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Reviews: Handel: Esther - John Butt

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Reviews: 2

Site review by Polly Nomial June 3, 2012
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

http://www.HRAudio.net/showmusic.php?title=7934#reviews

Review by wilbur June 5, 2012 (7 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
There is some very nice stuff here, and the playing, in particular, is excellent. The music itself contains some very fine and virtually unknown Handel. All is not perfect, however, as with other releases from this team and Linn. The solo singing is good, but it is not right up there with the very best around these days in period performance. This would be less noticeable than it is if the recording balance were more believable. When I first put this on - for the overture - I was a little surprised that the recording level seemed a bit low (about 5 db lower than the average SACD, or so I thought at the time). So, I turned it up a bit, and it sounded great. Then, when the opening baritone recit. followed I had to madly lunge for the remote to turn the music down, the vocalist was so loud.
As it began, so it continued. ALL the vocal soloists are WAY too forward in the balance. I mean, ridiculously so! Even sitting in the very front row center at a performance in a small space you NEVER hear this sort of balance.
Now I know that recordings have to have unrealistic balances, and it's not the same thing as a concert. I get that, and I even like sitting right next to the soloist in my living room mostly. BUT to exaggerate this to the extent that the orchestra sounds under-balanced when listing at bearable levels goes too far. Other Linn recordings with the Dunedin forces are similarly problematic in terms of recorded (the 46'-long harpsichord in Messiah, for example), but I do believe this is the worst of them all. I have three of these Dunedin/Linn SACDs now, and I am perplexed that they all sound 'manipulated'. By that I mean there is no depth to the soundstage at all, and very little perspective. I wish they would abandon the individual-mic-down-the-throat-of-the-soloist approach and record with a simpler configuration. This does not seem to be a problem with other Linn SACDs, so I suspect that the engineer combined with the artistic direction is to blame. These recordings all sound unnatural to my ears, very two-dimensional and lacking a sense of the performing space. I am sure they sound just fine on an ipod or a car stereo, but that is not really the point of SACD, is it?
A pity, as the overall performance is very nice. I didn't listen to the stereo mix, as I buy SACDs for multichannel. So, disappointing in the end, I am sorry to say.

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