“The Power of the Orchestra” = MOUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition; A Night on Bare Mountain – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/René Leibowitz – Sony Music/Analog Production

by | Feb 8, 2010 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“The Power of the Orchestra” = MOUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition; A Night on Bare Mountain – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/René Leibowitz – Sony Music/Analog Production stereo-only SACD CAPC 2659 SA [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***:

With the many recordings of both these works currently available and reviewed on this site, I think I can go straight to the audiophile considerations involved. This particular Living Stereo Pictures was recorded for RCA Victor in Kingsway Hall and engineered by the renowned Kenneth Wilkinson, five years later than the Living Stereo Pictures featuring Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  The later version has been called by some one of the best-sounding orchestral recordings ever made.  I must disagree and wonder why it was made when RCA had the blockbuster Reiner Pictures, which is one of the gems of the Living Stereo collection.

I find the later recording more blaring in its sonics – not nearly as rich and balanced-sounding as Reiner’s version.  While both conductors amp up the dramatic elements of the work, Reiner’s just sounds more musical, and it benefits from the three-channel reproduction of the RCA Red Seal SACD.  The Leibowitz SACD has a flatter soundstage due to it being only two-channel.  There is also less deep bass than in the Reiner recording.  Finally, there is nothing else provided on the more recent recording, which runs about 43 minutes total, and retails for $29.  Whereas the Reiner Pictures has a total of 71 minutes, filled out with short and dramatic pieces by Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Kabalevsky and Glinka in addition to the two Moussorgsky works, and it retails for about $10.  ‘Nuff said.

 – John Sunier

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