the service of a dynamic emotional intensity.
The only hesitation here (besides the unnatural forward balance of the violin) is that the instrument sounds just as wide as your speakers are spaced apart. If you have a center channel speaker that means an extremely wide violin, which is somehow more disturbing than the wide pianos heard on most recordings. The greater channel separation offered by either digital format makes this effect even more pronounced than with vinyl reproduction.
– John Sunier