Cincinnati Symphony (Jarvi) – ‘Debussy: Prelude а l’apres-midi d’un faune, Nocturnes, La Mer, Berceuse heroique’  An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Cincinnati Symphony (Jarvi) – ‘Debussy: Prelude а l’apres-midi d’un faune, Nocturnes, La Mer, Berceuse heroique’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

There was a time when only French conductors were good at the music of Debussy. If a Germanic conductor such as Leinsdorf or Szell played ‘La Mer’ (“The Sea”), it sounded more like ‘Das Meer’ (or ‘La Merde’ for less charitable listeners). Though the French remain dominant in this music, it says a lot for the stylistic growth of the art that this new Telarc hybrid SACD by Paavo Jдrvi and the Cincinnati Symphony falls more into the French tradition than into the generic modern style. Indeed, Jдrvi’s deployment of his forces suggests an awareness of the old-fashioned “French sound” that has all but disappeared from modern orchestras. On the other hand, those who dislike the dry, pointillist manner of the French style and long for reverb-laden washes of “evocative” sound may not find this to their liking at all. read more…

Boston Symphony Orchestra (Munch) – ‘Saint-Saens: Symphony No.3 in C minor, Organ’  An SACD review by Mark Jordan

Boston Symphony Orchestra (Munch) – ‘Saint-Saens: Symphony No.3 in C minor, Organ’ An SACD review by Mark Jordan

The place where most performances of French composer Charles Camille Saint-Saëns’ ‘Third Symphony’ go wrong is on the podium. For such a well-known and popular piece, it is astonishing how truly few outstanding, idiomatic recordings there have been. I have about twenty recordings in my collection, but I would call only a handful of them worthy performances. What’s even more amazing is to see some of the star conductors who have missed the target completely: Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy (at least in his later versions), Jean Martinon, Ernest Ansermet, Seiji Ozawa, Michel Plasson. What most often happens is that the conductor approaches the work as a high romantic blockbuster and attempts to make it as grandiose as possible. But despite the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel of the finale, Saint-Saëns’ ‘Organ Symphony’ is actually a lithe work. The composer was responding to the spirit of the times in giving his work a grand, often turgid surface, but at heart, Saint-Saëns was a classicist. Conductors who look for a psychological probing of the depths end up bloating the work with baggage that it shouldn’t have to bear. Those few conductors who see past the stereotype of nineteenth century romanticism and treat the work leanly actually end up revealing for more about this elegant yet elusive composer: His reticence itself speaks volumes. The other perennial problem of successfully performing this work is one of virtuosity. It is an orchestral showpiece, but a potentially treacherous one, to be sure. Many performances obsess about hitting the right notes and thus end up missing the “music” completely. Fortunately, the RCA reissue of Charles Munch’s classic Boston Symphony recording from 1959 brings one of the few insightful recordings of this piece to Super Audio Compact Disc, in three-channel sound. read more…

MDG Bring Loss-less Multi-channel to DVD-Video

MDG Bring Loss-less Multi-channel to DVD-Video

MDG are to release a DVD-Audio disc with loss-less, multi-channel DVD-Video compatible content. This groundbreaking move affords high-resolution audio for those with DVD-Audio players and owners of multi-channel DVD-Video machines.

The Orchester der Beethovenhalle Halle, Bonn (the location of the first Deutsche Bundestag), under conductor Marc Soustrot performs three important French impressionism orchestral works: Debussy’s ‘Prélude à l’après-midi d’une faune’ together with Ravel’s ‘Ma mère l’oye’ and ‘La valse’. The disc also includes the rarely performed symphonic fragments from Debussy’s ‘Le martyre de Saint Sébastien’.

Werner Dabringhaus of MDG spoke exclusively to High Fidelity Review:

“The performances were recorded in the natural acoustics of the Beethoven Halle in Bonn and we optimised the acoustics there by putting away all of the auditorium’s chairs (where the audience would usually sit) resulting in much better reflections from the wooden floor, which we then recorded separately as part of the disc’s surround ambiance.”


As has been the case with all previous MDG releases, the disc is presented using the company’s own ‘2+2+2’ recording scheme, which is compatible with stereo, conventional 3/2.1 multi-channel or an optimised 2+2+2 installation, complete with height channels. The DVD-Audio layer is presented as 96kHz 24-bit.

Werner explained:

“The orchestra was situated on the stage, and whilst listening to the disc you will clearly hear the original positions and dynamics of all instruments, including the original elevation of the wind and brass sections on their correspondent higher platforms.”

MDG were also careful not to alter the dynamic range of the music,

“…the first tracks have a very low dynamic in the score so you really hear the original dynamics of the orchestra and appreciate the big crescendos upon the disc, especially when you come to the ‘La Valse’ ending.”

Together with the loss-less MLP track, as is the case with most DVD-Audio discs and all MDG’s previous releases, ‘Debussy/ Ravel: Orchestral Works’ contains a backward-compatible Dolby Digital track so that the disc can be enjoyed in all DVD-Video players, but also included is a second, uncompressed loss-less layer containing six channels of 48kHz 20-bit PCM. This means that anyone with a DVD-Video player containing an integral multi-channel decoder (normally used for Dolby Digital or DTS playback) can enjoy the title without the need for lossy compression.

Werner is clearly excited by this unusual and innovative move;

“Now you are no longer condemned to inferior Dolby Digital fidelity when using a DVD-Video player. Uff – what a difference.”


For those with multi-channel DVD-Video players, simply pressing the ‘audio’ button on the remote control will switch from the lossy Dolby Digital track to the loss-less PCM.

“With this new playback option, we achieve the widest possible compatibility from DVD-Audio, which now can be replayed on every DVD-Audio and DVD-Video player, or even every SACD/DVD-Video player (be it in stereo, 5.1 or in 2+2+2) in the best quality linear PCM the platform is able to provide.”

‘Debussy/ Ravel: Orchestral Works’ has a running time of sixty-four minutes and is catalogue number MDG 937 1099-5. The DVD-Audio version will be available soon and the performances can also be ordered as a two-channel 44.1kHz 16-bit Compact Disc, MDG 337 1099-2.

Debussy Ravel: Orchestral Works

Debussy/ Ravel: Orchestral Works, catalogue number MDG 937 1099-5

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