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Subject: Notably good sounding reissues
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 12 Jan 2017 15:18:05 -0800
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I've been very impressed with the sound on recent Decca "Blu-Ray Audio" releases, such as the Karajan Berlin "Bohème." 

The sound on this recording caught enough attention to warrant audiophile LP editions by Mobile Fidelity and Speakers Corner, but I've never heard such clarity, brilliance and dynamics.  It really brings out both the subtleties and soaring power of the vocal performances, particularly Freni and Pavarotti.   I don't know that I've heard another Pavarotti recording that, in addition to the brilliant climaxes, had such nuance, intimacy and sense of consistent personal involvement.

This was Decca's first foray into the Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin that had been a DGG stronghold for both Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin Radio Symphony (formerly RIAS). The Decca team got a very different sound out of the venue and of the Berlin Philharmonic itself. Much fuller bass with greater impact and lows you feel in your stomach (very notably lacking from most DGG work) but also notably more brights and a sense of the "sheen" the orchestra had in Karajan live concerts.

Relevance to the opera? Huge. The orchestra never dwarfs the singers as happened more than once with Karajan - it's another character and collaborator. And Puccini was an orchestral colorist, in his own way as much as Richard Strauss.

Most of all, the sound helps convey the live performance like energy and electricity in the recording, not so usual for even a good studio job. Interestingly, this was one of the few Karajan studio opera recordings not related in some way to a particular staging of the work, although he had performed it with several of the principals.

I've also been very impressed with the high res downloads (I got them from HDTracks) of the Leontyne Price remasterings done for the recent Sony set. The Leinsdorf "Aida" is still not an audiophile standout, but much of the mud has been hosed off. Distortion that crept into earlier digitizations of the Mehta "Trovatore" are gone but depth, space and clarity are there.

I've been really impressed with how the sound has brought the performances vividly to life in the new presentations of the Leinsdorf "Tabarro" and "Cosi fan tutte," catching the exquisite shimmer on Price's upper voice beautifully.

I had to go to HDTracks' UK site for the latter 2.

Max Paley


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