Royal Strings (UltraHD CD review)

Charles Rosekrans, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. LIM UHD 076 LE.

Back in 2001 when I reviewed the original Telarc recording of this remastered LIM (Lasting Impression Music from FIM, First Impression Music) disc, I said of it: "If this recording were any smoother, the listener would be in danger of slipping on the polished surface and breaking a leg." The late Charles Rosekrans, former director of the Westchester Hudson Opera, leads London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a collection of works arranged for string orchestra, the culmative effect of which is balmy in the extreme. The music includes familiar works like Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia" on Greensleeves, Dvorak's Moderato from the Serenade in E major, Albinoni's Adagio for Strings, Tchaikovsky's Waltz from the Serenade in C major, and several movements from quartets, quintets, and octets by Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Beethoven, all additionally arranged for string orchestra.

Maestro Rosekrans takes no chances and presents each piece in fairly straight-arrow fashion. Under Rosekrans, the music sounds laid back, relaxing, predictable, and often routine, yet Maestro Rosekrans offers it up in just the manner I would guess a majority of listeners prefer. This is an assembly of works for lovers of lush string sound, mainly, and cushy, comforting sonics. Devoted classical music fans and dedicated audiophiles may object; others undoubtedly won't, now that LIM have remastered it in even better sound. In other words, it sounds really nice, but Rosekrans may not present it as thoughtful or persuasively as some rival conductors have on other recordings.

Things begin with the Waltz from the Serenade in C major by Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky. Under Rosekrans the Waltz flows along in a gentle, consistent manner, yet with little individual character. In other words, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it except that it sounds like every other interpretation of the music.

Next is the Fantasia on Greensleeves by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, a performance that contains some beautiful violin work by Cleo Gould. I liked Rosekrans's rendering of this one a little more than his performance of the opening Tchaikovsky piece because he seems to invest it with greater feeling, and Gould's violin part soars wonderfully.

After that is the Moderato from the Serenade in D major by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. Rosekrans takes it at a fairly perfunctory tempo, with little change-up in contrast levels or nuances in phrasing. I can only describe the result as pleasingly routine.

Charles Rosekrans
Then, it's the Adagio for Strings, often attributed to the eighteenth-century Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni, but probably composed by the twentieth-century Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, who said he merely arranged Albinoni's work. Whatever, here we find the familiar orchestration for strings and organ, with violinist Cleo Gould again taking the lead. The organ is the real star of the show here, however, and audiophiles with really big subwoofers will doubtless take delight in it. Otherwise, Gould's violin stands out in an otherwise acceptable but hardly noteworthy rendition of the work.

In addition, we get Mendelssohn's Allegro moderato from the Octet in E-flat major, Beethoven's Presto from the Quartet in C-sharp minor, Schubert's Standchen from Schwanengesang, Brahms's Un poco Allegretto from the Quintet in G major, Purcell's Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas, and Beethoven's Lento assai from his Quartet in F major. Of these other pieces, I'd single out the Beethoven Presto for its energy and verve; the Schubert for its sweet spirit, conveyed nicely by Rosekrans; and the concluding Beethoven Lento for its graceful solemnity.

Telarc producer Andre Gauthier and recording engineer Robert Friedrich provided, as I said earlier, an ultrasmooth sound for the disc back in 2001, the kind that might lull one into submission but that one cannot really fault in any particular way. Now, LIM have remastered it, and it sounds better than ever. It sounds, in fact, like real music. What more could you want? (I hear some audiophile types now saying "I want more detail, more transparency, more energy, more dynamics, more "hi-fi"; but it's all a matter of degree; this is good couch-potato sound that will offend no one. Actually, it impressed me, and I thought it quite natural, especially now that LIM have gotten hold of it.)

LIM remastered the Telarc recording using their 32-bit Ultra HD processing, which is about the most-exacting method anyone has yet found to transfer the contents of a master tape to a standard Red Book CD. The new mastering adds a touch more clarity and impact to the sound, while making it appear even smoother than before. Note, however, that although I count this a blessing, other listeners may not appreciate yet more smoothness. There is also a wide stereo spread involved and a pleasant hall ambiance that further enhances the sound's lifelike qualities.

To sum up, as much as I enjoyed the sound, I can't say the overall character of the music impressed me as much. It was, as I say, a mite undernourished for my taste. I suppose if you already own the Telarc version of this recording and like it, the LIM remastering does improve upon its sonic qualities. Whether the improvement is worth the additional cost is another question that only the listener can answer.

JJP

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