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  Universal (Japan) -
  Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 - Böhm
  Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Karl Böhm (Bohm)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
  Single Layer
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 2

Review by mwgfrg February 8, 2011 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I certainly agree with Jonalogic's comments on the performance: I'm no Bohm fan, but this one really stands out above any other recording of this symphony for me. Since I do have both the original LPs and the original SACD for comparison, which he did not, I thought I would address the issue of the comparison of their sound, which Jonalogic was not able to do. (Since neither LPs nor original SACD are available, this is probably only relevant in discussing the general sound of these SHM-SACD reissues.)

Starting with the LPs: the original British Decca 1974 release was spread over two discs, one movement to each side. The result was an extraordinarily wide dynamic range and utter clarity from top to bottom, one of the very best examples of the multichannel console Decca used in Vienna. I've heard the VPO live at least 25-30 times, once in Vienna, and for me this is the closest any recording has actually come to what I hear in the hall. On any list I could draw up of the dozen greatest orchestral recordings made, this one would be towards the very top.

On to the two SACDs: both are very, very good, but neither matches the LPs. In fact, probably if I had to point to a single example of how the very best digital still has a way to go before matching the very best analog, this might be it. (As a note, my digital components, phono amp, and preamp are all made by Esoteric, so the comparison is probably as close to apples to apples as you can get right now.) The original SACD initially seems to recreate the depth of the hall sound a bit better than the SHM-SACD, but the latter is clearer through the high frequencies and upper and lower midrange, which is characteristic of Japanese SHM-CD and HQCD formulations in general. I sometimes suspect that the bit of extra midrange clarity on SHMs, and SHM-CDs, may come at the expense of the lowest frequencies, but then, on listening carefully to the bass lines, I really don't hear less bass, just more clarity. Does that subjectively seem to cut down on depth? Maybe, I haven't made up my mind.

To sum up: the SHM-CD gets a bit closer to the hall sound of the VPO's upper strings--the slight edge Jonalogic comments on is precisely what they sound like from a front parquet seat when in full cry--but the original may get a bit better sense of the hall sound as it reflects back to your ears. Put them together, and you might have something close to the LPs. I marginally prefer the SHM-CD, but wouldn't replace the original unless (as with me) this was a very favorite recording of yours. But I certainly wouldn't pass this reissue up under any circumstances, because just by itself it's one of the very finest SACDs we have had.

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Review by Jonalogic December 29, 2010 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Since no-one has yet reviewed the latest SHM-SACD incarnation of this great performance, let me do the honours.

Itís not easy. I donít think any Bruckner lover could argue with the fact that this is a great performance of the ĎRomanticí. Bohm and the VPO have this music in their bones, and it shows. The performance is impassioned, spacious and full of detail, light and shade. The VPO playing is immaculate- the hushed strings suitably mysterious and reverent, the massed brass full of power and majesty.

In other words, this is an echt-Bruckner reading; some would even call it old-fashioned. But I feel that this is what Bruckner should sound like. He was a deeply spiritual and pious person, and his music really must convey this transcendence if it is to come alive.

IMHO, this spiritual dimension shows what was missing in the Minnesota/Vanska reading. By comparison, thatís Bruckner-lite, in the modern style and - frankly Ė it does not ring my chimes at all.

Letís move to the sound, and itís here that the problems appear. Itís good, but not great. The main issue on my ears and system is the slight edge to the sound, which is rather un-Decca like. Not having the vinyl or original (non-SHM) SACD for comparison, I can only assume this came up from the transfer, mastering or other post-processing. Itís not disastrous, but it does detract from the lustre of the magnificent VPO strings.*

Another side effect of this leading-edge exaggeration of the transfer function is, I suspect, a loss of depth and air from the Musikverein. I just found myself wanting more...

Donít get me wrong, the sound is clear and vivid, with good dynamics, but I suspect the mastering may on this occasion have detracted from the overall sound quality, rather than allowing it to speak for itself.

So, is it worth the eye-watering price? Well the performance is, but the sound is a bit of a let-down to my ears. The choice, as always, is yours.

*For the pro photographers (hi, ChrisÖ!) or advanced amateurs out there, imagine adding a bit too much USM (unsharp mask) in Photoshop.

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Works: 1  

Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, WAB 104 "Romantic"