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  Exton -
  Respighi: Church Windows etc. - Ashkenazy
  Respighi: Belfagor Overture, Belkis - Queen of Sheba, Church Windows

Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland
Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 4 show all

Site review by Castor May 24, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by Oakland August 10, 2007 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Because this disc serves as my introduction to each of these compositions I must talk in very general terms about the performances. For the uninitiated (yours truly) to these compositions, I found the performances to be extraordinarily compelling and with more to discover with each listen. My appreciation is undoubtedly handicapped by the fact that I don’t read Japanese and thus could not rely on the liner notes to provide some degree of insight. This can be (is for me) a real drawback with almost all Exton releases that I have. Nonetheless, immense enjoyment is readily accessible from all three compositions (“Belfagor” Overture, Orchestral Suite “Belkis, Queen of Sheba” and the main draw for many, Four Symphonic Impressions “Church Windows”.

One thing that is clear to me is that the DNA of the Roman Trilogy is all over these compositions (or the other way around?). If you like a well done trilogy you will most certainly like these compositions. But threadbare “sequels” these are not. And while I find all three of them to be artistically unique and essential compositions on the merits, “Church Windows” is forcibly striking and not just for its cataclysmic (or perhaps, triumphant) finale but for its inventiveness throughout. Respighi’s juxtaposition of silence to climax masterfully emphasizes contrasts, most notably in “Church Windows” at the conclusion of the 2nd and 3rd movements(perhaps helped along a bit by wide spacing of the tracks between movements).

It is also clear that only an orchestra of a very high level of musicianship need apply to take on these works. These are not easy works for the conductor or the orchestra. In fact, I would say they are rather difficult requiring notable virtuosity, discipline, and stamina. All sections of the orchestra are spot lit at some point during these performances and weaknesses would be shamelessly exposed. For sure, Ashkenazy and the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland are an emphatic success.

And the recording(s) are exceptionally well done. The vivid contrasts noted above and dynamic range are extraordinary if not startling in places. The frequency bandwidth is extremely wide from top to bottom. The bass is extremely “taut”. That is, the bass was *very* tight as if purposely damped, if not slightly overdamped. And while very deep it seems that perhaps a quarter of an octave or so is sacrificed in favor of tightness. I like it, even if it took a bit of getting use to. The multi-channel, especially, sense of space and scale are among the best I have encountered. This is accomplished even though the center channel is underutilized.

I highly recommend this disc for both sound and performance (again with the caveat that these are the only performances with which I am familiar).

Robert C. Lang

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Review by DSD June 16, 2009 (6 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Another superbly recorded DSD Exton SACD. I have a preference for recordings made in halls however this one was made in the Studio of the Holland Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and it is one of the most realistic recordings I’ve ever heard.

The SACD starts off with a Respighi work I’ve not heard before: The "Belfagor" Overture and a very exciting piece it is. Next up is one of my favorite Respighi pieces "Belkis, Queen of Sheba" and the 3rd movement "War Dance" offers maximum orgasmic goose bumps! Belkis is a thrill ride from beginning to end.

The Holy Grail of orchestral music, the mighty "Church Windows" has never had a better performance or better sound, surpassing even the highly regarded Keith Clark version on Reference Recordings 45-RPM LP. Wait until you hear the gong at the end of "St. Michael Archangel", it is huge and the decay is very long.

The energy level of this SACD is thunderous and it defines the term "power music". The bass is deep, full and warm. The organ is huge and powerful. The big bass drum packs a wallop you can feel in the pit of your stomach, a rare sensation outside of the concert hall. The midrange is melodically beautiful and the highs are airy with a wonderful touch of delicacy. This is Respighi on adrenaline, and this will now be the first SACD I pull out when someone asks me, what’s so special about SACD?

* Review is of the 2 channel stereo high resolution DSD layer.

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Works: 3  

Ottorino Respighi - Belfagor (Overture), P. 140
Ottorino Respighi - Belkis, Regina di Saba (Belkis, Queen of Sheba) - Suite, P. 177
Ottorino Respighi - Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), P. 150