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Respighi: Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome; Debussy / Reiner, Chicago Symphony

Release Date: 02/07/2006 
Label:  Rca Victor Living Stereo Catalog #: 71614   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Claude DebussyOttorino Respighi
Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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SuperAudio CD:  $11.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

Listening to these exquisite SACD remasterings of half-century-old classic Living Presence recordings recalled a story told by a pupil of Philip Farkas (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's principal hornist when these tapings were made). During rehearsal, conductor Fritz Reiner angrily signaled for a stop, glared at the horns, and demanded: "Horns! Forte!" They repeated the passage, louder, and were stopped again. "Horns! Forte!" Two more times produced the same result, after which Reiner slammed down his baton. One of the horn players pleaded, "But, Maestro, we're playing as
Read more loud as we can." "I know!" snapped Reiner, "you started at fortissimo."

This anecdote illustrates how important it was to Reiner to get the exact loudness--or quietness--he wanted. Truly pianissimo playing is a hard thing for an orchestra to achieve, and among the things this excellent SACD remastering discloses as never before is the utterly ravishing playing of this orchestra at pianissimo, and its constant attention to dynamic level. This pays off in the final movement of Pines of Rome, where Reiner achieves a steady increase in loudness from the first tread of the Caesars' ghostly legions to the very last chord. The effect is breathtaking.

The remastering does this without at all yielding to the temptation to "improve" the original master's dynamics by ramping up the loud parts. The result: a faithful recreation of the legendary 1959 and 1960 sonics, minus surface noise or hiss. The string sound regains its original sweetness, eliminating the slight graininess and upper-register hardness that many can hear in standard-resolution CDs. Inclusion of the third channel in the multi-track layer of the SACD helps nail down the placement of the solo winds and spreads the strings out to sections, rather than points.

The virtues of Reiner's performances are well known. In La Mer Reiner remembers that a movement called "From Dawn Till Noon..." should begin in profound darkness. Rhythms are never rigid in this unmatched depiction of fluidity. All the delicate shadings of what is called musical Impressionism are there, but the climaxes arrive with plenty of guts. In Respighi's Fountains you can feel the dawn mists at the beginning and the magical quietness of the air at the end of the day. And the Gregorian chant evoked by the Catacombs in Pines never has made the remembered Christian martyrs sound so noble and brave.

If you know these recordings, be assured that both the two-channel and the three-channel SACD tracks truly improve the sound. If you've ever wondered why old-timers rave about 1950s stereo labels like RCA Living Stereo and "shaded dogs" (a description of the art style used for the RCA terrier on the LP label), this will answer all your questions.

--Joseph Stevenson, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

La mer by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 02/27/1960 
Venue:  Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 25 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Fountains of Rome by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1916; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 10/24/1959 
Venue:  Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 15 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1924; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 10/24/1959 
Venue:  Orchestra Hall, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 21 Minutes 9 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 My absolute favorite “La Mer” April 13, 2018 By Wendell B. (Clayton, DE) See All My Reviews "Every moment of this SACD is outstanding! After you hear Reiner and the CSO play the last measures of movement 1 “La Mer” all others pale. As I said, this is a great recording of all three works. I have numerous issues of these particular performances; the SACD is the best of the pack!" Report Abuse
 Across the Sea to Rome with Reiner May 29, 2017 By owen  ryan (lakewood, CA) See All My Reviews "These atmospheric tone poems could be cotton candy music in other hands but the incomparable Fritz Reiner/CSO magicians produce some intoxicating music on this disc. You can believe the ClassicsToday critic, Joseph Stevenson, and customer Richard Buckley's reviews--this is magnificent stuff. For audio geeks like me the price of this disc is justified by the Chicago music critic Roger Dettmer's description of the taping sessions for Respighi. The closing words of Mr. Dettmer: ''Play it for the music alone, for a masterly performance, for thrilling recorded sound, or for sheer volume to bedevil a cranky landlord--take your choice--but the finished product is rousing Respighi in any decade's list.''" Report Abuse
 Reiner Has Done It Again! October 20, 2012 By Richard Buckley (Oakmont, PA) See All My Reviews "Fritz Reiner has done it again! I am never disappointed when I purchase one of his recordings. Respighi's Pines and Fountains of Rome are heard so often that they sometimes can be tiresome. Not so with Fritz! He manages to bring out phrasing in the orchestra that you never hear under a different baton. The performances are head and shoulders above any other I have ever heard. La Mer by Debussey gets the same treatment. While you listen, if you close your eyes you can visualize the waves crashing at sea. It is an inspiring reading. A word must be said about the splendid sound on this disc. Layton and Mohr have produced another sonic masterpiece for RCA Victor. In spite of the vintage of the recordings, they compare favorably with anything produced today! The entire series of Living Stereo with which I am familiar is recording state of the art. Thank God for this wonderful music!" Report Abuse
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