Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 3. 1965.
Going the Rounds of Discs
Going the Rounds of Discs
The record collector who delights in tormenting his speakers and listeners with extremes in recorded sound should and Decca's Phase Four Stereo series very useful. Using multiple microphone technique, these discs are not only engineered for maximum depth and directionality but the music la often arranged directly to show off the new medium.
The most effective, sonically, is Eric Rogers Victory In Review (PFSM 34/24) which starts with an atomic explosion and then simulates a victory parade across the room. His companion disc The Sizzling Twenties (PFSM 34003) alone with Roland Shaw's Mexico! (PPSM 310271 and Ted Heath's Big Band Percussion (PFSM 34004) show a change from movement to space. The orchestrations are designed to provide maximum contrast between instrumental tone colours and the physical location of the instruments. At worst, this leads to a succession of tinkles, bongs and bumps but at its best to a complete illusion of presence.
With the application of PFS techniques to orthodox concert hall sounds the engineers face a stiffer test. Not only does the dynamic range of the performance become wider but interpretation becomes a competitive factor— there is more chance of the technical achievement being spoiled by artistic shortcomings (to put the cart before the horse for a change.)
The first classical disc I have heard in Phase Four is Tchaikovsky's 1812 and Nutcracker Suite played by the London Festival Orchestra (et al.) under Robert Sharpies (PFSM 34044). The suite is straightforward and competently executed but Sharpies takes a somewhat cautious view of the 1812 (odd that one should call for more abandon in this of all works), but wow, that final chaos! The bells are big, deep and solemn and the cannons reverberate all over the show. The band of the Grenadier Guards is there somewhere, I couldn't hear them directly, but suppose they were adding more weight and brilliance to the ensemble. What a glorious mess this music is (good old Tehaik), and what a glorious recording it gets here.
Following his brilliant Mahler Third (CBS S2BR 460002) the Bernstein version or the Fourth symphony (CBS SBR 475068) repeats the success of its predecessor. I actually prefer the fourth to the third, as music, perhaps simply because it is shorter, for, (to lay my bias on the table) I do not think that Mahler is the greatest.
Having said that let me add that this version of the Fourth is terrific. It rubbishes the van Beinum and Kletzki versions and fits Bernstein even more closely into the position of present-day Mahler interpreter No. 1. His idiomatic phrasing and structuring of both parts and whole is masterly and his use of an unknown soprano Reri Grist, instead of landing him in trouble pays off in freshness and simplicity in the evocation of innocence in the fourth movement.
The recorded sound is most acceptable; there is a welcome sense of space around the orchestra and the clarity of soloists and sections is likewise very agreeable. (The Mahlerian is well served by the Philips issues of not only Bernstein's Three and Four but also Walter's One. Nine and Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen.)
There is really very little point in reviewing Decca records of Boskovsky conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in The Strauss family—neither they nor their engineers have ever dropped a dud yet. Their two new releases are Graduation Ball/Spectre de la Rose (SXL 2250) and Tales From The Vienna Woods (including "Bahn Frei," "Radetaky," "Du und Du" etc., on SXL 6040). All the usual tributes to the VPO's strings, brass and precision of ensemle hold here and Boskovsky again out does the late Clemens Krauss in his projection of the Strauss magic. The sound is of demonstration quality; I noted especially the splendid cello tone in the Weber, the percussion transients in "Bahn Frei," the zither in "Vienna Woods" and the location of cellos trumpets and triangles in the "Perpetuum Mobile" section of Graduation Ball. These records are excellent examples of straightforward stereo recording of orchestral sound. Highly recommended.—A. W.E.