Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol (SACD review)

Also, Russian Easter Overture, Le Coq d’Or Suite; Borodin: Polovtsian Dances. Antal Dorati, London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  Mercury SACD 475 6194.

Much of the material here dates from the earliest days of stereo, but because it’s a Mercury Living Presence recording, you’d hardly know it. Dorati was flourishing making recordings with the LSO in the mid Fifties and Sixties, and this disc, issued originally on two separate vinyl albums, one in 1956 and the other in 1959, is no different. The performances all sparkle, sonically and interpretively.

Things start out with the Capriccio Espagnol, given a rousing and characterful treatment by Dorati. It does not eclipse my favorite recording with Kiril Kondrashin on a remastered JVC, itself an ancient 1958 production, but it comes close, played with great character and verve. The suite from Le Coq d’Or, however, is peerless--vibrant, colorful, alive with musical nuance and detail; I loved every part of it. Following that we find the Russian Easter Overture, also well done, if sounding to my ears a tad rushed in spots.

The program concludes with Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” from Prince Igor, and if it weren’t for Sir Thomas Beecham’s classic recording (EMI), Dorati would take top honors. Nevertheless, Dorati demonstrates plenty of pizzazz, plenty of panache in the music.

Mercury’s sound is much as we expect from this source, having been recorded with three microphones across the front of the stage, here reproduced in SACD three-channel or, if you have only a regular CD player, in two-channel stereo. I admit there is a certain small degree of boxed-in closeness about the sound, as though Mercury had applied a tad too much noise reduction to the lower treble, but it doesn’t interfere with the highest notes, which shimmer and glisten convincingly. Then there is the lowest bass in the Coq d’Or that is every bit as deep and impressive as anything made today. If you don’t already own these particular recordings or the music at all, Mercury’s hybrid SACD seems a good place to start.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa