Readers Review Stereophile's Poem LP One more letter...
A Cause for Celebration
Editor: The cause for celebration is that I've now auditioned the "new" [190gm, one-step] Stereophile Poem album. I say "new" because I feel that it depicts clearly what you set out to do in the first place. That is, to clearly delineate the glorious sound of music in a real space at a given time. You have changed this record enormously—all for the better, but nonetheless it is not the same record as was delivered in December 1989.
I'll get right to the quick of it all. Having recently read all of the [readers'] reviews in the May 1990 issue of Stereophile, I was very pleased that winners Clark Johnsen and Andrew Quint wrote of the recording as they did. The body of their reviews truly conveys the feeling of Poem. I won't even try to add to these. I am very sorry to have read Eric Watterson's and especially Scott Weinman's reviews. They are entitled to their opinions, but may have been a bit too hasty in their negative remarks. As we know, the original [155gm, three-step] issue of Poem was hastily done and sent out. It was not as was intended, and therefore judging it as it should be was shortsighted. Also, if either of these gentlemen had used some Nitty-Gritty Pure II and some elbow grease, they'd have heard a much better recording than they did. Both of my early copies of Poem had grundge in the grooves, requiring the aforementioned cleaning.
There were moments of congestion of sound, there were overload conditions (especially in the Andante and allegro con brio) in the Prokofiev Sonata, (footnote 1 and there was a dullness to the sound of the Reinecke piece. This has all been ameliorated in the latest version of Poem. The background is dead silent! The flute is recorded in the proper perspective and as such is prominent, yet in perfect balance with the piano. This has been accomplished by changing the groove spacing. Compare the first and current issues of the recording and it is immediately evident that the lead-out groove is ¼-3/8" in the new Poem compared to ½" in the December version. Yes, we have a reissue, and the record is a treasure!
The musical lines are easy to follow. The instruments have a palpability which cannot be denied. The musicians tell the tales exceptionally well and throughout the three pieces I am drawn into the music and I understand it in a most perspicative fashion. To say that the music is "less than worthy," as did Mr. Guenther in May, is an atrocity. The music is glorious and should be honored in the fashion that it is on the current issue of Poem. I am very elated having heard two (new to me) pieces of music for the first time and enjoying them as I did. The warhorse of the Prokofiev is rendered in a most appealing and virtuosic manner. Bravo! Mr. Woodward and Mr. Smith! Bravo.
I wish to thank Mr. Alexander, Mr. Atkinson, and Mr. Archibald for their fine work in recording Poem. I look forward to future releases with impatience.—Owen P. Evans, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Footnote 1: Get the tracking force up a little heavy to track the "Allegro con brio" of the Prokofiev—it's a bitch otherwise!