BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 2, Op. 72a. Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale."
The Hanover Band/Roy Goodman & Monica Huggett (Sym. 5), cond.
NIMBUS DVD AUDIO NI 9004 TT: 89:30
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ELGAR: Enigma Variations, Op. 36.Cockaigne Overture, Op, 40. Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Op. 39. Froissart, Op. 19.
English Symphony Orch/William Boughton, cond.
NIMBUS DVD AUDIO NI 9001 TT: 88:30
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SOUSA: Liberty Bell. Semper Fidelis. The Thunderer. Stars and Stripes Forever. COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man. Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo. Appalachian Spring. BARBER: Violin Concerto, Op. 14. Adagio for Strings.
The Wallace Collection (Sousa); Hu Kun, violiinist; English Symphony Orch/William Boughton, cond.
NIMBUS DVD AUDIO NI 9002 TT: 91:20
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RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14.
John Lill, pianist; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Tadaaki Otaka, cond.
NIMBUS DVD AUDIO NI 9003 TT: 89:38
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MENDELSSOHN: A Midsummer Night's Dream (complete Shakespeare play with complete incidental music)
Actors from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama/Scottish Chamber Orch/Jaime Laredo, cond.
NIMBUS DVD AUDIO NI 9009 TT: 112:00
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"Surround Yourself with Enrico Caruso"
Fifty arias and ensembles recorded between 1905-1920
NIMBUS DVD AUDIO NI 9006 TT: 3 hr. 23 mi
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Each of these audio DVDs announces Nimbus Records has pioneered surround sound since 1972, when they began using what they call Ambiosonics which "captures the acoustic quality of each hall and recreates it in a domestic environment with great fidelity." All of these recordings (except the Caruso) are four track (left/right, front and rear) with no center or LFE channels. Sound is provided in 2-channel PCM, 4-channel DTS and 4-channel MLP. When playing these audio DVDs on equipment with a TV monitor, on-screen one has a choice of audio format and as the music is played it is identified on screen. These are generous in playing time, and, oddly, prices vary. I question why it was decided to issue these on DVD audio instead of SACD.

How do they sound? Generally, very, very good. There is a fine hall presence, more definition than heard in the regular stereo releases of these recordings, more bite to the brass than before, and welcome warmth as well. Rear channels are effectively used to create hall sound and there's no lack of low bass. Occasionally high percussion is a bit glassy, but not often.

The performances are uniformly excellent. William Boughton leads the English Symphony Orchestra, relatively unknown to most listeners although they have been in existence since 1980 and give many concerts as well as tours, They are in fine form for the Elgar collection, equally at home in the American works—this is one of the most impressive recordings of Fanfare for the Common Man. Barber's violin concerto, superbly played by young Chinese violinist Hu Kin, a protégé of Yehudi Menuhin, is a welcome addition to the surround sound catalog. The Wallace Collection gives vivid performances of the four Sousa marches—truly razzle-dazzle. These Beethoven recordings have been around for some time: Symphony No. 5 was recorded in 1983, No. 6 in 1987, the overture the following year. Goodman's Pastorale is a lively account of remarkable energy. Monica Huggett's Fifth is a sturdy account, impressive in this expanded format.

Tadaaki Otaka and John Lill recorded all of Rachmaninoff's works for piano and orchestra (along with the three symphonies and most other major orchestral works); here we have an expansive account of Symphony No. 2, and a brilliant account of the Paganini Rhapsody. There's no excuse for not having separate tracks for the many different sections of the latter—a sad oversight on the producer's part. Here's an opportunity to hear Mendelssohn's complete incidenal music for A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as a complete performance of Shakespeare's play. It's a chamber orchestra treatment of the score which probably is the way it sounded when first produced. All performers are in front and there is a fine hall ambience. This takes two sides of a DVD, and in case you're wondering, contents of side one are on the opposite side of the identifying label. A track-by-track synopsis of the plot and music is included.

"Surround Yourself with Enrico Caruso" is a generous (and rather expensive) compilation of some of the tenor's most famous recordings including ensembles with other great singers of the era. Of course these are not surround sound recordings. In making their transfers of old recordings, Nimbus plays them on old-fashioned equipment in a resonant hall and records the results in four-channel sound. These acoustic recordings sound quite good in this treatment, the hall resonance helping to compensate for dryness of the originals. However, other more sophisticated transfer methods produce better results, which when played over multiple speakers sound even more impressive. This is a two-sided audio DVD. Complete track and matrix information and recording dates are provided.

R.E.B. (December 2005)