MAURICE RAVEL: La Valse; Boléro; Ma mere l’Oye; Tzigane; Pavane – Netherlands Philharmonic Orch./ Carlo Rizzi/ Gordan Nikolic, violin – Tacet Real Surround Sound multichannel SACDS 207 (also now avail. as a Pure Audio Blu-ray), 63:10 [Distr. by Naxos] (9/24/13) ****½:
We recently reviewed the unique inside-out Tacet vinyl release of La valse on one side and Boléro on the other. Now here are those two very unusually-mastered selections on that release joined by three other Ravel works, and on not only one of Tacet’s excellent multichannel SACDs, but also using their Real Surround Sound technology on a full orchestra for the very first time. (It had previously been used on string quartets, quintets and other chamber music.) There are full-page illustrations in the note booklet of exactly where each of the instruments or instrumental sections are placed around the listener using the five channels, and they do vary a bit from selection to selection. For example, the violin soloist in Tzigane is placed slightly left of center and somewhat closer. They even used the .1 subwoofer channel this time around (most classical SACDs eschew this channel and are only 5.0).
Purists may scoff at these Real Surround Sound recordings, but actually they offer an opportunity for the listener to get closer to the details of scores and to appreciate the skilled work fine orchestrators such as Ravel must do to create the massed sound from the orchestra which they want. When I run the vinyl release thru my analog ProLogic IIz with height channels, I get a very natural soundfield, and perhaps a slightly richer and more realistic tone of the massed strings, but playing the SACD release discrete 5.1 version provides more specific spatial information on the various instrumentalists. The orchestra is the Netherlands’ largest symphonic aggregation, so there are many sections and specific instruments to separate out. It must be quite a challenge for Carlo Rizzi to meet the high standards of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, also headquartered in Amsterdam.
Then of course there the fine performances here of the Mother Goose Suite – five movements, but not the length of the complete ballet, the exciting rhapsody for violin and orchestra Tzigane, and the familar Pavane pour une infante defunte for the closer to the SACD. There is some tough competition out there too, in Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony on the Boléro and La valse (RCA Living Stereo SACD) and Vox recordings of those two plus the Pavane, Rapsodie espagnole and Suite 2 of Daphnis et Chloé (Mobile Fidelity SACD).