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Reviews: Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3, Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Edo de Waart

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Reviews: 4

Review by sgb September 27, 2003 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The Saint-Saëns is superb! Although this recording dates from 1976, I had not heard it until today (9/27/03). De Waart is known to me as a conductor of small ensembles, primarily, but his command of the Rotterdam Philharmonic is exemplary here.

The performance steps out at a brisker pace than I have heard in other recordings (Guilini, Mehta, Munch, Ormandy, et al), but by the Poco Adagio, I had settled in with this, and turned my attention to the Rotterdam players. Everyone is playing magnificently. Chrozempa, as always, shows his inestimable talent on the organ solos, the sound quality of which on this recording ranks among the best examples of the classic European organ I've ever heard. The finale will certainly get your blood racing and your amp meters bouncing. Wonderful!

Pairing Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition with the famous Organ Symphony is a brilliant if unusual idea; it isn't often that music lovers can get so many orchestral showpieces on a single disk.

Unlike the disk's opener, Pictures starts out a little more reserved than some of the famous bombastic recordings, but rest assured there is much power here perhaps a measure of the colossus we meet just two short minutes in. The foreboding sense of the Gnomus rivals any I've heard, and sets the stage for the remainder of our stroll through the gallery. While the playing remains adept, I sense that those who champion this work will consider this performance a little on the light side.

(This section editied 10/4/03.) While I regard the sound quality of this disk to be an excellent analog to DSD transfer, after listening to the disk again I felt my initial assessment did not go into sufficeint detail and was, perhaps, a bit overzealous. Upon closer scrutiny, it would be my guess that the opening movements of the Saint-Saëns symphony were mic'ed differently than the finale. Early in the performance, the sound level of the tympani is far too deep in the background, but during the finale, we hear them more appropriately. Here, their sound has the presence, depth and body we associate with the drums.

The detail of the organ's playing is excellent, but I note that the low C that ends the piece doesn't quite get my walls to shaking, as do several of the aforementioned competing recordings nor does its entrance late in the opening movement. Given that the organ is given a plausible image in the stereo sound field, the absence of the bass fundamentals is a bit disappointing.

The overall presentation of the orchestra throughout the disk renders an expansive, deep sound stage (in stereo, I do not have MC capability); in fact, the Pictures segment might be just a little more vivid than the organ symphony.

Remarkable recording. Buy it.

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Review by Russell October 14, 2003 (0 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I pretty much concur with sgb's review. I owned both works on original Philips LPs, and the new SACD seems to capture the essence of the wonderful sound I remember from them. I do have one quibble, though: the all-important timpani at the start of the third movement of the Saint-Saens sound muffled and indistinct, buried way back in the orchestra. (I only listened in stereo; for all I know the MCH mix might bring them out a little more.) The performances of both works are typical for this conductor: straightforward, no-nonsense, and satisfying, if perhaps without that final touch of interpretive flair that would set him apart from others.

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Review by Moldog August 13, 2004 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have to disagree. I find this very disappointing given it's one of my favorite symphonies and I was really expecting an SACD recording to show it off. I found the sound thin and muffled; worse than a CD. Not recommended.

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Review by 2-channel February 6, 2006 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Saint-Saens' 'Organ Symphony' and Muossorgsky's 'Pictures' - orchestral version, were recorded in 1976 and 1974. The performances are good/very good - with virtually inaudible tape hiss.

Of the two, 'Pictures' has a much livelier and more interesting acoustic but despite their quadrophonic origins neither (in stereo) delivers much in the way of layering or stage depth. Both betray their age in the form of limited dynamic range, with the opening of the 4th movement of the organ symphony in particular being entirely robbed of any impact by compression/limiting. Similary, upper string tone has that harsh, steely quality typical of poorer recordings of that era.

This is the first Pentatone disc auditioned, and I won't be rushing out to buy any more.

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