Recording of the Month

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Robert Levine  |  Mar 14, 2017  |  2 comments
Aside from the overnight sensation (after a career of more than a decade) of Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera as Cleopatra in Julius Caesar, the 1966–1967 opera "news" in New York was the Metropolitan Opera, newly opened at Lincoln Center. The 10 broadcasts included here feature some singers who still have no equals. In addition to seven starrily cast favorite operas and the premiere of Marvin David Levy's fine Mourning Becomes Electra, there were Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra, composed to inaugurate the new house; the Met premiere of Richard Strauss's 1919 masterpiece, Die Frau ohne Schatten; and the first production in 20 years of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, with the incomparable Jon Vickers essaying the title role for the first time.
William Marsh  |  Nov 09, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1976  |  5 comments
Britten: Orchestral Music
Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia from Peter Grimes; Sinfonia da Requiem
London Symphony Orchestra, André Previn, conductor.
Angel S-37142. (Stereo/SQ LP). Christopher Bishop, prod.; Christopher Parker, eng.

EMl/Angel have come up with demonstration quality sound on this one. The "Sea Interludes" have stood well on their own as a concert piece, and previous recordings have been by Britten (Decca/London) and Giulini (EMI/Angel). Previn's earlier Sinfonia da Requiem with the St. Louis Symphony has recently been reissued on Odyssey, but that version, good as it is, must defer to the new reading and sonics. There are timpani thumps on this disc that literally bolted me upright from my chair! The dynamic range is tremendous.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 10, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1980  |  2 comments
TCHAIKOVSKY: Capriccio Italien
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio Espagnol

Boston Pops conducted by Arthur Fiedler.
Crystal Clear CCS-7003 (Direct-cut LP). Ed Wodenjak, prod.; Bert Whyte, eng.; George Piros, Richard Simpson, Stan Ricker, mastering; John Meyer, special equipment; John Curl, console design.

One of Crystal Clear's earlier releases (1978), this has very distant, directionally vague sound, but the sound (stupendous by standards of only a few years ago) cannot stand in the way of two of the most exciting performances of these potboilers that have ever been committed to disc.

Margaret Graham  |  Apr 02, 2015  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1982  |  0 comments
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No.6 Op.82
James Boyk, piano
Performance Recordings PR-3 (LP). James Boyk, prod., Michael Fraser, eng., Doug Sax, mastering eng.

James Boyk has become something of a phenomenon. Not only is he a Professor of Music (at Cal Tech) who teaches how to listen to reproduced sound and writes articles about sound reproduction (for New West magazine), he is also a virtuosic pianist who produces perfectionist-caliber recordings of his own recitals. This recording, Mr. Boyk's third LP (footnote 1), is of one of Prokofiev's later works, and is a magnificent piano recording. Much credit must be given to both Mr. Boyk and his recording engineer, Michael Fraser. The instrument seems to be right in front of one, with as accurate a sound as any piano reproduction I have heard. It is interesting to note that the recording was made with ribbon mikes (the legendary Coles 4038s, perhaps?) and all-tube electronics "from mike to grooves."

Margaret Graham  |  Nov 19, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1983  |  0 comments
883rotmwest.250.jpgAndre Previn and His Pals: West Side Story
Andre Previn, piano; Shelly Manne, drums; Red Mitchell, double bass.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-095 (LP). Lester Koenig, prod. TT: 38:16

Aaron Copland has called jazz "contemporary chamber music," and this is certainly true of these improvisations by Previn and his friends. I consider this chamber jazz at its best, varying in mood and tempo but never losing interest. The program consists of eight variations on themes from Bernstein's well-known musical, and includes "Maria," "Jet Song," "I Feel Pretty," and "Something's Coming."

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 04, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1984  |  6 comments
884rotm.ssph.jpgSaint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals
Ravel: Mother Goose Suite

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, André Previn, cond.
Philips CD 400-016 2 (CD).

The whimsical Carnival, with its nose-thumbing at Saint-Saëns' contemporaries (eg a lugubrious "Can-Can" and a stately cello rendition of Berlioz's Dance of the Sylphs, from The Damnation of Faust), is given a delightful treatment here, and put on one of the best-sounding CDs I've heard to date from a major record company.

Philips has been less up-front about the roots of its CDs than most other record manufacturers, If fact, they have been downright sneaky about it. This release—billed prominently on the CD jacket as a "Digital Recording"—sounds very much as if it was analog-mastered. The is certainly nothing Philips should ashamed of, because this is a better-sounding recording than most digitally mastered ones.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 15, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1985  |  6 comments
885rotm.250.jpgMozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Posthorn Serenade
Prague Chamber Orchestra, Charles Mackerras conducting.
Telarc CD 80108 (CD). Robert Woods, prod., Jack Renner, eng. DDD.

Holt's First Law of Recording states: "The better the performance, the worse the recording—and vice versa." It's true; really fine recordings of superb musical performances are so rare that the discovery of one such gem is cause for rejoicing. Well, you can rejoice: this is one of them.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 13, 2013  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1986  |  1 comments
886rotmjgh.1.jpgStravinsky: The Firebird (1910 Suite)
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf
Sheffield Lab Direct-to-Disc Lab 24 (LP). Lincoln Mayorga, prod.; Doug Sax, James Boyk, engs.

For some reason, Stereophile didn't receive an early pressing of Sheffield's latest orchestral recording, their first since the Wagner and Prokofiev discs back in 1977. So, guess where my review copy of this finally came from? From Harry Pearson, that's who. How did this come about? Well, I had seen a passing comment in The Absolute Sound to the effect that HP didn't like the recording, and since I was favorably impressed with what I'd heard of it at the last two Consumer Electronics Shows, I phoned HP to ask what he didn't like about it. "Dull high end, closed-in sound, not enough spaciousness" was the reply. Thank you, I said. Several days later, a copy of the disc arrived, postmarked Sea Cliff, NY.

Thank you Harry, but I must disagree with you about this recording.

Richard Lehnert  |  Sep 29, 2011  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1988  |  0 comments
888rotm.jpgJane Siberry: The Walking
Reprise/Duke Street 25678-1 (LP), 25678-2 (CD). John Naslen, eng.; Jane Siberry, John Switzer, John Naslen, prods. DDD. TT: 53:03

I came to Jane Siberry's music pretty late in the game. This is her fourth album, and the third released by a major label—No Borders Here and The Speckless Sky were released by Open Sky/Windham Hill a few years ago. Hadn't heard 'em (footnote 1). Didn't need to. On the basis of The Walking alone, it was clear Siberry is one of the most important singer/songwriters we've got.

Richard Lehnert  |  Oct 01, 2010  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1989  |  0 comments
MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde
James King, tenor; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein
London (CD only). Gordon Parry, eng.; John Culshaw, prod. AAD. TT: 66:32
Richard Lehnert  |  Oct 05, 2009  |  First Published: Aug 05, 1990  |  0 comments
LUKA BLOOM: Riverside
Reprise 26092-1 (LP), -2 (CD). Mike Krowiak, eng.; Jeffrey Wood, prod. ADA/ADD. TT: 44:31
Richard Lehnert  |  Oct 29, 2008  |  First Published: Aug 29, 1991  |  0 comments
KEITH JARRETT TRIO: Tribute
Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drum
ECM 1420/21 (847 135-2, 2 CDs only). Jan Erik Kongshaug, O. Fries, engs.; Manfred Eicher, prod. DDD. TT: 115:05
Richard Lehnert  |  Dec 02, 2007  |  First Published: Aug 02, 1992  |  0 comments
Veljo Tormis: Forgotten Peoples
Tõnu Kaljuste, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
ECM New Series 1459/60 (434 275-2, 2 CDs only). Paul Hillier, prod.; Peter Laenger, eng. DDD. TT: 2:06:01
Richard Lehnert  |  Nov 03, 2003  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1993  |  0 comments
MAHLER: Symphony 10 First Performing Version by Deryck Cooke
Eliahu Inbal, Frankfurt RSO
Denon CO-75129 (CD only). Yoshiharu Kawaguchi, Richard Hauck, prods.; Detlev Kittler, eng. DDD. TT: 70:59
Richard Lehnert  |  Aug 20, 1994  |  0 comments
TERRY EVANS: Blues for Thought
PointBlank/Charisma/Virgin 39064 2 (CD only). Ry Cooder, prod.; Mark Ettel, eng. AAD? TT: 49:18

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