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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

RECORDING OF THE MONTH

BUY NOW 

Harold Moores

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 - 1921)
Symphony #3, Op 78 Organ (1886) [34.44]
Berj Zamkochian, Aeolian-Skinner organ;
Bernard Zighera and Leo Litwin, pianos.
Recorded 6 April 1959.
Claude DEBUSSY (1862 - 1918)

La Mer (1905) [22.52]
Recorded 9 December 1956
Jacques IBERT (1890 - 1962)

Escales (1922) [15.21]
Ralph Gomberg, oboe solo
Recorded 10 December 1956
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
Recorded in Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Restored and remastered to DSD at Soundmirror, Inc. 3.0 and 2.0 stereo.
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Technical and historical notes in English.
Hybrid SACD playable on CD players.
RCA/BMG 828766-61387-2 [73.04]


Comparison Recordings:
Saint-Saëns, Organ Symphony, Comissiona, Baltimore SO, National Presbyterian Church, DC, organ, Silverline [ADD] DVD-Audio
Saint-Saëns, Organ Symphony, Munch, Boston SO, Symphony Hall organ, [AAD] JVC/BMG JMCXR-0002.
Debussy, La Mer. Reiner, CSO [ADD] RCA/BMG 09026 68079-2
Debussy, La Mer. Martinon, French N.B.O. [ADD] EMI CDM 69587
Glazunov, The Sea, Neeme Järvi, SNO Chandos CHAN 8611
Ibert, Escales. Ormandy, Philadelphia SO [ADD] Sony SBK 62644
Ibert, Escales. Martinon, French N.B.O. [ADD] EMI CDM 64276

This is certainly one of the finest performances and recordings of any piece of music ever done, even though the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony is not the greatest music ever written. However it enjoys an honourable place on the third tier along with Rimksy-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony and the Tovey Cello Sonata.

A number of RCA’s original multi-channel master tapes — such as the two channel master of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust with Munch and the BSO and the four channel Enesco Roumanian Rhapsody #1 with Stokowski — have been reported "missing" over the past decades, but we are advised that his disk is made from the "newly discovered" three channel master of the Saint-Saëns. As to what transpired, what midnight raids on warehouses in New Jersey, what attorney mediated diplomacies of plea-bargaining or promises of non-prosecution, we are the benefactors and need not enquire further.

Suffice it to say that this is the finest recording of this work ever done, easily blowing completely out of the water with a single shot all the competition listed above. It casts its shadow not only into the past, but into the far future. Before any orchestra, conductor and organist should essay to record this work, measure yourself against this recording as a standard — and despair.

If you have any interest whatever in recorded sound, in French music, let alone this particular work, you must buy this recording. If you don’t have an SACD player, buy one just to hear this recording; but, until then, the CD tracks are also very impressive, noticeably finer than any previous version of this tape on any CD issue, including the premium priced JVC XRCD issue.

If, like me, your front right and left speakers are large and full range and you have a dialogue speaker for your centre channel, you will get the best sound from the two channel setting on your SACD player. From my experience with other recordings I would speculate that if one were to have three large high quality full range speakers for the front channels, one would experience greater depth perspective but no more lateral separation.

Via his connections to Russia by means of the Von Meck family, Debussy must have been aware of Glazunov’s The Sea, his opus 28, written in 1889, 16 years before La Mer. The opening of the Glazunov work is almost identical to the opening of the last movement of the Debussy and the works use many of the same orchestral devices to paint pictures of water. Beyond these superficial similarities, both works are completely original, of course.

My first reaction to this La Mer was one of disappointment, but after the third hearing or so I realised Munch wasn’t trying to imitate Toscanini/Reiner/Karajan, et al. He was working the same magic he worked on the Ravel Daphnis et Chloe, a slow, measured, sensual approach, rich with orchestral detail, devoid of big noisy climaxes.

You may prefer, as I have heretofore, the Ormandy or Martinon for Escales, and the Reiner or Martinon for La Mer, but give this recording a chance and you may end up liking it as much or better and certainly you will be hearing something new in the music.

Paul Shoemaker

see also review by Colin Clarke

 



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