BMG Releases Their First Surround Sound SACD In The U.S.

Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) has joined the ranks of record labels selling Super Audio CD discs in the U.S. market. Their initial SACD release is a recording of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony Number 9 as performed by Nikolas Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on the RCA Red Seal label.

Readers of High Fidelity Review know that BMG and its affiliated labels have been releasing SACD discs in the Hong Kong and European markets. The Hong Kong SACDs have primarily been remastered Hybrid Stereo SACDs of RCA Victor catalog albums while the European SACDs have focused on local artists in Europe. With this release, their SACD sales now bring in the Japan and U.S. markets as well.

Bruckner’s 9th Symphony Featured On 2 Disc Release
The new album is a 2 disc set that features Harnoncourt discussing (in English and German) and rehearsing Bruckner’s 9th Symphony on Disk 1 which is a conventional Stereo CD disc. The second disc in the set is a Hybrid Surround Sound SACD which features a performance of the complete Symphony in D Minor in Surround Sound SACD, Stereo SACD and Stereo CD versions. Despite being a 2 disc set, the album carries a list price of $18.99.

The 5.1 Surround Sound recording of the Bruckner Symphony was recorded at the 2002 Salzburg Festival on August 14-20, 2002. It was initially released on the BMG Ariola label in Germany in August. This was followed by a release by BMG Japan in September and most recently the U.S. edition on RCA Red Seal in late October.

RCA Red Seal describes the release by stating that “For their first recording for RCA Red Seal, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic illuminate one of the most enigmatic masterpieces in late Romantic music in a unique presentation of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9. The two-CD set includes the first-ever recording of Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs’ new critical edition of the three-movement, unfinished symphony, as well as a “workshop concert” performance of its incomplete Finale – with spoken narrative by the conductor – in its most current documentation by John A. Phillips.”

Packaging of the Release
The new Harnoncourt album comes in the Deluxe Jewel Box with rounded corners which is typical for a Hybrid SACD release. It features a red sticker on the front of the case that says “Plays on SACD and CD Players”. On the back of the case, the album features the familiar SACD and DSD logos.

The back cover also features the “information bar” pioneered by Universal Music (and used on new Sony Music SACD releases) that indicates to the buyer that the album includes SACD Surround Sound, SACD Stereo and CD Audio versions of the music on the album. (On the copy of the album I saw, there appears to be a typo on the information bar that refers to “DACD Stereo” rather than “SACD Stereo”. I presume that will be corrected in the next production run of the album artwork.)

RCA Red Seal’s recording of Bruckner’s 9th Symphony by Nikolas Harnoncourt conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is now available from record stores in the U.S. including Tower Records as well as web sites in the U.S. such as Amazon.Com.