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SACD Review

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

  • Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32
  • Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48
London Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Pentatone SACD 5186122 Hybrid Multichannel
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Stokowski made recordings for many labels, but only two with Philips, in 1973 and 1974. Both were exclusively Tchaikovsky material. The 1973 release was with the London Philharmonic and contained Capriccio italien, Eugene Onegin (Polonaise and Waltz) and the Nutcracker Suite. These recordings were issued in a double set in 1995. I found the recordings to be a bit dry compared with the LPs. Now we have a Pentatone SACD release. There are two kinds of people reading this review: those who have the earlier releases (on LP and/or CD) and those who don't.

For those who don't have these items this disc is a must buy. Nobody does Tchaikovsky better than Stokowski (and I am ready to debate that if you wish). The sound is as good as the LPs.

That said; there is a reservation. If you already have the previous CD incarnation but do not have surround sound, I have been told that there is no difference in the sound between the two. Pentatone does make the disclaimer that "This SACD can be played on a regular CD player but only in stereo". I have a SACD player and quad so I may be able to hear a difference you will not be able to discern. Even then I have noticed two things. First, you have to play the disc at a level considerably higher than usual (about ten notches on my equipment). Second, the difference in sound is slight but discernable. It is more musical and involving than the previous release on CD. Is it better enough to justify purchase? I'd have to give that a qualified yes for the reasons stated.

Copyright © 2006, Robert Stumpf II