DVORÁK: Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. Slavonic Dances, Op. 72.
Budapest Festival Orch/Iván Fischer, cond.
DECCA BLU RAY AUDIO 00289 478 5007 TT: 70:28
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thusand." Helen Watts
Heather Harper, Lucia Popp, Arleen Auger, sopranos; Yvonne Minton, Helen Watts, contraltos; René Kollo, tenor; John Shirley-Quirk, baritone; Martti Talvela, bass; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Sängerknaben; Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti, cond.
DECCA BLU RAY AUDIO 00289 478 5006 TT: 79:46
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Ileana Cotrubas, soprano; Christa Ludwig, contralto; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond.
DECCA BLU RAY AUDIO 00289 478 5030 TT: 81:11
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VIVALDI: Le Quatro Stagioni
Janine Jansen, Candida Thomson, Henk Rubingli, violins; Julian Rachin, viola; Maarten Jensen, cello; Stacy Watton, double bass; Elisabeth Kenny, theorbo; Jan Jensen, bass organ ;harpsichord
DECCA BLU RAY AUDIO 00289 478 5001 TT: 39:04
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique."
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
DECCA BLU RAY AUDIO 00289 478 5002 TT: 43:59
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Last December this site mentioned a set of nine issues, eight DGG, one on Decca, all advertised as "high quality pure audio" Blu Ray releases (REVIEW). This series, in spite of its major disappointment (no surround sound even when available in the masters), is a worthy effort to enable collectors' ability to hear recordings, old and new, in audio quality permitting us to hear exactly what was on the original sourc. The first set of blu ray audio disks included several early recordings that weren't sonic showcases to begin with (Karajan's Mahler and Beethoven)—so what is the point of including them?

This new batch, all Decca recordings includes Solti's Mahler Symphony No. 8 recorded August/September 1971 in Vienna's Sofiensaal, taped in Vienna rather than Chicago because of lower cost of choral participants. The recording team was the best of the time, Kenneth Wilkinson and Gordon Parry, and they did their work well. Audio is excellent although many recent recordings, as one would expect, are far superior sonically. And it is a fine performance, an mportant element in Solti's Mahler cycle, with superb soloists. Zubin Mehta's Resurrection was recorded in the same location February 1975—two decades later he would record it again with the Israel Philharmonic. This Vienna performance is excellent, with richer orchestral sound than heard in the Solti Mahler of a few years earlier.

There are two modern recordings in the new batch, Iván Fischer's Budapest set of Slavonic Dances of Dvorák, recorded in March and May 1999. This is not an original Decca set; originally it was issued on Philips a dozen years ago and praised on this site (REVIEW), and a few years ago the same recording was issued on Channel Classics. Both of these were in rich surround sound; unfortunately the Decca issue is only two-channel stereo. It is incomprehensible to me why producers would not include multiple channels on blu ray issues when they are available. So it goes. The other relatively recent recording is the Vivaldi chesnut, played here with only 9 performers inclding the soloist, made in May 2004. It is a bit of a family affair: cellist Maarten Jensen is her brother, harpsichordist Jan Jensen her father. Janine is recognized as one of the finest young violinists today and her career is flourishing. She also seems to be attempting to make a sex symbol of herself; there are several voluptuous photos in the disk booklet. It's unfortunate there isn't more music. Playing time is brief (39:04)!. Jansen has given many concerts with musicians involved in this recording; surely they could have included more music.

Gergiev's Pathétique with the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in the Sofiensaal September 2004, is unexceptional sonically. There is a murky sound to mid-range, low bass is undefined; it is difficult to understand why Decca elected to include this in their blu ray series. Should you wish to experience Gergiev's Pathétique, surely the way to do it is his 1995 Philips performance with the Mariinsky Orchestra available on Philipe DVD audio in surround sound (REVIEW).

R.E.B. (March 2014)