Review by old-dog-newtricks March 19, 2012 (12 of 13 found this review helpful)
|I was surprised that there were no reviews of this disc here so, although now getting a bit expensive to get, I thought I would offer my opinion.
I have owned LP and CD versions of this work before and did not even know there was a SACD until a recent post on SA-CD.net.
It was first issued in 1960 and gradually became established as the one to own. Since then there have, of course, been many competitive versions. For me this Ormandy version is the most exciting. Probably the most outstanding feature is the chorus. The Rutgers University Choir excel. They are fresh sounding with young voices who sing their hearts out. There is a raw (not in the derogatory sense) quality which suits the score perfectly. Rhythms are snappy with brisk tempi. Diction is excellent and thanks to a now very clear recording I can make out the words for, probably, the first time in any recording. The Philadelphia Orchestra support with much lively playing. The line up of soloists (Janice Harsanyi, Rudolf Petrak and Harve Presnell) are superb. Presnell as the Abbot is outstanding, bringing the part to life with great success.
But what of the recording? It is after all, early CBS. The improvement over the RBCD version is vast and sounds clearer and more dynamic to me than even the LP. I have already mentioned the diction being helped by the clarity. The soloists are well balanced with the other forces and seem to have a real 3D presence. I am amazed at the dynamic range. There is lots of orchestral detail. The ff's don't harden and the sound opens out remarkably well. I am sure a new DSD recording would be a bit warmer but you can't have everything. My only wish would be a bit more meat from the lower strings. That is not to say that the recording lacks bass. It is there - you can feel the bass drum through your furniture when the volume is turned up and this performance and recording begs and justifies a high volume setting.
I am glad I found this recording again before it becomes impossible to get. To discover it is so much better than previous entities was a real bonus. It may not be the last version I will own but for now my reunion with an old friend is very cordial indeed. (NB this is a stereo only SACD release.)
I am going to award the recording 5 stars with the caveat that it is over 50 years old! Many of the Living Stereo's and Mercury's have achieved that score and I believe this recording is in the same class. Brand new DSD's and high res PCMs are in another class altogether.
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