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Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony / Spano, Goerke, Et Al

Release Date: 06/28/2002 
Label:  Telarc   Catalog #: 60588   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Christine GoerkeBrett Polegato
Conductor:  Robert Spano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony OrchestraAtlanta Symphony Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

For most home listeners, this superb Grammy-winning recording will likely sound better in stereo than it does in multichannel format. One of the peculiarities of this medium lies in the fact that it can turn fabulous two-channel sonics into a comparatively more diffuse and less incisive sonic framework when compared with top-quality stereo (which this recording certainly is). Giving the orchestra more front-to-back depth paradoxically pushes the chorus to the rear, while the soloists float somewhere out front, and this upsets the ear's natural tendency in choral/vocal works to hear what are (or should be) two distinct planes of tone: first, the massed or solo voices, and next the orchestra that accompanies them.

In a
Read more live concert-hall setting, and despite typical seating behind the orchestra, what one actually hears (assuming proper vocal strength) is the sound of the chorus rising over and above the orchestra, while the orchestra sounds as mere accompaniment no matter how loudly it plays. Donald Tovey described this effect with his usual accuracy when he noted that in any vocal music the psychological expectation of words being sung automatically thrusts all instrumental contributions into the background, and when this natural expectation is frustrated, the result sounds confused and unnatural. Now it would be wrong to say that SACD surround format completely falsifies this natural hierarchy, but it does alter it in direct comparison to stereo, which lacks SACD's easy three-dimensionality but is excellent at defining the balances between multiple planes of tone positioned on a stage in front of the listener, and is thus ideal for choral music.

It's important to stress two points in this connection: first, that technologically speaking we're still in the early days, and no doubt Telarc (and others) will find a way to resolve this problem; second, even in SACD format this is still a pretty fine recording technically, compromised only by the fact that the stereo version is absolutely outstanding. It may be that owners of extremely high-end home theater systems will prefer the multichannel version (though I listened on one and still find the stereo superior); but if you've got a top-notch normal system at home, it's not likely you'll hear better by making the switch.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 "A sea symphony" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Christine Goerke (Soprano), Brett Polegato (Baritone)
Conductor:  Robert Spano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,  Atlanta Symphony Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1909; England 
Date of Recording: 11/2001 
Venue:  Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia 
Length: 61 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: English 

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