OTTORINO RESPIGHI: Feste romane – London Sym. Orch./Sir Eugene Goossens. The Birds; Brazilian Impressions – London Sym. Orch./ Antal Dorati – 1) from Everest tape; 2) from Mercury tape – HDTT HDDVD 213, 1 hr. 2 min. [also avail. in other formats at www.highdeftapetransfers.com] *****:
This is a 96K/24-bit custom DVD-R, burned by HDTT from two-track and quarter-track prerecorded tapes now out of copyright. It is similar to the hi-res two-channel downloads available at some sites such as HDtracks, but already on a physical DVD with liner notes and artwork. This is a DVD-V, which is playable on any DVD deck, but you must make sure it or your AV receiver is not downsampling the 96K data signal to 48K or 44.1K. For my ears, 96K/24-bit PCM is the perfect two-channel hi-res format.
Speaking of notes, there is a rather serious omission and error on this disc. It lists 13 tracks, but there are only 12. The Birds are tracks 5 – 9 and Brazilian Impressions are tracks 10 – 12. Movement/section titles were also inadvertently omitted from all three works. Also, nearly all HDTT audio files have only about a five-second break between entire selections (it should be at least 15 seconds). Here are the proper selection titles:
Circuses, 2. Jubillee, 3. October Festival, 4. The Epiphany
The Dove (GALLOT)
The Hen (RAMEAU)
The Nightingale (VAN EYCK)
The Cuckoo (PASQUINI)
Tropical Night, 2. Butantan, 3. Song & Dance
The Mercury Living Presence recordings of all three works have been standards for many years now. I searched but was amazed to be unable to find either the LP or CD reissue versions of any of them, and they were not part of the ill-fated transfer to three-channel Mercury SACDs. So a comparison was not possible. It also appears these works were not part of the Everest CD reissue series of the 90s. The original Everest prerecorded tapes (this one was two-track) as well as their LPs from Belock Recordings were superb, right up there with the greater Golden Age acclaim given to the Living Stereo and Living Presence series.
Respighi’s Roman Trilogy of The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome and Feste Romane have been seeing a number of single-disc releases since it is now the fashion of labels to fill more of the 80-minute maximum length of CDs. (There’s also the even more audiophilish Church Windows – not really part of the trilogy.) Previously it was only the first two that saw both LP and CD issue. I’ve long thought the third – Roman Festivals – was just as fine a widescreen spectacular tone poem suite as the other two. It’s interesting to hear Respighi’s musical depiction of the Circus Maximus of ancient Rome right after listening to John Corigliano’s new Circus Maximus on Blu-ray audio. I think I prefer Respighi’s. The October Festival movement has always been a favorite of mine for its lovely pastoral scene-setting with a solo mandolin featured.
The Birds and Brazilian Impressions were paired on a Mercury vinyl as well as a four-track prerecorded tape, which this DVD-R was dubbed from. It’s been on HP’s Superdisc List for years, which probably explains its appearance here. The five portions of Respighi’s The Birds are arrangements of the music of four early composers. The first and last selections come from the same composer – Pasquini. All seem to fit the bird in question quite well – especially Rameau’s delightful music for the hen and Pasquini’s concluding cuckoo. Respighi’s colorful orchestrations are also delightful.
The first of the three movements of Brazilian Impressions is lengthier than the other two combined. It programmatically and creatively well portrays its Tropical Night title. The second movement has to do with a snake-filled place, and always seems to be a good pairing with Revueltas’ Sensemaya, which also very creatively portrays a snake. The closing Song and Dance is lighter and more tuneful in nature.
All three works are heard in clean and highly-detailed hi-res sonics. If sourcing this material from late-50s pre-recorded tapes to custom-burned CD-Rs and DVD-Rs sounds a bit loose to you, think again. I have the same Technics open reel deck recommended by the expensive new Tape Project and a number of commercial two-track tapes. And although they sound very good, the couple tapes I was able to compare with HDTTs reissues failed to come up to the fidelity level of their discs. Though most of these prerecorded tapes did not use Dolby B encoding, tape hiss is almost never audible. HDTT uses the most advanced mastering equipment available, which is listed on their albums, and the results are clearly heard. You would not suspect the sources might be 4-track commercial tapes or even unavailable LPs – since HDTT has recently been offering some of the latter.
— John Sunier