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

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 11 show all

Reviews: 6 show all

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 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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Works: 3  

Claude Debussy - La Mer, L 109
Ottorino Respighi - Fontane di Roma (Fountains of Rome), P. 106
Ottorino Respighi - Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome), P. 141