Review by seth July 12, 2010 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
|Chabrier is doomed to be remembered for six and half minutes of music: Espana. And to add insult to injury, the piece is not considered “serious” enough to be programmed during the regular subscription season of orchestras – it’s typically relegated to summer concerts.
While there’s no denying a certain “lightness” to the music, it’s still masterfully orchestrated. And Chabrier did win endorsements from an impressive variety of composers, including: Ravel, R. Strauss, Debussy and Stravinsky.
Since the 1960s these recordings have been the standard recommendation for a compilation of Chabrier’s orchestral music (though missing is the Habanera and Larghetto for Horn and Orchestra). In three channel SACD these recordings are further immortalized.
Espana receives a particularly nuanced performance. Listen to how the tremolo clarinet flutters above the orchestra right after the first the first tutti, or how clear but not spotlit the harps are. Probably my favorite pieces are the two excerpts from “Le Roi malgre lui,” though the Detroit Symphony Orchestra cannot match the opulence of the Vienna Philharmonic in their mid 90s recording of the “Fete polonaise.”
Sound quality ranges to pretty good to not good. The Bourree fantasque and Roussel’s Suite in F are the oldest recordings in the compilation. The sound is noticeably restricted and the Roussel Suite suffers from overload distortions. The rest of the pieces were recorded two years later in 1959. They sound vibrant with a realistic sense of hall ambience – spacious but not over-reverberant. Unlike other MLP recordings, the sound is not oppressively forward. Overall, they’re a pleasure to listen to with the volume cranked up loud. There is a flaw, which is that the bass drum and cymbal sound off mic – this is the draw back of a minimal mic’ing technique. A fourth microphone placed near these instruments would have been useful.
I compared the three and two channel layers, and I have to admit to not hearing much of a difference. The location of some instruments sounds slightly different at times, but that’s about it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because these recordings were designed to be mixed down to two channels.
If you don’t own a disc of Chabrier’s orchestral music, get this SACD before it goes out of print.
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