DGG - DECCA - HIGH FIDELITY - BLU RAY 'PURE AUDIO'

JANOS KAUFMANN sings aris from Die Walküre, Siegfried, Renzi, Tannhäuser, De Meistersinger, and Lohengrin; Wesendonck Lieder
Jonas Kaufmann, tenor; Berlin Opera Orch/Donald Runnicles, cond
DECCA 062894785678 TT: 74:21 (rec. Sept. 17-22, 2012)

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BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Carlos Kleiber, cond.
DGG 002894791100 TT: 72:27 (rec. March/April 1974 (Sym. 5) & Nov. 1975/Jan. 1976 (Sym. 7)
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DVORÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World." SMETANA: The Moldau. LISZT: Les Préludes.
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Berlin Radio Symphony Orch (Liszt)/Ferenc Fricsay, cond.
DGG 00289 4791082
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
DGG 00288 479 1053 TT: 73:45 (no recording date given, copyright is 1960)
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VERDI: Arias from Oberto, I due Foscari, ILombardi, Il corsaro, Rigoletto, La traviata, Un ballo en maschera, Don Carlo, Falstaff, and Ingemisco from the Requiem
Rolando Villazón, tenor; chorus/Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda, cond.
DGG 00289 479 1708 TT: 56:37 (rec. September 2012)
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BEETHOVEN: Violn Concerto in D, Op. 61. Romance No. 1 in G, Op. 40. Romance No.2 in F, Op. 50
Anne Sophie Mutter, violin/New York Philharmonic Orch/Kurt Masur, cond.
DGG 00289 479 1063 TT: (rec. May 2002)
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CORIGLIANO: Fantasia on an ostinato for solo piano. BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 "The Tempest." Fantasy for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra in C minor, Op. 80. PÄRT: "cedo" for piano, mixed choir and orchestra
Hélène Grimaud, piano; Swedish Radio Choir; Swedish Radio Symphony Orch/Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond.
DGG 00289 479 1055 (rec. Sept. 2003)

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
Anna Tomawa-Sintow, soprano; Agnes Baltsa, contralto; Peter Schreier, tenor; José van Dam, bass; Vienna Singverein/Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
DGG 00289 479 1083 (rec. Sept. 1976)
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ANNA NETREBKO singing arias from Verdi's La traviata and Otello, Bellini's La sonnambula and I puritani, and Puccini's La Bohème
Anna Netreko, soprano; Chorus/Mahler Chamber Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
DGG --2894790775 TT: 68:59 (rec. Feb.-March 2004)
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When major record companies focus on high quality sound it is a cause for rejoicing among audiophiles. Surely this new series of DGG/Decca high definition releases is a major event, although I find it frustrating in some ways. In the '70s there was considerable interest in surround sound, and Philips made a series of four-channel recordings which, at the time, had little chance of public acceptance simply because there was no way to hear them in multi-channel. The multi-track LPs just didn't work and wore out quickly—so these treasures remained in the vaults until the advent of SACD. At that time, Pentatone had access to these Philips recordings and just about all of them have been issued on SACD—and all have been reviewed on this site. Invariably, they are a revelation in creating a sense of presence and realism. In particular, I would recommend their issue of the famous Sir Colin Davis 1969 Berlioz Requiem in which the multi-channels create a stunning aural effect. At about the same time, RCA also was interested in multi-channel sound and many of their recordings were made multi-track. Again there was the pre-SACD problem, and all of these recordings languish in the vaults. When I heard about this new DGG/Decca series, it seemed those labels also would finally reveal their multi-track treasures (I hope they are still there!). But this, unfortunately, did not happen. It is difficult to believe that these two labels did not record in multi-channel.

All of the new Blu Ray audio recordings are two-track stereo. The disk states, "Where possible tracks will be available in 5.1 surround sound, but in order to pay respect to the original material this is not possible for every release. Audio is sourced from 24 bit/96khz minimum master sources." Disks can be played only on a Blu Ray player, and one can select audio options: Full DTS Master Audio, PCM uncompressed sound, or Dolby True HD where available." Each disk also clearly states there is no video (other than the usual on-screen information about the disk).

Unfortunate it seems 5.1 surround sound is not available on these nine initial issues, which seems rather odd as five were recorded within the last decade. Weren't these recorded multi-channel? Are DGG and Decca recording in multi-channel? There's no question that the latest technology brings remarkable clarity to all of these recordings—we can be sure we are hearing everything that's on the master recordings. More than a decade ago, DGG issued all of Karajan's Beethoven symphony recordings on SACD, although not in surround sound (REVIEW). The new issue of Karajan's Beethoven Ninth isn't in surround either. One wonders if DGG/Decca in the future will issue any truly surround sound recordings? I hope so! In the meantime, some listeners who have appropriate playback equipment will find it is possible to enhance the listening experience of these newly-issued stereo recordings by adding a very effective rear-speaker surround image.

In the meantime, we are thankful for the opportunity to hear some truly classic performances revitalized through the latest technology:. Carlos Kleiber's legendary two Beethoven symphonies and Ferenc Fricsay's New World symphony are heard with new clarity and impact. Hélène Grimaud's piano has never sounded so natural, and we are right in Avery Fischer Hall as Anne-Sophie Mutter plays the Beethoven concerto with Masur and the New York Philharmonic. And if you'd like to experience the Beethove symphonies in surround sound, investigate the remarkable set recorded 1972-1974 with Kurt Masur and Leipzig forces (REVIEW).

We appreciate all of these new high-quality releases Howver, they could have been more valuable had they included multi-track information. In the meantime, some listeners who have appropriate playback equipment will find it is possible to enhance the listening experience of these newly-issued stereo recordings by adding a very effective rear-speaker "surround" image.— which is very effective.

R.E.B. (December 2013)