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Reviews: Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2, Vocalise No. 14 - Fischer

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Reviews: 8

Review by nickc May 24, 2004 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Magnificently romantic performance from the genius Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra. First movement is spacious (but thankfully still under 20 minutes unlike some!). The scherzo really lights things up with what sounds like divided violins (I stand to be corrected here)that allow you to appreciate the fugato section in the middle of the movement. The slow movement is one of Rachmaninov's most glorious creations and if the hairs on the back of your neck don't stand up when the violins pile on the string tone from the 5 minute mark you are, as they say, probably already dead! Final movement to leave you cheering.
If someone had played this to me blind I never would have guessed it was a Channel production. Whereas Channel are constantly lambasted for zooming in too close on their recordings here we have a natural concert hall ambience(in MC of course). Indeed I had to turn up the volume about 8 notches from where I would normally listen to a Channel disc. When you do turn the volume up you are rewarded with a magnificent orchestral panoply al a Chandos. I can't believe this is the same hall that Naxos used to record in the 80s where the sound was small scale and restricted. Fischer's Dvorak 8 and 9 on Philips from this same hall (still one of my reference recordings) is more "present" but both recordings in MC sound great.
For the filler "Vocalise" instead of a natural concert hall perspective with ambience from the rears as in the symphony we are put on the podium. Whether you like this or not it is only about 6 minutes of a 64 minute disc so it doesn't really affect me one way or the other.

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Review by stvnharr May 31, 2004 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I tend to agree with Nick in his review of this disc. The music and playing are wonderful. It is an excellent rendition of this most wonderful of symphonies.
The sound is excellent as well, for the most part. The disc was optimized for MC playback and designed to give one something of the perpective of the conductor on the rostrum. Maybe I would have gotten that if I had an MC system. But I only have stereo, and the stereo mix on this disc is a bit of an enigma. However, the front 2 channels of the MC mix give a real nice stereo presentation and it is quite nice.
One can hope that the relation between Channel and Fischer/BFO will produce a lot more music for us all to enjoy.

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Review by June 29, 2004 (19 of 22 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Summary: Fresh, heart-felt, and youthful.
Imprints: Previn and Ashkenazy, also familiar with the Pletnev.

The first thing you'll notice about the opening of the first mov't is the
careful attention to phrasing and dynamics in the strings. While Previn's
and Ashkenazy's strings act as the anonymous but beautiful blowing leaf that
beckons our ears to follow from one scene to the next, (not a bad thing),
Fischer's assert themselves right off; one realizes that this is going to be
a decidedly un-homogenized performance, where every instrumental choir
struts its stuff, unashamedly.

The first and third mov'ts always make or break this symphony for me, being
more freely rhapsodic than the symmetrical 2nd or the Rondo 4th;
conductors have more room to put their stamp on these mov'ts. Ashkenazy has
always been a favorite of mine; I love the way he--with the help of the
Concertgebouw of course!--lets the horn line soar in counterpoint above the
dark velvety string lines. Oh, how he luxuriates, yet holds things together
without awkward gear changes.

The Fischer is very different: the words feverish, impulsive, and clarifying
come to mind, but I want to be careful here-to me such words have always
been code for intellectualization and/or pile-driving ahead at the expense
of voluptuousness. While Pletnev's version, hailed for such "shaking of the
cobwebs," did come off to my ears as simply thin-lipped and expedient,
Fischer's does not-he "shakes" but doesn't miss any of the passing beauties,
thanks to his attention to shading, phrasing, and tempo relationships--I
found myself exhilarated as well as indulged. (I'll always pull out the
Ashkenazy though, when I want to wallow in sheer velvet sheen.)

There are some very lovely turns of phrase in the long-limbed string melody
of the 2nd mov't Allegro, and transitional passages everywhere are invested
with compellingly dark and imaginative hues-opportunities missed by Pletnev,
Previn, and even Ashkenazy. The Finale dances along, capped by a thrilling
and spacious coda. In fact what lingers in my ear overall having listened
to this version was its almost "baroque-like" rhythmic vitality both overt,
(in the 2nd and 4th mov'ts), and underlying, (1st and 3rd). Fischer
remembers what many forget: Rachmaninov, he gots 'da rhythm too. (I hasten
to add that Fischer never impugns Rachmaninov's eroticism and dark-hued
lyricism-the orchestra soars when it has to, and the central climax of the
3rd mov't adagio...well, I'd describe it but we'd all blush.)

This SACD/CD hybrid plays on regular CD players, 2-channel SACD players,
(you'll love how the strings sound), and in SACD 5.0 surround. (No
subwoofer information.) I listened in 4.0 surround, (no center), and it's
very surround-friendly-huge soundstage and great imaging, even with my
imperfect rear speaker placement. (To hear those great percussive accents on
bass drum and cymbal explode from their own space behind the orchestra was
thrilling.) Compared to the Fischer/Dvorak surround recordings on Philips,
the Channel recording came off comparatively less reverberant, but
probably more true to reality, especially if one were sitting in a hall full
of people. Never was the sound less than warm and inviting and the bloom,
(expansion), during climaxes was everything one could wish for. A winner.

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Review by peteyspambucket July 5, 2004 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This recording is a dream come true. The performance captured here is gorgeous, lyrical, emotional, well-played, beautifully phrased... It's a keeper.

The sound is amazing, and it's just how I like to hear orchestral recordings. Everything is there and the recording is quite transparent.

While the playing isn't perfect, there's a LOT of feeling and that overcomes any errors in precision. The clarinet player in the 3rd movement plays very sensitively and while he doesn't cycle his breathing like some players do, it's still a very sensitive interpretation. I like all the tempi choices that Fischer makes and he makes some very nice portamenti here and there too, which are very exciting.

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Review by thepilot August 29, 2004 (3 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is for the high resolution multichannel age, what Sandering's legendary performance (DG) was for the mono age. Perfect! Run out and get it ASAP.

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Review by beardawgs January 17, 2005 (4 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Not being the biggest ĎChannel surround soundí admirer, I have to say this is the least disappointing recording from them Iíve heard so far. Knowing that my opinion is in extreme minority in this community, Iíve been exploring this recording for quite some time at different levels and changing setups, but it still sounds flat in perspective and depth of the orchestral image. In direct comparison with the pervious Philips issue with the same conductor and orchestra, this one doesnít stand a chance Ė with the fist bar of Dvorakís 9th, the walls of my room disappear and the sound image stretches far behind the front speakers. Just like with many Telarc and Pentatone discs.

Everything else is top-notch: dynamics are impressive, tone colours are perfectly captured, orchestral sound is transparent, but the sound is still glued to the front speakers, forte is just loud, not voluminous and thereís almost nothing coming from the back speakers. I had to play this disc much louder than any other and it does improve a bit, but when it gets really loud it doesnít fill the space, itís just gets louder.

I understand that idea of the producers and conductor was to recreate the sound image as it is on the conductorís stand, but I can hardly believe that Fischer is conducting for himself, and not for the audience Ė in real life (from the audience) this orchestra is magnificent, their sound compact and solid, transparent and voluminous. My understanding of the classical music recording is to recreate as much as possible the concert experience. The sound experiment with Vocalise is a complete flop, whatever sound stage the recording of the symphony had is lost, and I had the impression as if I was drifting through the orchestra while they were playing.

Performance wise I can only repeat whatís been said before, this is a top class orchestra and brilliant conductor. But I still strongly believe that itís a great shame that Channel Classics canít produce equally good surround recording among so many important issues they have done so far.

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Review by lenw May 10, 2005 (8 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is one of my favorite classical pieces. I've been looking for a replacement for my Telarc Andre Previn RBCD version and this SACD certainly fits the bill. I found the stereo layer of this SACD holographic but the soundstage a bit compressed. The Budapest Festival Orchestra with Ivan Fischer presents this magnificent classical piece beautifully.

The Classics Today review summed up this way "I can't recommend this performance highly enough: everything about it is excellent, and it merits the enthusiastic attention of anyone who cares about top quality music-making presented in state-of-the-art sound" I couldn't agree more.

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Review by jeffreybehr October 4, 2010 (4 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I LOVE Romantic-period, big-orchestra Classical music AND surround recordings, and this recording is my absolute favorite. It is VERY natural, with a deep and wide soundstage. The all-5-mics-in-the same-place setup creates an orchestra wider than usual, and I believe Channel Classics and Fischer achieved that conductor's perspective they were looking for.

Fine performance and orchestra playing, too.

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