Way back in 2002 when I first reviewed this disc, people didn't know if the SACD or the DVD-Audio high-end format would eventually win the day, or whether, as I predicted, both formats would bite the dust. Well, it turns out that founder Sony Corporation gave up on SACD far sooner than many other record companies did, a number of them still using the format. It was clear back then, however, that the folks at Telarc were counting on SACD and trying to have it two ways; that is, they issued a number of releases like this one both on hybrid SACD's and on standard CD's (in other words, on separate discs). On SACD, there's a layer of the disc that an ordinary CD player can read and on a second layer is SACD material, multichannel surround and two-channel stereo that requires an SACD player to read. And, as I say, Telarc also offered a straight CD-only version of the recording for those listeners with no interest then, now, or ever in SACD.
I did my listening to this Orff disc from the two-channel stereo layer of the SACD, using a Sony SACD player. It sounded fine, almost as good as any of the Telarc SACD's I had listened to previously. It's true the Carmina Burana sounded a bit limp at first until I turned the volume up, but then it came to life reasonably well. The disc's extremely smooth response enables one to set the gain fairly high and still have the sonics come off sounding reasonably good. Unfortunately, I also found the sound rather flat, one-dimensional, in terms of stage depth, and, surprisingly, somewhat bass-shy, something that struck me even more forcibly when I compared it to Andre Previn's 1975 EMI recording of Carmina Burana with the London Symphony (remastered on an Hi-Q audiophile disc). Yes, the older EMI recording was a touch brighter and marginally more ragged at high volume, but because of its more realistic stage depth, it conveyed a better sense of the live experience for me. That was also the case with several other favorite Carmina Burana recordings I had on hand from Herbert Blomstedt and the San Francisco Symphony (Decca), Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (Sony), and Eugen Jochum and the German Opera Orchestra (DG). All sounded better to me than the Telarc.
Anyway, none of this may be to the point, the actual reason for buying the disc being to listen to the sound of Carmina Burana from five speakers in a surround-sound system, plus a subwoofer, which, unfortunately, I never got to hear. That requires multichannel SACD, which, as I've said, I don't have. Maybe a reader with the appropriate playback equipment could render us a opinion on the disc's multichannel sound.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: