Review by John Manning August 25, 2005 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
|Any review following Castor's excellent dissertation would be superfluous unless it disagreed with any aspect. Mine doesn't.
So why am I bothering? Firstly let me declare an interest in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales since its members were colleagues, and I have a huge respect for their talents. I feel I must pay homage to this, their latest achievement to reach my ears.
Part of my work entailed listening to them perform in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. I never felt the hall was ideal when full, but rather seemed to have a better reverberation when roughly half empty. I felt the recording made a very creditable attempt at representing the hall in ideal conditions, maintaining clarity throughout but with enough 'airiness' to make surround sound a big advance on stereo.
On first listening I loved everything except the opening of the symphony, which seemed a little fast. By second listening I had been so seduced by the rest that I had forgotten my first impression.
Slow passages have a languid quality whilst fast ones get the adrenalin flowing. Playing throughout was good enough to become transparent, and the music flowed through unhindered.
Dynamic and frequency range are natural and wide, and the last fortissimo staccato chord of the third movement lifted my spirits (and almost lifted me physically out of my seat!). While I agree that the overall level is low I can forgive this when I find no suspicion of dynamic compression.
The disc is very good value in terms of recorded time. One small point is that the surround sound is in 5.0 format, i.e. there is no subwoofer track. I have arranged for my SACD player to derive this, but would prefer 5.1 where my amplifier merely drives the speakers with what is recorded on the disc.
Perhaps someone from the recording industry will explain why 5.0 or 5.1 are chosen; does omitting the subwoofer track allow more music to be squeezed on to a disc? I would plead for 5.1 to be used whenever possible, and a clear indication of the format to be printed on the SACD cover (not always the case).
Well done to everyone concerned with this release. If you like Elgar, don't hesitate to buy it.
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