STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring
London Symphony Orch/Sir Eugene Goossens, cond.
CLASSIC HDAD 2023 (2 disks) (37:45)

SCRIABIN: The Poem of Ecsta
. AMIROV: Azerbaijan Mugam.
Houston Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
CLASSIC HDAD 2026 (2 disks) (33:02)

RESPIGHI: The Fountains of Rome. The Pines of Rome.
London Symphony Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond.
CLASSIC HDAD 2015 (36:35)

BERLIOZ: Requiem, Op. 5
Charles Bressler, tenor; University of Utah A Capella Choir; University of Utah Civic Chorale; Utah Symphony Orch/Maurice Abravanel, cond.
CLASSIC HDAD 2012 (2 disks)

FALLA: The Three-Cornered Hat Ballet
Barbara Howitt, soprano; London Symphony Orch/Enrique Jorda, cond.
CLASSIC HDAD 2019 (2 disks) 4 (37:39)

WAGNER: Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre. CHOPIN: Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4. Prelude No,. 24 in D minor, Op. 28. Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64 No. 2. CANNING: Fantasy on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan.
Houston Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
CLASSIC HDAD 2029 (2 disks) (39:16)

Classic Records has been around since 1994 focusing on high quality LP vinyl issues of audiophile recordings utilizing the latest technology and original audio sources courtesy of Everest and Vanguard. Here are six recent releases from Classic Records in a unique format. Each of the above contains two disks. One is a regular two-track stereo CD (not SACD) of the program that usually (but not always) has tracks for individual sections of the music. The other is a two-sided DVD, one for DVD video playback, the other for DVD audio playback (in very fine print the sides are identified as audio or video). One side is the program in DVD Audio in two channel 24 bit/192 kHz, and the original three-channel recording 24 bit/96 kHz. The other side, DVD Video, contains the two channel 24 bit/96 kHz, and three channel Dolby AC-3. These are not video DVDs; all one sees on the screen is limited program information. The finest audio quality is the DVD Audio two channel 24/192; one might wonder why the three-channel recording also isn't 24 bit/192. At any rate, all of these sound terrific and will delight audiophiles. Producers/engineers Bert Whyte (Everest) and Seymour Solomon(Vanguard) did a spectacular job more than four decades ago, achieving remarkable detail usually with natural unexaggerated stereo effect.

From a performance standpoint, this is a mixed bag. Goossens' Rite of Spring is one of the longest ever recorded (37:45—and one of the least impressive both in performance and, surprisingly, sound. There is little low bass in this recording, and the bass drum, so important in this score, has little impact. Sargent's Respighi disk is superb sonically, but performances are unexceptional, with a rushed trip through the Appian Way. Enrique Jorda is a master of things Spanish, and his Three-Cornered Hat is a prize in this group. The two Stokowski sets are welcome, although the Houston Symphony then was hardly a virtuoso ensemble; their performances have been captured with uncommon clarity. The stereo DVD has separate tracks for the Wagner/Chopin/Canning disk, but not for the Scriabin/Amirov, a major inconvenience.

The Berlioz—a terrific performance from Abravanal and his massed forces—is different from the others in format, inexplicably so. There are two DVDs, one in stereo, the other multi-channel. This recording was originally made in four channels, so impressive in the Requiem as the four brass bands are in separate corners: it is a tremendous listening experience to hear them that way. For whatever reason, producers decided to issue a conventional stereo version, and only on DVD—no CD. Puzzling! Does anyone want to hear this music without the rear channel effect? There is a minor defect in the original recording, about 15 seconds into the first track where there is a slight slip, also heard in the Silverline label's SACD issue of a few years ago.

Production values disappoint. The CD of the two Respighi symphonic poems label lists "The Pines of Rome"and under it, "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra." Below "The Fountains of Rome" ID, it reads "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 3 in G." Didn't anyone proof-read? And there are insufficient tracks on all of the DVDs. The Rite of Spring has but two tracks on both the CD and DVD versions. There are eleven tracks on the CD of The Three-Cornered Hat, but only one on the DVD versions, with a note, "due to format constraints inherent to the DVD Video format, individual access points for this piece are not applicable to the DVD video side of this disc." It seems odd that with today's technology it wasn't possible to put additional tracks on the DVDs. In spite of their production shortcomings, these are of enormous interest for audio buffs.They are premium priced, but for audiophiles this might not matter.

Apparently Classic Records is now owned by Acoustic Sounds, a company with a vast catalog of high-quality recordings in all formats. To check them out, visit their website: ACOUSTIC SOUNDS

R.E.B. (July 2010)