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Reviews: Stravinsky: Firebird etc. - Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Shaw

Reviews: 1

Review by auld fellow May 21, 2006 (11 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This was the first recording that Telarc made with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Robert Shaw. The recording setup was very simple: engineer Jack Renner used 3 Schoeps omnidirectional microphones, mixed to 2 tracks through a Studer portable mixer and sent to a Soundstream digital PCM recorder. No equalization or compression was used, so the recording reflects the sound of the performance as heard from the perspective of the microphones.

Fortunately, Jack Renner placed his mics well, the Soundstream recorder was the best of the early digital recorders, and the performance is a good one. This disc will sound very impressive when played on any decent stereo system. And if that system has extended deep bass response, the orchestral bass drum will shake the room. With earlier analog recordings, reproduced via LP, it had been accepted practice to advise conductors and orchestral players to hold back a bit on the low percussion--the recording/playback chain could not accurately reproduce really loud deep bass information. With digital, that limitation no longer existed, and this 1978 recording was among the first to show off what could now be done.

Regarding the fidelity of the SACD reissue of this classic recording: while the RBCD layer of this hybrid disc sounds very good, the DSD layer is definitely superior, especially in the treble. I cannot comment on how the original LP issue of this recording compares, as I have not heard it. However, I have heard a copy of the Soundstream master tape played back on an original Soundstream recorder (at the 2003 Audio Engineering Society convention) and, allowing for different listening conditions, the SACD seems in no way inferior.

Regarding the performances, I think there was a tendency to underestimate Robert Shaw as an orchestral conductor. Here, as in many of his discs for Telarc, there is a care for detail and an overall rightness to his tempos and other interpretive choices that holds up very well. And, as we would expect from him, the choral singing in the Borodin excerpts is very fine.


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