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Suppe and Auber Overtures.

Suppe and Auber Overtures. Paul Paray, Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Mercury SACD 470 638-2.

CD, DVD, DVD-Audio, HD-DVD, Blu-ray, SACD. If you're like me, you probably keep up with most new technology but you still have a hard time deciding what to buy. Well, somebody in the music business seems to think that SACD has a good chance of success because quite a few major record companies are releasing their recordings in this format. Of course, they're hedging their bets by releasing their recordings on discs that contain two layers, both SACD multichannel and conventional two-channel stereo versions on the same disc, with a regular CD player handling the two-channel layer.

So it is with Mercury, who recently launched a new series of Mercury Living Presence recordings in three-channel stereo. Seems that is the way they were originally recorded before being mixed down to two channels. So, now we have the opportunity to hear them the way they were initially made. That is, if you have a Super Audio Compact Disc player and a multichannel sound system. If you don't, then you listen to the two-track recording as I did.

The packaging says that "in addition to the direct-to-DSD (Direct Stream Digital) 3-channel stereo, the disc includes a new DSD stereo, plus the original CD transfer." Despite the clumsy wording, I assume this means that the two-channel recording is the same one supervised by Wilma Cozart Fine for remastering in the early nineties on Mercury's first CDs, but that it is now transferred to disc via DSD. If so, I couldn't hear a lot of difference in the sound, but it's so good to begin with it hardly matters.

What does matter is that this disc of overtures from Franz von Suppe and Daniel-Francois Auber is probably the best you can find; maybe the best you will ever find in this repertoire. Paul Paray's 1959 performances are not just lively and spirited, they are exciting, exhilarating, and intoxicating. Yet they never feel pushy or rushed. Moreover, they sound better than anything done today in the digital medium, the dynamics, frequency range, orchestral spread and depth, and transparency all shining through brilliantly, with just a faint hint of background noise that is largely unobtrusive.

If you are first-time buyer who wants Suppe's "Light Cavalry" or "Beautiful Galatea" or "Poet and Peasant" overtures or Auber's "Fra Diavolo" among others, then this is a first-choice item, despite competition from Marriner (EMI) and Dutoit (Decca). And buying the album in the new SACD edition makes sense even if you don't have an SACD player because the new two-channel transfer is still superb, maybe a notch better than the earlier one; the hybrid disc is only a few dollars more than the regular issue; and, who knows, you might buy an SACD player some day, and you'll be all prepared.
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Title Annotation:sound recordings
Author:Puccio, John
Publication:Sensible Sound
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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