I hadn’t heard this performance in so long I’d forgotten I even had the RCA version in my collection. But when I heard it again in this JVC audiophile remaster, it all came back. How could I have forgotten about it? I don’t think it’s ever been out of print on vinyl or silver disc since RCA recorded it all the way back in 1955. Maybe it’s one of those things so close at hand, we lose sight of it.
In any case, the performance is outstanding in almost every way. It embraces passion, white-hot fury, forward impulse, and excitement in equal measure, perhaps only just missing out slightly in the ultimate lyricism of the dance. In this regard, I continue to prefer Colin Davis’s first, EMI interpretation, but there is no denying Reiner’s intensity. Nor can one argue with Reiner’s sense of balance. His reading of the Seventh is a cross between the bold momentum and drive of his Beethoven Fifth and the exquisite symmetry and repose of his Sixth. The accompanying Fidelio Overture is likewise incisive and fiery.
Now, factor in JVC’s superb XRCD2 remastering, and you have a disc that goes immediately to the head of the class. The sound, some of the earliest stereo available, is also some of the best in this repertoire and some of the best in the JVC XRCD audiophile lineup. It is solid, steady, clean, and focused, with all the elements in perfect harmony. The tonal proportions are musical and concordant, the bass is firm, the midrange clear, the highs shimmering but without fuzz or edge. There is no glassy ring to the sound, little hardness, and no softness. It’s just good music and good sonic reproduction. Play a few minutes of almost any new digital orchestral recording, and then play a few minutes of this one. I’m willing to bet you will find the early stereo superior in almost every way.
OK, so you know you can buy this music on an RCA “Living Stereo” disc for the half the cost of this JVC release and get the Fifth Symphony and the Coriolan Overture thrown in to boot. So what? You’re in it for the music, right, not just a bargain-basement price tag. Or are you the kind of person who listens to his music from behind the magazine or newspaper you’re reading, or from another room for heaven’s sake? This JVC remastering improves upon the sound of the RCA disc, if ever so slightly. Is it twice as good? Of course not. However, it is better, which I think is the point. And to the dedicated audiophile, “better” may be worth the few extra bucks.
To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here: