RAVEL:  La Valse.  Mother Goose Ballet.  Menuet Antique.
New York Philharmonic/Pierre Boulez, cond.
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BACH:  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.  Toccata and Fugue in F, BWV 540.  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 538 "Dorian."  Toccata and Fugue in C, BWV 564.
Organs of Cathedral of Freiburg/E. Power Biggs, organist
SONY SS  87983 TT: 53:32 (5.1 channel)
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The Ravel performances were recorded Feb. 23 & 25, 1974 fortunately in the warm acoustics of New York's Manhattan Center.   Thomas Z. Shepard was both original producer as well as producer for this SACD issue.  The sound is rich,  resonant and up front with the  back channels adding hall sound effectively.  One might have hoped for more impact in low percussion; at the climax of La Valse the bass drum is quite blurred.  However,  overall the effect is fine, with the delicate textures of the other works admirably conveyed.  This disk contains exactly what the original stereo LP (Columbia 32838) offered - Boulez recorded other Ravel with the NYP (Barque sur l'oc»an,  LeTombeau de Couperin, Valses nobles et sentimentales); the first two of these easily would have fit onto this SACD:  47:40 playing time isn't much!

The E. Power Biggs SACD is something VERY special!  These Bach recordings were made October 1-9, 1973 in the Cathedral of Freiburg, Germany, where there are four organs in the rectangular building which produce a massive sound.  According to a diagram in the CD booklet they are not in four corners, nor equidistant from each other.   Original producer Andrew Kazdin and his engineering team overcame the multitude of problems (including a 6-second reverberation) and now the original quadraphonic recording can be heard in all of its magnificence.  Bach's grand music sounds imposing indeed in these superlative E. Power Biggs performances, so spectacularly recorded.  Let us hope other Biggs recordings will follow; in the meantime, don't miss this one!

R.E.B. (May 2003)