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Reviews: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 - Runnicles

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Reviews: 6

Review by Dinko October 7, 2003 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
When reviewing the CD version, ClassicsToday.com said: "First, something seems to have gone very wrong with the sound. (...) [This disc] even when played at a high volume, sounds as if a blanket had been draped over the microphones. The muffled high frequencies and tubby bass drain much of the impact from the great crescendo that opens the first movement."

That pretty much sums it up.
Even if Runnicles and the Atlanta forces had delivered a first rate performance the muffled sound's consistent annoyance would prevent any enjoyment of this album, not just of the opening crescendo of the first movement. The sonic frosty glaze continues from beginning to end.

Nevermind that the Telarc album is a brand new DSD recording, A-B comparison between this SACD and a regular CD recording (Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Royal Concertgebouw on EMI for example) reveals how a well-engineered regular CD can easily sound better than a poorly engineered SACD. The Sawallisch CD has good orchestral detail and balance with decent dynamic range. The Runnicles has decent dynamic range and muddy orchestral textures with somewhat weird orchestral balances.

Donald Runnicles' approach is not robust enough for me. It's too cute and sing-songy. I guess the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus try to do their best, as do the soloists, but it's hard to be sure with such muddy sonics. Still, there are many other preferable versions on CD with better orchestras, and much better sound, at a lower price too.

I could not hear any significant improvement jumping from the CD layer to the SACD stereo to the SACD multichannel. They all sound equally muddy.

And I was hoping to get a decent-sounding Beethoven 9th to replace the Karajan on DG. Maybe next time. :rolleyes:

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Review by stvnharr November 25, 2003 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I got this recording not quite sure what to expect after reading the 2 reviews, and with the Karajan disc of the '76 recording being a huge disappointment. Donald Runnicles was not exactly a familiar conductor to me, as I don't follow opera much. However, I have found that Telarc usually does make a good recording.
I've had quite a number of Beethoven 9ths go through my collection through the years. I've always been a bit partial to the '63 Karajan recording of the 9th. It has stood up to all others for performance and recorded sound. I once had the Sawallisch EMI set in my collection, and I felt the 9th to be a fairly ordinary sounding recording, although the recording of the 1st was superb.
This recording with the Atlanta Orchestra really comes close to the '63 Karajan recording. Even Alistair Miles comes reasonably close to Walter Berry. I don't think I have enjoyed listening to a recording of the 9th as much as I enjoyed listening to this one.

Contrary to some views, I thought Michael Bishop, the recording engineer, did a reasonable job with the sound. Sound is a little bass heavy, what some have called "muffled". And the climaxes of the First movement are very loud and complex making it difficult for many systems to resolve. But overall, I thought the sound to be quite decent.

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Review by sgb December 15, 2003 (2 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This one is a sonic disappointment of the highest order for me. As reviewer Dinko notes below, this one sounds muffled and indistinct, and is further hampered by its extremely low volume levels. I had to adjust my preamplifier upwards more so than any other recording in my collection. In my opinion, Telarc should delete this recording from circulation, and replace those with another selection for any consumer whose reaction is similar to my own. This one is so poor sounding that I would be embarrassed to give it to a friend, even if he expressed an interest in having it.

At least the musical performance exceeds the poor sound. Were it not for the quality of singing found in the last movement, though, even this could not be elevated to a level high enough to enter a redemptive state. I found myself yawning throughout most of the opening movements, then decided to skip over the third to listen to the soloists and chorus. Runnicles is altogether too reserved throughout much of this performance.

Too bad, would have hoped for better from Telarc; caveat emptor.

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Review by lenw May 24, 2004 (2 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is the best recorded performance of the 9th Symphony I've heard sonically - the Adagio is particularly beautiful. But I've only critically listened to one other version which I didn't particularly like - The Cleveland Orchestra & Chorus, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Telarc 1985 RBCD. I originally thougth the 1st track of this SACD sounded somewhat conjested with some background noise. But in further listening since I've installed Echobusters absorber panels, I attribute to my room interaction - the entire disk sounds pretty coherent to me. I'm glad I own this recording.

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Review by rolavine December 28, 2004 (2 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I agree with Dinko, this SACD is a big disapointment, and I love the 9th. I don't understand the positive reviews at all?

To be fair, the soft passages have a nicer air on them then they do on CD, and the 4th movement is pretty good, however, it is too little too late.

Rocky

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Review by Antonio February 15, 2006 (3 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I completely agree with the Dinko,Rolavine,SGB,... "muffled high frequencies and tubby bass", Can't put it better ....
I do not understant why Telarc keeps this recording. This recording is not worth to the Telarc Label !

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