Review by canonical April 27, 2009 (9 of 10 found this review helpful)
|I think this is a fabulous performance and a fabulous SACD, recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in May 2005, with a stellar cast including baritone Gerald Finley. Resonant, splendid, exciting and inspiring. As it is live, there is some minor audience coughing thrown in the quieter moments of the Dies Irae (track 3). I, alas, don't have the famous Peter Pears Fischer-Dieskau 1963 version to compare with ... but this rendition happily stands on its own feet, and I feel more than happy to recommend it on its own merits.
It is also an intriguing release for other reasons ...
The War Requiem, at some 83 minutes in length, is normally placed onto 2 discs, because it simply does not fit onto one CD. Indeed, all the other SACD versions of this disc are on 2 hybrid discs. But this is an unusual release: The redbook version of this release is on 2 CDs. But, when it came to releasing the SACD version ... I am told ... the producers realised they could fit it all onto the single SACD layer, so the SACD version of this disc was released as a single-layer SINGLE SACD (not two-disc hybrid). And so, not only do we lucky SACD listeners get a hi-rez release, but we also, alone, get the pleasure of a single disc for the entire performance.
I am also told, by the same producer, that only 500 copies of this SACD were ever printed ... so I suspect this one is destined to become something of a collector's item. And it can be picked up from UK establishments for a most reasonable single-disc price.
It was recorded in 24 bit at (just) 44.1 kHz. While the 44.1 kHz part is surprising, this is still much better than the Chandos/Hickox 'SACD' version of the War Requiem, which, I understand, was recorded at plain CD resolution 16bit / 44.1 kHz in 1991:
In any event, the recording sound is generally excellent: perhaps sometimes ever so slightly grainy, but with really top-class dynamics and superbly recorded. Excellent notes and excellent presentation.
P.S. For all the multi-channel fans out there, I should add that the SACD layer includes not only stereo, but also Surround Sound 4.1. The Surround Sound tag is currently missing from SA-CD.net's info sheet.
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