10 RCA Living Stereo SACDs Coming In September

BMG Classics has set September 20th as the release date for 10 newly remastered RCA Living Stereo albums in Hybrid Super Audio CD format in the European market. The Living Stereo recordings are a series of legendary recordings made in the 1950s up through the mid 1960s by RCA to showcase the fidelity and 3D sonics possible with the then-new Stereophonic sound format.

The upcoming release of these albums in Super Audio CD had been long rumored as coming to music stores this fall. But details on the releases started to appear today.

No U.S. Release Date Yet
No word has been set about the U.S. release date but I’m told that the SACDs themselves will be replicated by the BMG-owned Sonopress Hybrid SACD replication facility in Germany and then the SACD packages will be “assembled” in the U.S. This approach to the releases suggests that a U.S. release from BMG is anticipated in 2004 as well.

Remastering the Albums for SACD
The RCA Living Stereo SACD remastering project is being handled by John Newton, Philip Nedel and Mark Donahue at Soundmirror Corporation in Boston. Soundmirror was founded in 1972 and has extensive experience in recording, editing and mastering albums for over 40 different classical music labels. The firm also has extensive experience with Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and Super Audio CD work with equipment in house including both Sony Sonoma and Pyramix DSD workstations and a 48 Track Genex DSD recorder.

For the new Super Audio CDs, Soundmirror obtained the original analog master tapes for each album. The tapes were transferred to Direct Stream Digital using a Studer Tape Recorder equipped with the Aria Discrete Class A electronics. The Aria/Studer tape recorder was connected to dCS DSD converters used in the transfer with Siltech audio cables. No equalization or signal processing gear was used in the DSD transfers to stay as close to the original producer’s intent as possible. (High Fidelity Review readers will recall that Aria equipped tape recorders have been used in a number of Super Audio CD catalog Remastering projects including the ABKCO Records series of SACDs by the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke.)

Living Stereo SACD Releases Will Feature Both 2 and 3 Channel Playback
Fans of the RCA Living Stereo series know that these albums were recorded in both 2 Channel and in some cases 3 Channel Stereo (Left, Center and Right). In the past, the Center channel material was mixed to the left and right channels for Stereo playback.

According to information about the SACD series, with the advent of Super Audio CD, they now have the ability to offer the 3 Channel recordings in this series in their original 3 Channel form through the use of SACD’s Surround Sound track feature. This follows the lead of Vanguard Classics which has previously issued some Surround Sound Super Audio CDs which feature 3 Channel playback as well as the planned 3 Channel SACDs coming this fall from Universal Music’s Mercury Living Presence SACD series.

The information we have to date on the Living Stereo reissues indicates that the initial release will feature 10 Hybrid SACD discs. Of this group, I’m told that five will have 3 Channel SACD, 2 Channel SACD & CD Stereo tracks while the remaining five will be presented in 2 Channel SACD & CD Stereo. The initial releases are as follows:

3 Channel SACD/2 Channel SACD/2 Channel CD Releases

  • Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra – A Hi-Fi Spectacular: Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3, Debussy: La Mer, Ibert: Escales (BMG Classics 8287-661387)
  • Van Cliburn, Kiril Kondrashin, RCA Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No 1. & Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (BMG Classics 8287-661392)
  • Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Mussorgsky: Pictures At An Exhibition, Night At Bald Mountain & Other Russian Showpieces (BMG Classics 8287-661394)
  • Leontyne Price: Verdi & Puccini: Opera Arias (BMG Classics 8287-661395)
  • Arthur Rubinstein – The Chopin Ballades (BMG Classics 8287-661396)

    2 Channel SACD/2 Channel CD Releases

  • Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra – Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe Complete (BMG Classics 8287-661388)
  • Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Strauss in High Fidelity: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben (BMG Classics 8287-661389)
  • Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Hungarian Sketches (BMG Classics 8287-661390)
  • Jascha Heifetz, Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D & Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor (BMG Classics 8287-661391)

Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony Orchestra – Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” (BMG Classics 8287-661397)

Preorders for the RCA Living Stereo SACD Remaster Series
While the Living Stereo SACDs are slated for release initially in Europe on September 20th, the first place where fans can preorder these discs is the Hmv.co.jp web site in Japan. On this web site, all 10 SACDs are now shown as available for a discounted price of 1,490 yen (approximately $13.58 U.S. dollars) rather than the regular price of 1,889 yen (approximately $17.22 U.S. dollars).