RAVEL: Bolero; Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2; Pavane our une infante défunte – London Sym. Orch./ André Previn – Parlophone/ Warner Classics/ Resonance Recordings/ Hi-Q xrcd24 HIQXRCD22, 41:22 [7/15/14] *****:
These original recordings were made for EMI in Kingsway Hall, London, and at Abbey Road Studios in 1979. They are amazingly enthusiastic and colorful, both in the excellent performances and superb sonic quality of the disc—with the last word in careful and complex mastering and pressing carried out at the JVC Mastering Center xrcd works in Japan. It illustrates that the careful proper attention to detail in converting the original recording (which was probably analog tape) to the final optical disc is perhaps more important than the sampling details of the original digital recording or the quality of the original analog tape. The original micing and acoustics are also very important. Some of the finest fidelity HDTT hi-res discs are sourced from 7 1/2 speed quarter-track commercial tapes and some even from LPs! In premium high-quality CD transfers, it shows you just how good a standard CD can sound on a good player when properly done.
I was surprized this was a 17:20-long Bolero; many are as little as 12 minutes; some of the crossover versions cut it much shorter than even that. Yet it keeps up interest well thruout and doesn’t becoming boring as many recorded performances of this work do. I used the “Lever du jour” opening of the Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2 heard here as the sign-on music at the classical station I once managed in San Francisco, and therefore I’m most familiar with most versions of this gorgeous piece of orchestral tone-painting. I think Previn even equals in this section what I think is the best recorded performance by James Levine and the BSO. The Suite runs 17:13. Ravel’s Pavane is a natural choice to conclude a program such as this, and it is beautifully performed.
The only question remaining for many collectors would be “Is it worth $53?” Perhaps if you have a super system and a very high-end CD-only player. Remember though, no matter what the advertising and promotional literature may say, this is still just a standard 44.1K/16-bit CD, NOT a hi-res format. And of course it’s not surround. I’m only putting it in this section because it does sound so good it seems to be appropriate. We’ve had a couple actual hi-res discs that sounded considerably worse because the original sources were not good.
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