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Reviews: Respighi: Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome, Debussy: La Mer - Reiner

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Reviews: 6

Review by fotodan February 8, 2006 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
I wish I could adequately describe my excitement while listening to this newest manifestation of these incredible recordings. They have never sounded so wonderful, I promise you! The clarity uncovered by the the engineers at Soundmirror is startling. Finally we're hearing that breathless sheen on the strings playing their soft replies to the clarinet solo in the third movement of the Pines. And wait till you hear the sixteen celli at about 6'00" in the first movement of La Mer!

Bravo Claude Debussy and Ottorino Respighi and Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony and Lewis Layton and Richard Mohr and the architects of Symphony Hall in Chicago and, last, but not least, the people at Soundmirror and Sony/BMG. Thank you all!

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Review by dschawv February 20, 2006 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
My wife and I have always loved this recording. This was a discovery on a trip to Michigan over ten years ago. The music store was playing it on the sound system and we immediately had to get it. The trumpet playing of Bud Herseth was monumental.
Now, in SACD format, I can say the CSO and Reiner have stood the test of time. When properly balanced, this is an awe inspiring listening experience. There are other recordings that I still listen to, such as Ozawa and Boston, that I won't give up.
As to La Mer, this is good. I still like Solti's later Chicago recording. But, I will keep both.
Personally, a true benchmark of performance and sound.

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Review by JW September 6, 2006 (4 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have heard this now on different systems. Tube and solid state. Revealing and not so revealing. Maybe if you have honeycomb drivers, still dripping with honey ... but, trust me, it's bright :-).

If you do not have a world class SA-CD player or if your amp is on the bright side, the likelyhood of this disc being practically unlistenable at normal volume levels is high. On my VSE modified Sony XB940 - no slouch - it was pretty bad. And the Sony can play some of the other discs without much of a sonic problem. My new APL Denon handles it much better, hence I feel I can make the above statements with some authority. And there is also little weight to the music in comparison with some of the other LS discs I have. You just do not feel that wonderful orchestral weight in the massed strings and brass passages like one gets for instance with the Mendelssohn discs.

In the end of course I know it's all taste, system and ear dependent. Yes there is clarity. Yes there is soundstage. When Fotodan says the 16 celli sound nice he is not wrong but in my book they are missing body and timbre. The music is great. No reason not to get this disc. But you may just have to settle for low volume and/or adjusted treble (I challenge you not to turn down the volume on the intro on track 5). Consider yourself officially warned :-)


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Review by Ivymike September 17, 2006 (10 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The release of this disc will obviate the need for audio geeks to scour the used record bins in search of a decent copy of the Respighi works. Before this I'd never encountered a version in any format that lived up to the hype surrounding it all: the LPs always sounded pinched and thin, and the orange-label (read: later) reel-to-reel release I managed to locate sounded just plain awful, due most likely to the cheap tape used--not only was it pinched and thin but the lovely sound of tape saturation peeked in well before the zero VU mark on the level meters. Ugh.

I must admit I've heard better readings of La Mer. I'm just not convinced that Reiner was subtle enough to capture the impressionistic nuances of such music; I prefer the 1956 Living Stereo reading my Munch and the BSO that comes as "filler" with the infamous RCA recording of the Saint-Saens Symphony No.3, reviewed elsewhere in this site.

The Respighi works are very fine readings indeed, and the sound quality is very good. All works on the disc were recorded on 1/2", 3-track tape running at 15 i.p.s and engineered by the indomitable Lewis Layton. The Debussy is miked more closely than the Respighi works and the soundstages of the two sessions, the first from February,1960 and the second from October,1959 are noticeably different, with the Respighi works revealing more hall sound and the Debussy seeming a bit too close and spotlit. Comments have been made regarding the light tonal balance of the recordings and they are accurate; there is some brightness here but I did not find it objectionable with my equipment and it's certainly a big improvement on the LPs and R2Rs. The dynamic range of "Pines" is stupendous; the tremendous climax and the end of "Pines of the Appian Way" is electrifying with its massed brass, bass drum and the seismic grumbling of 32-foot organ pipes. I can detect no tape overload, either-not bad considering the recording is forty-seven years old next month! Hair-raising stuff.

The sound is not what one would consider opulent but it's fine on decent equipment and an excellent example of what vintage high-fidelity recording could achieve. I don't think anyone thinking of a prospective purchase will regret his decision, particularly in light of the $11 retail of the disc. I would have preferred to have the two Respighi works coupled with "Feste Romane" rather than the Debussy but that work seems to have gone unnoticed in the RCA catalog. Recommended, and strongly so for hi-fi history buffs.

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Review by threerandot May 31, 2007 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This disc is certainly an interesting release in the Living Stereo series, although by no means in the top ranks. Still, there is plenty of inspired playing here and I think Reiner is more suited to the Resphigi works than Debussy's La Mer.

Reiner's reading of La Mer is certainly not the worst, but I get the feeling he is like a fish out of water. The Chicago Symphony can certainly play the big climaxes, but the interpretation is not evocative or colouful enough for my tastes. Reiner can capture the crashing of the waves, but in gentler moments he does not exude the more subtle and coloful nuances. This certainly is not up to the Karajan version on DG or Martinon's approach on EMI.

The Resphigi works are a different story, however. Reiner is more in his element, with colorful playing from the winds and exciting climaxes when called for. The opening moments of the Fountains of Rome set the mood nicely, anticipating what is to come. The Pines of Rome is also impressive.

Overall, this disc is mixed and much of this is due to the thin sound leaving me wanting more in the bass and there is a lack of body. I also think this disc shows it's age more than others in this series. Still, Reiner does some nice things with the Resphigi works. Recommended with reservations.

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Review by gonzostick November 20, 2007 (4 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
DO NOT BELIEVE THE HYPE ABOUT THIS DISC!!! While Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's recorded catalog are legendary, this recording is NOT a great one. This music requires opulent sonics and COMPLETE dynamic range. THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN, HERE!!! Respighi's brilliant mixture of gossamer and kitchen-sink orchestration requires uncompressed dynamic range that is ruined by gain riding by the RCA engineers. The musical dynamics are all wrong and the technical deficiencies accentuate the blastissimo brass. SACD remastering will not improve a flawed, ancient master tape. This recording may have been state-of-the-art for its day, but it is not a successful remastering. There is NO silk in the strings and the sonic perspective is flat.

The organ is out of tune, terribly underpowered, and played, it seems, with the swell shades closed, so it is MUFFLED. The performance of Pines is earthbound and does not scale the heights that it can in better hands, it is simply loud and crude. The performance of Fountains suffers from the same problems. La Mer does not work, either. We have yet to get a good combination of performance and sonics for the Roman Trilogy on SACD.

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