STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite; Suite from Petrushka – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Leopold Stokowski – HDTT

by | Sep 22, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite; Suite from Petrushka – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Leopold Stokowski – HDTT 96K/24bit DVD-V, 37:30 ****:

Mastered from a Capitol Records prerecorded 2-track tape, these performances were already heralded in their LP incarnation some fifty years ago. Today, they vibrate with the same shattering energy, especially the Berlin Philharmonic winds, strings, and brass. The silky sheen might be attributable to Karajan’s nursing of the BPO, but the Stokowski sound rules. Each of the suites is a natural test-recording for any audiophile’s high end component system. Stokowski’s adjustments to the BPO strings in the Dance of the Firebird, the sleek glissandi, the softness of the dimuendi, mesmerize in their degrees of affective nuance. Various sections, especially the Lullaby, evoke all sorts of harp coloration, along with flute and low strings. The Infernal Dance of the Demonic Magician is typical Stokowski alchemy, with excellent brass punctuations and sardonic explosions from the battery. The graduated crescendo to the ballet’s finale all but salivates musically in kaleidoscopic panoply.

A bit more interval before the Petrushka, thank you. We have hardly escaped the throes of The Firebird before we are flung headlong into the whirling soup of the puppet pantomime. The separation between the obbligato piano and the high brass proves quite distinctive, with rolling tympani underneath. In Petrushka’s Room has a bluesy coloring, hints of French fox-trot. The Mardi Gras Fair dazzles in its crystalline sheen, the extroverted bravura of the playing. Huge sprays and washes of color swell and overflow throughout the orchestral tissue, once gain treated like an organ diapason in the Stokowski lexicon, from grumbling low brass to the cymbal crashes. As diaphanous as it is luxuriant, the HDTT transfer crackles with excitement. I keep thinking that Stokowski would comment, “Now, that’s more like it!” [These interpretations are so colorful as to make most others sound like they’re black and white! They also create a fine surround field via ProLogic II.  HDTT has just reduced prices of their handmade discs to $25 each…Ed.]

— Gary Lemco

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