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Elgar, Vaughan Williams: Enigma, The Wasps, Greensleeves - Stern

Elgar, Vaughan Williams: Enigma, The Wasps, Greensleeves - Stern

Reference Recordings  RR-129SACD

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Elgar: Enigma Variations
Vaughan Williams: The Wasps - Aristophanic Suite, Greensleeves

Kansas City Symphony
Michael Stern


The Kansas City Symphony garnered tremendous critical acclaim for their first project on Reference Recordings, incidental music for The Tempest by Sullivan and Sibelius (Shakespeare's Tempest, RR-115). Their second release on RR, Britten's Orchestra, received a GRAMMY for Best Surround Sound for both the engineer and producer, as well as rave reviews everywhere! (Britten's Orchestra, RR-120 is now unfortunately out of print).

We are thrilled to work again with Conductor Michael Stern, the son of famed violinist Isaac Stern. Now in his eighth season as music director, the Kansas City Symphony has been much praised for its remarkable artistic growth and development since his tenure began. He is also the founder of the Iris Chamber Orchestra in Memphis, Tennessee, and in addition to RR, has recorded for Sony, Hyperion, Denon, Arabesque and Naxos.

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Review by Graham Williams - September 24, 2013

For all Hi-Fi buffs any new release on the 'Reference Recordings' label is something of a special event and this latest is no exception. Keith (Prof.) Johnson has, for many years, produced spectacular recordings, often of colourful orchestral show-pieces, but the most recent ones have also been notable for their fine musical values in addition to their dazzling 24-bit/176kHz HDCD sonics. The appearance of these on SACD have, unfortunately, been as rare as hen's teeth, but with the release of this excellent issue in the hi-rez format that situation will hopefully begin to change.

Michael Stern and the Kansas Symphony have already given us a splendid account of works by Benjamin Britten (RR 120SACD), a disc now regrettably out of print, and they continue the British theme with this attractive programme of music by two of the most popular and pre-eminent English composers - Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar.

Vaughan Williams is represented by his 'Aristophanic Suite - The Wasps'. More often it is just the overture to this suite that is heard, both on record and in the concert hall, but Stern and the Kansas Symphony give us the complete five-movement work – one that is full of delightfully orchestrated ear-tickling tunes. Stern's wonderfully confident account of the overture immediately makes one aware of the powerful, but not excessive, low-frequency energy released through one's speakers throughout this recording.

An exceptionally beguiling and tranquil account of the popular 'Fantasia on “Greensleeves' follows; notable both for the sumptuous sound of the Kansas Symphony strings and Michael Gordon's limpid flute playing – absolute balm to the ears.

The sense of Edwardian confidence and grandeur pervades Stern's genial and relaxed reading of the 'Enigma Variations' that completes this well constructed programme. In his finely nuanced account of this work Stern characterises each Variation with great skill, and though some might find that his restraint in Variation XIV (Nimrod) robs the music of some of its catharsis, the eloquent cello playing in Variation XII (B.G.N.)and the superb room-shaking organ in the Finale make this overall a performance and recording to relish.

Those who, like me, already have the superb CD/HDCD of this disc will discover an even greater depth of sound and stunning realism from this 5.1 channel hybrid SACD release. Unlike the Britten disc mentioned above the surround channels have been used purely to capture the warm ambience of the recording venue – Community of Christ Auditorium, Independence, Missouri.

The delightful illustrations in the accompanying booklet for each of the Variations provided by San Francisco Bay artist Joel Fontaine and the informative liner notes by Richard E Rodda add two extra layers of enjoyment while one listens to this most desirable release.

Copyright © 2013 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

Performance:

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Sonics (Multichannel):

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