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Rachmaninov: 4 Piano Concertos, Paganini Rhapsody - Ashkenazy, Previn

Rachmaninov: 4 Piano Concertos, Paganini Rhapsody - Ashkenazy, Previn

Universal (Japan)  UCGD-9077/8 (2 discs)

Stereo Single Layer

Classical - Orchestral


Rachmaninov: 4 Piano Concertos, Paganini Rhapsody, Symphonic Dances*

Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
André Previn (conductor & piano*)

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Comments (10)
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Comment by Contrapunctus - September 26, 2019 (1 of 10)

First impression: sounds quite different to the previous (blu-ray) release, which is also available as 24/96 download. This new remastering delivers a full-bodied sound with more emphasis on the lower frequencies. The general sound is 'darker' and not so bright as on the blu ray. It appears to me, that the piano is a bit less prominent due to the new remastering (remixing?).

Is this new remastering an improvement? Depends on your listening preferences: if you prefer bright, in-your-face sound, this is probably not for you. - I don't regret this new buy!

Comment by Contrapunctus - September 29, 2019 (2 of 10)

Further impressions after some more comparative listening between blu-ray (BR) and SACD release: BR and SACD are totally different in presenting these old recordings. It's obvious for me, that Abbey Road Studios (responsible for the BR) really have processed and transformed the tapes a lot to achieve an 'attractive' sound. Whereas Classic Sound (SACD) seemed to stay as close as possible by the original sound and acoustic. - Two different philosophies of remastering, I think.

I'll try to characterise the two versions (BR/SACD) for short:

BR: widescreen sound, especial for the orchestra. Quite bright and transparent without depth. Additional reverberation!

SACD: smaller, more compact sound stage with remarkable depth and spaciousness. Full-bodied sound especially in the middle and lower registers.

Comment by Athenaeus - October 4, 2019 (3 of 10)

A buyer on Amazon Japan is saying they had a problem with track 1 on disc 2. They had it replaced and their second copy had the same issue. Has anyone – who has already purchased this set – experienced this problem?

Comment by Contrapunctus - October 5, 2019 (4 of 10)

Athenaeus, some (single-layer) sacds have running times over 100 minutes, so this 2nd sacd with a running time of more than 104 minutes. Some sacd-players actually do have problems playing these 'oversized' sacds. I speak from personal experience, because my previous sacd-player (Marantz SA-15S2) also had exactly the same problems: of every sacd > 100 min. the first track was only played for a few minutes, the other tracks were played correctly. After talking with a Marantz seller I know that some players do have these problems. But because of the fact, that sinlge-layer-sacds with running times over 100 minutes are not so common, this problem is not so well-known. - So, it's not a problem with the sacd, it's a problem with the player.

Comment by Athenaeus - October 7, 2019 (5 of 10)

Thank you for that piece of information, Contrapunctus.

Comment by breydon_music - October 11, 2019 (6 of 10)

I also had this item on order from another supplier. They have today e-mailed me with this message : "However, for the latest release, UCGD-9077, it turned out to be defective caused during manufacturing process according to the maker so we're waiting for the re-press copy to be shipped separately in a few days." I can't imagine a re-pressing will be complete "within a few days", but it does look as if there is an admitted problem with this set for the time being.

Comment by DYB - December 28, 2019 (7 of 10)

I must confess I'm surprised the engineers at Abbey Road did not consult with Andre Previn (who was still alive) and Vladimir Ashkenazy (who is still very much with us) on the remasters. In the film world you always see new prints being "supervised" and "approved" by the director and/or the cinematographer. If they're still around, a studio would never create new prints without their input. In music that does not appear to be the case.

Comment by Tony Reif - December 28, 2019 (8 of 10)

I've heard (I think from Rob Hutton, robertmusic.blogspot.ca) that among the majors the time allotted for remastering a CD from analogue is typically 3 hours. They want to keep costs way down. Hopefully Abbey Road, Classic Sound, Emil Berlliner, Andrew Meyer etc. are allowed to spend more time on SACDs. I know MoFi do, and I would think that's true for Analogue Productions too. A lot would depend on whether you're doing a flat transfer to DSD, for which 3 hours ought to be enough, or whether you're also remixing and/or doing extensive tape restoration, EQ etc.

Comment by DYB - January 5, 2020 (9 of 10)

Tony: 3 hrs??? That is crazy!!!

I've finally had a chance to compare the two issues and Contrapunctus' original description is right on the money: the Abbey Road remasters sounds like Technicolor spectacular, all glow and warmth. The new SACD Classic Sound remaster is probably what the masters sound like: a rawer sound, but also cleaner and has a body and space of the hall around it. I didn't feel like the piano was lost, though. They are really very different sounding issues and I'm liking this new one (though will of course keep the Abbey Road as well.)

The new Japanese SACD also has the benefit of a bonus recording: the Symphonic Dances for Piano 4 hands, which is not on the Blu-ray release.

We've seen quite a few of these dueling releases from Universal Japan: like Kempff's Beethoven Sonatas and Bohm's Mozart Symphonies. I have not compared Kempff and Bohm (done by Emil Berliner for Japan) to the US releases, but the difference in this Rachmaninoff set is striking.

Comment by Contrapunctus - January 6, 2020 (10 of 10)

DYB, the 'rivaling' remastering of Universal Japan (SACD) and Universal (BluRay/HR-downloads) is still going on. The newest project will be the Beethoven string quartets by Amadeus Quartett (DG early '60s recordings).

Regarding the remarkably different sound of the Rachmaninov concertos: I think, that this is because of the very different remastering work at Abbey Road Studios and ClassicSound. - However, most of Universal Japan's SACD-releases are DG recordings which are remastered by EBS (respectively MSM Munich for Universal/BluRay). I've compared a few of them (Mozart/Böhm; Tchaikovsky&Bruckner/Karajan; Beethoven/Kempff) and I must say, that the differences are way more subtle.