SIBELIUS:  Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Jascha Heifetz, violinist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Walter Hendl, cond.
JVCXR 0223 (F) (ADD) TT: 26:43

RAVEL:  Daphnis and Chloe
New England Conservatory Chorus and Alumni Chorus; Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
JVCXR 0222 (F) (ADD) TT:  54:28

OFFENBACH:  Gaite Parisienne
Boston "Pops" Orch/Arthur Fiedler, cond.
JVCXR 0224 (F) (ADD) TT:  36:17

These are the latest entries in the JVC reissues of RCA early stereo recordings, and a worthy batch indeed.  The process used by JVC, described in rather technical detail in each CD booklet, explains how they produce what they call "extended resolution compact disc 2."  The result is, indeed, amazing - it is remarkable how much detail on the original tapes has remained unheard until these releases. There is no question this is the most accurate reproduction of these recordings yet issued. The obvious question arises - why can't reissues from other companies be of this quality?  The explanation is that the incredible care and attention JVC gives to their reissues isn't given by other companies either because of the lack of technology to bring it about, or the amount of time it takes to do it right. On these reissues I've heard fantastic detail only suggested by previous releases - including the original LPs which have been so highly touted.  Any deficiencies in the original recordings of course are going to be more prominent.  This Daphnis and Chloe, as perfect a performance as you'll ever hear, was recorded in early days of stereo, Jan. 23 & 24, 1955 in Symphony Hall.  The hall's famed resonance is tamed by the microphone pickup, and the orchestra sounds rather thin with limited presence.  

Jascha Heifetz's recording of the Sibelius was his third.  His first was in 1934 with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra; Heifetz would not approve its release - although you can hear this performance in the huge Philadelphia Orchestra Centennial Collection. The following year Heifetz recorded the concerto with Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic, available on EMI 64030 in their Great Recordings of the Century series.  It's unfortunate a conductor of the quality of Stokowski or Beecham wasn't at the helm of the CSO January 10 and 12, 1959 when this third recording was made.  There is a touch of rhythmic insecurity in the orchestra in the tricky third movement. Heifetz's assured, dazzling performance deserves a better accompaniment than Walter Hendl could provide and we can only wonder why it took two days to record a work that is less than a half-hour in length.  The solo violin is a touch overly prominent, but JVC's remastering places it in a more solid perspective than on previous releases. 

This was Arthur Fiedler's second recording of Gaite Parisienne; he had recorded it before with the Pops Orchestra for 78s, also issued on a mono LP. Recorded June 18, 1954, it is another example of RCA's engineers trying to tame Symphony Hall's resonance, but ultra clear and very well defined.  The music is made to order for Fiedler and he gives it a vivacious performance.  

There is the question of playing time on all JVC releases.  All JVC issues are handsomely packaged in a firm cardboard "book" with an inner plastic case for the CD.  However, their philosophy is to issue on CD only what was on the original LP.  The Sibelius is the shortest playing time of any, only 26:43.  You'll have to decide if you wish to pay top dollar for the new issue when you can get the same performance (admittedly not sounding quite as good) on RCA Living Stereo 61744 where it is coupled with Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 and Glazunov's Concerto - with a total playing time of 69:06 - for less than half the price.  The well-to-do connoisseur probably will chose the JVC issue.  Gaite Parisienne is available on  Living Stereo 61847 coupled with a 27-minute suite from The Fantastic Toyshop, and Daphnis is on Living Stereo 61846, both also far greater value in music per dollar - but at lesser sonic quality.  These CDs can be ordered by using the order tabs above, or from http://www.xrcd.com.

R.E.B. (November 2002)