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SACD Review

Living Stereo SACD

Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
RCA 66374 Hybrid Multichannel SACD
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This is one of those SACD productions from the "Living Stereo" series that RCA brought out in the late 50s. It was issued as a non-SACD disc in 1994. This incarnation was issued a year ago (2005). I have taken this long to write a review because I wanted to make sure I was correct in my judgments about the disc. It sucks.

I went back and forth A/B-ing the two discs over several months. I have heard some SACD releases (for example Stokowski's "Living Stereo" Rhapsodies release) and been quite impressed with them. This, however, is one of several I have heard lately that suffer from the same problem. The sound is now analytical and hard on the ears. After a while I simply had to stop listening to it. There were some interesting differences, solos on the SACD are more telling, for example the bassoon has a twang that I don't hear in the original release, that favor the SACD incarnation. Still, repeated listenings confirm that the earlier release was warmer if not as detailed.

I have noticed, by the way, that most of the SACD releases have to be played at a significantly higher level than their predecessors. I am not sure if the company is cutting the discs at a lower level or if something else is afoot, but when I play this SACD release after listening to the original CD I have to "crank it up" in order to hear the same music. Maybe this has something to do with the "glare" I feel in the music.

Then, too, it can also have something to do with the equipment you are using for the listening experience. As part of my experiment I listened to this release on my father's system which is, well, frankly, not as sophisticated as mine, and I didn't tire of it. That is, the SACD may sound better on cheaper equipment. Maybe that was the idea?

As for the music, Munch's Bolero is among the best ever. He is equally excellent in the rest of the program. Anyway, if you have the original issue I hear no reason to replace it. For what it is worth Stokowski is better in the Rapsodie espagñole (on EMI nla).

Copyright © 2006, Robert Stumpf II