Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (CD review)
Call this one the return of the big bass drum. Telarc engineers made quite a name for themselves in the early days of digital recording with the sound of their bass, but for whatever reason the famous Telarc low end seemed to have diminished somewhat in the past decade. Not here. The bass came back with a vengeance.
First, a word about the performances. Maestro Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra offer up acceptable if slightly unresponsive renditions of these well-worn British warhorses. Of the three sets of music presented--Britten's Young Person's Guide (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell), with its emphasis on highlighting different instruments of the orchestra; his impressionistic Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes; and Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme, Enigma--I enjoyed the Elgar most of all.
Perhaps hearing Britten conducting his own Young Person's Guide (Decca/JVC) and Andre Previn and the London Symphony (EMI) and Michael Stern and Kansas City Symphony (Reference Recordings) doing the Sea Interludes (EMI) have spoiled me for anything else, I don't know. Certainly, Jarvi does a more-than-competent job with them. Not that the Enigma music is all that much more characterized, though; compared to the likes of Boult and Barbirolli (EMI), Jarvi is still a little undernourished. But as the Variations build up, one senses Jarvi's enthusiasm increasing for the subject matter, and he melds the various individual components into a pleasing whole.
The Telarc sound begs the listener to play it at volume. Otherwise, it's a little vague and soft. However, if you turn it up a notch or two, it comes to life. The outlines of the sonics are firm, solid, the stereo spread is wide, and the bass can be thunderous. There is perhaps too little information presented in the center of the sound stage for absolute realism, but it is a minor concern.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.