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Reviews: Tchaikovsky/Saint-Saens/Bruch - Wispelwey

Reviews: 3

Review by JW May 2, 2003 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This has become one of my favorite classical titles. The cello is already my favorite classical instrument and the passion and drive displayed here by Pieter Wisplewey is absolutely mesmorizing. The Saint-Saens piece is one of those melodies that stays with you forever. As I said in my other review of a Wispelwey recording, these discs were unknown to me before the advent of SACD. And sonically the Channel Classics recordings belong to the very best.

The Bruch piece (Nol koldrei) that closes out the SACD is of particular beauty. A haunting, romantic theme. The Tchaikovsky variations are all very good, but pay attention to the last one in particular (Variation 7).

The music on this disc is very accessible, so for those of you that are looking into the classical reportoire on SACD this, together with the other Wispelwey recordings, is a good start. For those of you that are Cello connoisseurs, I am certain that you will find lots to discover here. The playing is outstanding, with passion, depth and an ability to build tension, let go and pick up the flow of the musical theme. I play this disc over and over again.

Jw

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Review by larsmusik May 17, 2008 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I purchased this recording only recently, based on the enthusiastic recommendation by Andrew Quint in The Absolute Sound. It's very enjoyable, and I am sure I will listen to it many times over the next few years. The repertoire is tuneful, timbre-rich, and very expressive -- Romantic music for a most romantic instrument indeed! I have other Pieter Wispelwey discs and am a great admirer of his artistry.

That said, I doubt if this disc is the best representation of Mr. Wispelwey out there, or that it represents what Channel Classics recording and engineering is now capable of. (It was recorded in 2000, using a "24 Bit Prism/Genex" digital converter, which implies that it did not originate as a DSD capture.) To my ears the sound is just a bit tubby and oversmooth -- qualities we may someday refer to "early hi-rez" or "early DSD." Certainly Jared Sacks and his crew have shown with their later releases that they can produce cleaner, more detailed recordings without losing any of the three-dimensionality and continuity that DSD enables.

As to the performances, as enjoyable as they are, they fall slightly short of the greatest examples of these pieces on disc. Listening to the "Kol Nidrei," I remembered that I also own a reissue of Gregor Piatigorsky's 1947 Columbia recording with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. So I pulled it out. It was not surprising to find that Piatigorsky evokes the emotion, the throbbing cantorial vocalization of the cello line with more assurance than Wispelwey -- it's probably cruel to compare the work of any living cellist with that of Piatigorsky in this piece! Likewise the final third, in which the orchestra comes into play as an equal partner to the soloist, is more effective with Ormandy urging along everyone at a slightly faster pace: because of that quickened but still lyrical tempo, we can feel this section as a release, a satisfying postlude to what came before.

Going back to Wispelwey, I was surprised at how effective his own gentler, softer-edged treatment really was. It is still expressive, still musically solid. On this disc however, Wispelwey is probably at his best in the Tchaikovsky "Rococo Variations." His background in early music allows him to savor and impart the delicacy and delight in ornament, etc., that this score emphasizes. Likewise his interpretation of the Saint-Saens concerto brings out its classical qualities; again, compare it with Piatigorsky (whose 1940 recording, with Stock and the Chicago Symphony, is on that same Masterworks Heritage reissue) if you want to hear a true Romantic engaged in a friendly duel with those classical elements. One wonders what Wispelwey would have done here if he had been able to work with a conductor (the very fine Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen appears to have been led from the concertmaster's chair by Daniel Sepec). In a conducted performance, the soloist can (ironically) feel freer to depart from the main tempo, and the conductor can likewise get the orchestra to push and pull at crucial points.

In short, well worth having. But don't stop with these interpretations. Acquire more Wispelwey, and listen to others in this repertoire.

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Review by mlgrado July 25, 2014 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
larsmusik's speculation is incorrect. The DSD and PCM versions of this album were recorded separately. The Philips engineers were using a DCS native DSD DAC. Straight from native DSD.com


"This was the first commercially produced SACD hybrid super audio on the market. In June of 2000, I sat in one room recording in pcm and the research team of Philips were in the room next door taking my analogue signal directly from my mixer. I first released my pcm version in the fall of 2000. The Pyramix at that time was very primitive but thanks to the Phliips team who worked around the clock to produce the software, we were able to get this DSD version out at the beginning of 2001."


That said, I agree it is not one of the best examples of DSD quality. DSD recording quality got better, very quickly. One thing that stands out to me about the quality of this DSD recording is its inconsistency. Some moments are brilliant, others not so much. Which may be a result of the very, very primitive editing capabilities in the first generation Pyramix software.

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