“Stokowski Rhapsodies” – LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2; ENESCO: Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A; SMETANA: The Moldau; The Bartered Bride: Overture [also on SACD: WAGNER selections] – Leopold Stokowski cond. – JVC xrcd & RCA/BMG 3-channel SACD

by | Aug 15, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“Stokowski Rhapsodies” – LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2;
ENESCO: Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A; SMETANA: The Moldau; The
Bartered Bride: Overture [also on SACD: WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde:
Prelude to Act III; Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music – Symphony
of the Air/Leopold Stokowski] RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra /Leopold
Stokowski
1) RCA/JVC xrcd JM-XR24019, 40:11 ****:
2) RCA Living Stereo multichannel (3-channel) SACD 82876-67903-2, 75:36 ****:

An interesting comparison: JVC has been delving into the RCA Living
Stereo catalog for some time now for their audiophile xrcd series –
which seeks to scale the highest peaks of resolution possible with the
standard 44.1K CD format. BMG has been following close behind releasing
some of the great recordings of the Golden Age of Audio on two and
three-channel SACD, and at about one-third the price in the bargain. On
this album these two came out very close together, so it seemed natural
to pair them up for this review.

The program – originally recorded in 1960-61 – is a typical one for
Stoky, with lively and dramatic works that he can imbue with his usual
colorful timbres and lively arrangements. The Liszt and Enesco
Rhapsodies are so energetic as to have you wanting to slip on your
boots and go folk-dancing. I first compared the xrcd with  the
2-channel mix offered on the SACD.  I found the xrcd had better
impact, snap and a more extended bottom end than the stereo SACD mix. I
heard almost no difference in the finer details/resolution.

Then I switched to the three-channel mix on the SACD. The orchestra
became much wider and deeper on the soundstage, with the flute solo in
the Moldau front and center with greatest clarity and presence. The
string section also sounded richer and now the bass end matched and
surpassed that on the xrcd. The two Wagner selections you get on the
SACD (over 35 minutes additional music) are also made more attractive
and impressive with Stoky’s special showmanship. They don’t sound as
lugubrious and heavy as most of Wagner strikes me. So if you’re a
two-channel holdout without SACD playback, the xrcd is your disc; and
if you’re into surround sound for music, it’s the RCA/BMG SACD.

 – John Sunier

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