Review by fausto K February 17, 2015 (11 of 14 found this review helpful)
|It has repeatedly been claimed by some on this site that it's pointless to release analogue-tape era stereo music on SACD, remastered via DSD flat transfer, since all the content on those tapes could easily be contained on a redbook CD without loss. Buying the often not-cheap SACDs is just to fall for (mostly Japanese) marketing ploys. Or so one claims. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Case in point is this disc, DSD remastered in 2011 by Emil Berliner for Universal Japan's SACD remaster series (as it says inside the cover).
We need not go into the performance here: it's arguably the best interpretation of Schubert's great song cycle "Schwanengesang". It can hardly be bettered in terms of performance/interpretation. I reckon anyone remotely interested in Schubert's Lieder will have heard this particular recording (this is their famous later 1972 recording; see also their earlier mono take Schubert: Lieder - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore). The point of this review is thus not to assess this archival release in terms of the quality of its interpretation, and to compare it to more recent takes on the song series. (I have not heard the very recent Schubert: Schwanengesang - Prégardien, Staier which uses a fortepiano.)
But the critical question is: is it worth one's money? Can one instead not rest content with the RBCD?
The differences can be heard best at high volume: compared to the SACD, the redbook becomes quickly rather less pleasurable to listen to in the peaks in Fischer-Dieskau's singing; but listen to e.g. 'Frühlingssehnsucht' on the SACD and you're blown away by a thrillingly life-like presence of FD's singing; never is there one moment, on the SACD, that the recording struggles to bring the wide dynamics across. It's just pure delight.
There is also some slight distortion on the redbook that you won't hear at all on the SACD. The piano accompaniment suffers occasionally from a smeared sound on the redbook; it is as if a veil is hanging over it. Piano recording is notoriously difficult, because of its great dynamical range. It poses no problems on the SACD (not thereby claiming that modern-day higher res recording wouldn't result in better sound). Compared to the redbook, the SACD is characterised by perfect clarity, a much wider soundstage (a clear continuous three-dimensional placement of the singer relative to the pianist), and just sheer effortless sound and unalloyed musicality, unencumbered by the fatigue-inducing aspect of low-res brickwalled digital. Call it wishful thinking, but listening to the SACD is sheer joy, whereas listening to the redbook feels like an exercise you have to sit through.
The rating for sonics is based on a comparison with the redbook counterpart; it should not be seen as comparative to modern-day DSD or higher PCM recordings, although I venture to claim that it is not far behind.
Listened to on a SACD-player that doesn't convert to PCM.
Was this review helpful to you?