Review by akiralx August 9, 2005 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
|This programme has been available on DG Galleria for years (the recordings were made in the mid-1970s), and was recently reissued in their Originals series - I imported this (stereo-only of course) SACD from Japan.
The performance of the symphony is a good one, though not superior to my other favourites, Munch (which I have on a JVC XRCD, though it's now on SACD) and Levine (on DG RBCD). Sonically the soundstage is pretty wide but I felt there was a light lack of refinement in many passages during the first movement, particularly in the mid-to-treble range. The clarity of instrumental lines is good however, and there is no real lack of richness. This is not the most opulent of performances though - I think Barenboim was aiming at dramatic intensity rather than Gallic elegance.
On the other hand I don't get the impression I'm hearing one of the world's great orchestras (the Chicago SO) in this recording - which I feel I do with the Munch and Levine (the Boston SO and Berlin PO respectively).
The string attack for the second movement is very vivid as usual, and the entry of the organ, recorded separately and laminated on later as seems inevitable in this work (no wonder you never hear it live, doesn't any orchestral hall have an appropriate organ any more?) is very powerful and clearly defined. The closing pages really do sound spectacular.
I'll have to compare this to a friend's Galleria CD incarnation - but I wouldn't rate this as being anywhere near as fine sonically as my other mid-70s Universal Japanese import, the excellent Haitink Debussy album.
Perhaps the best performance is the Orchestre de Paris reading of the orgiastic Bacchanale from 'Samson et Dalila', which really does sound exciting and very impressive (although it did on CD as well if I recall).
Sonically I'd rate this at 4 stars, and similar for performance - the interpretation is good but in no way pre-eminent among the many fine readings, two of which I've mentioned above.
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