Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 5; No. 6,
Wojciech Rajski, cond; Polish CPO
TACET 164 (DVD-A: 73:14)
Here’s a DVD-A version of performances reviewed by Christopher Abbot when they appeared on SACD (32:5). What you’ll notice first as you listen is the sound quality—what Tacet advertises as “Real Surround Sound.” It’s striking for two reasons. First, in terms of immediacy and timbral truth, the DVD-A tracks prove as realistic as any small-orchestra recording I’ve heard, with
especially vivid reproduction of the low string lines. (The disc offers a Dolby Digital surround option as well, but one of my regular DVD players refused to access it; I also ran into difficulties with track and time readouts on several machines.) Tacet has a strong company philosophy, including a preference for (but not exclusive commitment to) tubes rather than transistors; but whether or not you share the ideology, the results fully justify what they’re doing. Second, they’ve recorded the orchestra in an unorthodox configuration, with woodwinds in front of you, strings behind, and brass encircling the group. In surround sound (Abbot listened only to the two-channel tracks on the SACD), it’s a disorienting experience, especially for people who attend a lot of live concerts—although if you turn around 180 degrees and pretend that you’re one of the oboes, it’s a bit less bizarre. Still, Tacet’s aim is not concert-hall realism. Rather, their “guiding principle is to give maximum clarity and transparency to the score”—and by spacing out the instruments the way they do, they increase our ability to capture details often buried in more traditional recordings. The one or two oddly balanced moments in the Sixth’s storm music are surely intentional on the conductor’s part.
As for the performances: gutsy, energetic, and rhythmically alert, these are chamber-orchestra readings that aim for spring rather than weight (the finale of the Fifth, for instance, is more jaunty than triumphant) and for wit rather than spiritual profundity (listen to the unusually waltzy reading of the Sixth’s second movement). I wouldn’t choose them as touchstone recordings, but I’m glad to be able to return to them for their freshness. All in all, cautiously recommended if you’ve got the appropriate equipment.
FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria
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