Antal Dorati Conducts Albeniz, Kodaly & Prokofiev (CD review)

Antal Dorati, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

If you're an audiophile, I don't need to tell you that a lot of folks have prized the mid 1950's to early 1960's recordings from RCA "Living Stereo" and Mercury "Living Presence" as collector's items. So it's always a pleasure to hear another of the latter recordings from this era remastered by HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), this time with Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony from 1956-57 and the London Symphony from 1957.

First up are five of the twelve piano "impressions" from Iberia by Spanish composer and pianist Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909), orchestrated by E. Fernandez Arbos. Color and atmosphere fill the music, and those are things Hungarian-born conductor Dorati (1906-1988) did exceptionally well. This is important because Arbos's orchestration is lush and varied, and Dorati does it justice throughout all the sections.

Next is the Hary Janos Suite by Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly (1882–1967). Kodaly extracted the orchestral suite from his comic opera of the same name, which he prefaced saying, "Hary is a peasant, a veteran soldier who day after day sits at the tavern spinning yarns about his heroic exploits. The stories released by his imagination are an inextricable mixture of realism and naivety, of comic humour and pathos." The music begins with an orchestral "sneeze," and from there it gets even more picturesque as it goes along. Dorati gives the piece a fine combination of vigor and excitement, and the Minneapolis players provide him all the zip and polish the work needs.

Antal Dorati
The final item on the program is the six-movement concert suite from the comic opera The Love of Three Oranges by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953). If anything, this work is more outwardly exciting than the others, and again Dorati is up the challenge. What's more, the LSO play with all the zeal the music needs, so we get another triumph from the conductor and orchestra.

If I had to find any fault in the album (which I don't have to but will anyway, because, you know, it's what critics do), it's that the there are only three track points, one for each major item. I would have liked track points for each selection within each suite. Oh, well, a minor quibble.

Producer Wilma Cozart (Fine), editor Harold Lawrence, and engineer C. R. Fine recorded the Kodaly at the Northrop Memorial Auditorium, Minneapolis, Minnesota in November 1956; the Albeniz in April 1957; and the Prokofiev at Watford Town Hall, London, England in July 1957. HDTT transferred the recordings from Mercury two-track tapes.

The recordings from Minneapolis are as vivid as they can be. Highs seem a trifle hard and sharp at times, but, otherwise, the sound is as spectacular as a listener could want. I remember owning these recordings on vinyl many years ago, but I don't remember them sounding as good as they do here. The frequency and dynamic ranges are very wide, with strong impact all through the spectrum and as quick a transient response as you'll find. The midrange sounds beautifully balanced and transparent. The stereo spread is wide without being too close up. The London recording is similarly clear and dynamic, but it adds a touch more roundness and resonance from Watford Town Hall, making it even more lifelike. Really fine listening.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa