Antonin DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No.9 in E minor Op.95 From the New World [44:25]
Carnival Overture Op.92 [10.08]
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
rec. Cupertino Hall, San Francisco, USA (1975)
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 168 [54:33]

This is one of Pentatone's Remastered Quadro Recordings. These are taken from the original 4-channel tapes made for the 1970s quadraphonic era and transferred using current state-of-the-art DSD technology to SACD hybrid disc. Thus the sound is as close to the master tapes as is possible and certainly better than the engineers could have expected when the master tapes were made. Philips engineers were renowned for the quality of their work in this period and they certainly capture this performance beautifully. It sounds like an orchestra in a hall with no unnatural highlighting of instruments. It is very much better than, for example, some of the Exton SACDs reviewed of late though it is outclassed by Alsop's recent Naxos Bluray of the symphony coupled with No.6.

The Pentatone engineers are working through all the archived 4-channel tapes and many of the issues have been really exciting: the Italian Quartet in Beethoven for example. There cannot be many more tapes to go which might account for this issue which rests firmly at the bottom of the barrel. I was not particularly impressed by Alsop but she is very much better than this sluggish and undistinguished rendering. In neither the symphony nor the overture does Seiji Ozawa sound interested. Tempi do not deviate far from the average except in the overture which is noticeably slow. The spontaneity found in Kertesz (Decca) and especially in Sawallisch (EMI) is absent here. Those used to the outstanding quality of the current San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Tilson Thomas will also find the 1975 orchestra distinctly ordinary. The gorgeous woodwind parts in the New World cry out for soloists to play from the heart. Here all is efficiency. Dvorák's symphony is amongst the most often recorded works in the repertoire, now as it was in the 1970s, so the only reason to record it yet again is or was to offer it afresh. This performance is not so much fresh as frozen.

Dave Billinge

Decently played but sluggish performances in good sound.