By the late Nineties, the folks at RCA had finally figured out what to do with all those old quadraphonic recordings they made in the early Seventies. If this disc was any indication, they probably thought they could remaster the whole lot of them in Dolby Pro Logic and 24-bit technology and market them in their "High Performance" series. But apparently they thought better of the idea. Although the sonic results here are not bad, they are a far cry from audiophile quality.
The disc is filled with showstoppers, things like Saint-Saens's Dance Macabre, Chabrier's Espana, and Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, some of them making a good impression, others not so much. And the sound is equally up and down. The single most outstanding characteristic of the album is the quality of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which sounds wonderfully lush and lustrous.
RCA's sound, too, has its pluses and minuses. Producer Max Wilcox and engineer Paul Goodman recorded the material in 1971-72, and RCA digitally remastered it in 1998 in 24-bit Dolby Surround. In its favor, it is extremely dynamic, with occasional thunderous lows and clean, clear highs. Counting against these merits are its multi-miked two-dimensionality and its sometimes over-spacious acoustic when played back in regular two-channel stereo.
Some of the tracks sound reasonably free of this property--Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, for instance, and Kabalevsky's Galop, probably the best piece on the disc. Nevertheless, much of the music sounds like it's adjusted to one of those overactive "Stadium" settings that hardly anybody uses on a surround-sound receiver.
In short, I wasn't exactly bowled over by Ormandy or his newfound sound of the day.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: