RICHARD STRAUSS: Don Quixote, Op. 35 – Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character; Don Juan – Antonio Janigro, cello (Quixote)/Chicago Symphony Orchestra/ Fritz Reiner – RCA Red Seal Living Stereo

by | Feb 14, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

RICHARD STRAUSS: Don Quixote, Op. 35 – Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character; Don Juan – Antonio Janigro, cello (Quixote)/Chicago Symphony Orchestra/ Fritz Reiner – RCA Red Seal Living Stereo Multichannel (3.0) SACD 88697-04604-2, 59:42 *****:

More Reiner gems brought to life via three discrete channels – heard for the first time in the home exactly as originally recorded (in l959 and 1962 in these cases). Both works constitute some of Strauss’ most successful orchestral compositions, and the widened and deepened soundstage provided by three-channel reproduction brings out the full beauty and excitement of these masterful Reiner performances. When the long orchestral introduction of Quixote is over and Janigro’s solo cello is heard for the first time in the work, it’s dead center and Right There – with a palpable presence that is seldom obtained with a phantom center channel and only two-channels.  Janigro’s instrument has a rich golden sound which is heard to best advantage in the several passages where the orchestra remains in the background or not playing at all. His tone is much smoother than any of the Casals recordings, but then Casals didn’t benefit from the Living Stereo sonic approach. I’ve always smiled at the “Battle with the Sheep” section; Strauss really imitates the sounds perfectly in the orchestra, and they seem more real here than any other recorded version I’ve heard.

For his original 1954 Don Juan 2-channel recording Reiner used the divisi layout:  the first violins on his left, the seconds on his right, violas right center, cellos left center and basses behind them. Later he settled on having all of the violins on his left, the violas right center, and cellos and basses on the right – as heard on both selections here – contrary to the note booklet [See Below].  Don Juan has long been my favorite R. Strauss piece, and what an experience it is to now hear it as intended in three channels. Wow! What impact! The Don’s ardor is greatly ramped up in this brilliant, white-hot picture of the famous lothario, bursting with braggadocio.( I have not only the Classic Records vinyl reissue of this but also an original two-track RCA prerecorded open reel tape of it and neither quite match the SACD as far as I’m concerned.) The soaring, heroic horn section comes thru loud and clear, and having the higher strings on both sides of the soundstage seems to envelop the listener more completely.

– John Sunier

 
Email from noted restoration engineer Mark Obert-Thorn:
 
John,
The Reiner Don Juan just reissued on SACD is not the 2-channel-only original 1954 recording (with divisi violins) as claimed on the inlay and in the booklet, but rather the 1962 3-channel remake (violins all to the left).  The timings are different from the 1954 version (16:00 in ’54, 16:29 in ’62), and when I A/B’ed them (using the previous 2-channel “Living Stereo” release, also coupled with Quixote), you could hear differences between the performances.  RCA didn’t start recording in 3-channel until 1956, so I was surprised when I saw the 1954 listed on the inlay as being in 3-channel.  Now I know why — they goofed! Both versions were available on pre-recorded tape, the 1954 and the 1962.  The latter was mixed down to two channels there and on previous LP and CD issues. 
 
Mark Obert-Thorn
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