Music in the Round #16 Records in the Round
SHOSTAKOVICH: The Symphonies
Dmitri Kitajenko, Gurzenich-Orchester Köln
Capriccio 71 029 (12 SACDs)
In the September 2004 Stereophile I described the recording of Shostakovich's Symphony 8 that appears in this set as "A powerful, crunchy performance and a recording that is suitably weighty and brilliant by turns." As a collective effort of the musicians and producers, the entire set is equally impressive. Just as I can single out Kitajenko's readings of symphonies 1, 7, 8, and 9 as outstanding by any standard, the rest of this cycle is not inferior to other notable multichannel efforts (eg, Lazarev's Symphony 11 on Linn and Rostropovich's Symphony 5 on LSOLive). And if I still go back to Mravinsky and Kondrashin (and Bernstein's Symphony 1 with the Chicago Symphony) on vinyl and CD for a pace and edginess not yet captured in multichannel, Kitajenko's series is now my main course.
DIRE STRAITS: Brothers in Arms
Vertigo/Mercury 9871498 (SACD)
I've been waiting impatiently for this one, and it lives up to my expectations. The multichannel remix is an obvious improvement over previous versions, including the XRCD, in terms of opening up the mix and throwing clarifying light on all the musical threads, and the surround effects are liberal without being egregious. The only possible caveat is that we are made acutely aware of the widely varying mikings and mixings of Mark Knopfler's voice from track to track. This is probably an intentional production choice but is, nonetheless, distracting. Even better than the vocals, though, is the greater definition afforded all instruments—and the bass is tight and powerful, especially in "The Man's Too Strong." Also available in a deluxe SACD edition and on DVD-A.
TALKING HEADS: Brick
Rhino 081227472221 (8 DualDiscs)
Rhino entrusted the entire Talking Heads catalog to E.T. Thorngren and Jerry Harrison for remastering in 24-bit/96kHz multichannel, then repackaged the results in this classy white plastic brick, each disc retaining its original artwork. Previously unreleased material, alternate takes, and video tracks further enhance one of the most consistently successful and thrilling mass conversions to multichannel I've yet heard. Rather than an opened mix, this is a thoroughly immersive experience that places the listener inside the music, to better feel and absorb it. The surround effects are not distracting but part and parcel of the presentation. That's the way to do DualDisc.
SCHUBERT: Octet in F, D.803
Tudor 7114 (SACD)
The Scharoun Ensemble was formed by Berlin Philharmonic instrumentalists in 1983, and their sense of Schubertian style and cohesion reflects the group's origins and history. What I found most outstanding, though, was the way each voice in the ensemble maintains its individual character throughout, and how Tudor's engineering reveals this without highlighting or flashy effects. Other recordings of the Octet tend to sound "orchestral" in the tuttis, but in this joyful and warm performance there's appropriate weight without the loss of the details. Infectiously charming.—Kalman Rubinson