Title: Beethoven Overtures
Performers: Sir Colin Davis / Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Label and #: Esoteric/Sony special products SACD TDGD 90013
Recorded: October 29-31, 1985 Herculesaal Munich
A Statement with a capital S
When Teac/Esoteric set out to celebrate their 20th anniversary, they issued a number of statement pieces: the P05/D05 transport and DAC, the C03 preamplifier and the A03 and A100 amplifiers. But they also issued four statement recordings remastered with absolute care using Esoteric's best gear and knowledge to serve as ultimate references in their evaluation and development of new audio hardware.
|Hence the re-edition of this long discontinued record by Sony came to life and it demonstrates with brio that digital recordings from the early 1980s can sound absolutely spectacular without exhibiting the smallest hint of harshness they are famous for - and, that SACD done right will trump red book standard any day of the week. I don't think I have heard a high-resolution digital disc that sounded this rich and organic and with such a wealth of details, instrumental textures and tonal accuracy, ever. The symphonic orchestra spreads in front of your eyes from wall to wall, deep and layered, with each instruments in its place and easily identified. Why can't all recordings sound this good?
I was particularly impressed by the flutes and oboes for once sounding so close to real instruments. Yet the string sections are also exceptional, lush and subtly nuanced. One of the things that always leave me wanting is the reproduction of the dynamic power of a full symphonic orchestra. Not on this SACD. The rush and power are raw and unadulterated, with dynamics that never compress to capture the recording venue in all its glorious sound and scale.
This entire technical extravaganza would not have been worth much were the performance second grade. Once again Sir Colin Davis proves that he is one of the masters of the previous century right alongside Solti or Karajan. His direction is ample and supple, the orchestra surges powerfully yet controlled and Davis knows how to give each instrument its moment of glory without upsetting the balance of the piece. Of course period instrument devotees will prefer a slightly more incisive interpretation, with a little more violence and impact from the drums, slightly more acidic brass instruments and faster tempi now and then but as far as modern interpretations go, this one is a gem - lush and irresistible.
This level of perfection any audiophile with an SACD player should own just to know what the medium is capable of. But it comes at a steep price of $60 per disc. It may seem insane but Esoteric spared no effort to make this limited edition one of the best-sounding digital discs of all times. When one considers paying $50 for a re-edition vinyl including the inevitable dust, scratches and pops, the entry ticket for this SACD may not seem so out of line. For that price though, I was expecting more than just a one-page English summary of the Japanese leaflet. A full translation would have been nice.
To answer my own question, why can't all discs sound this good? Because this is a statement disc with a capital S, mastered on the best gear available today by the finest experts with no expense or effort spared. Get it while it lasts. You can curse me for the price all you want, I know that will stop as soon as you hear the first bars of the Ruins of Athens...