|Review by DSD February 28, 2011 (15 of 32 found this review helpful)
|As mentioned in the /forum this is my favorite SACD and what to my ears is not only the finest sounding SACD so far but the finest sounding recording in my 50 years of listening to music in nearly every format invented by mankind.
This is the SACD I selected to take with me to CES and T.H.E. SHOW 2011 in Las Vegas.
I am writing this review for several reasons:
1) I didn't suffer the balance problems in my system that Jeff3948 did in his. He rated the disc the same in both Stereo and Multichannel so I assume he had the problem in 2 channel stereo as well as multichannel. In my 2 channel stereo system with two floor standing Infinity Kappa Reference 7's the SACD was perfectly balanced the woodwinds and brass were spread across the soundstage, most of the brass was spread across the center, the oboe (a woodwind instrument) was on the left which is where I would assume the oboist was setting. I have listened 100's of times with both speakers and headphones as this is my favorite SACD. To confirm the location of the instruments I listened with my Sennheiser headphones.
2) In my system the strings were not only quite audible but beautifully smooth, however the glory of Pictures at an Exhibition has always gone to the winds, brass and percussion as they add the tonal colors that audible describe Victor Hartman's pictures. Also in my system the woodwinds do not move around but stay in their same location all throughout the disc.
3) I thought the bass drum was in near-correct proportion to the orchestra at least for home listening, if anything it was not physically large enough. When listening to bass drum live in a concert hall close your eyes and you will hear its image literally fill up every available space in the concert hall, completely covering the entire orchestra. No recording, not even Telarc has achieved this yet and if they did it might just blow out your windows!
3) Not only did I find the performance inspired but it is the finest I have ever heard. I did like Eiji Oue's performance on Reference Recordings HDCD (when properly decoded) that Jeff recommended.
My first Pictures At An Exhibition was by the progressive art-rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer which lead me to acquire Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic on a Deutsche Grammophon LP out of curiosity and I loved the orchestral version considerably better. Until I heard ELP I thought I hated classical music with a purple passion based on the works I had heard from likes of Mozart, Bach, Handel and other more mainstream classical composers. Emerson, Lake and Palmer was my gateway into the wonderful world of what I call "alternative" or "power" classical music. Since then I have owned Pictures At An Exhibition on Reel to Reel tape, audiophile cassette, CD, audiophile LPs and finally three versions on SACD.
My first SACD version was purchased when SACD first came out Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition etc. - Cleveland Orchestra/Maazel it was the SACD from Telarc's 50kHz Soundstream master. The LP version of this was my favorite until the Classic Records/RCA Living Stereo Fritz Reiner 180 Gram LP came out. Problem was on Maazel's 50kHz SACD the high frequencies were not as good the Reiner LP although the bass was better, so I bought the Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition etc. - Reiner when it came out and the sound was very good with crystal clear highs however the Classic Records 180 Gram LP was sonically superior to the SACD in every possible way especially the bass.
I at first thought that I would just have to live with the LP version but the Järvi came out which I at first passed over because of Jeff's negative review, one of the many reasons I no longer write negative reviews. I finally picked it up, due to a combination of a couple of good reviews, the 100kHz microphone and a cheap price. And now low and behold it is my absolute favorite SACD.
The high frequencies are considerably more extended than the Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition etc. - Cleveland Orchestra/Maazel which really brings out the vision of the "The chicks in their shells" for example. Mussorgsky's gait as he walks from picture to picture in the Promenade sounds more like a 350 pound man in this new Järvi.
I am so glad the Järvi came to SACD as I could not live with the lack of zing and impact in the high frequencies of the Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition etc. - Cleveland Orchestra/Maazel or the lack of deep bass in the Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition etc. - Reiner . With Järvi I have the best of both with an even better performance. The Night On Bald Mountain has to be heard to be believed, it is flat out the finest version sonically and musically, the POWER is amazing. The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yaga) is the most exciting and powerful ever, I'm talking goosebumps galore.
The ending of Great Gate at Kiev is the most powerful I have ever experienced, of course all the soft beautiful pictures in between are lovely and stunningly gorgeous as is the ending composition the Prelude to "Khovanshchina" or otherwise know as "Dawn on the Moscow River", which is a slow lovely piece to help you come down from the adrenaline high that is Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition.
From my article "High resolution digital and analog music at T.H.E. Show and CES 2011"
"I took my favorite and best sounding SACD Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, Night on Bald Mountain, Prelude to Khovanshchina - Paavo Järvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Telarc Pure DSD which uses the Sanken CO-100K microphone for the main orchestral pickup, whose frequency response goes out to 100kHz. I played it in every room that had an SACD player including the Playback Designs MPS-5, EMM Labs XDS1 and the Ayre DX5 and it sounded fantastic.
There are people on the internet who for decades have been spreading the false rumor that Telarc recordings overemphasize the bass even though the engineers claim to not use equalization or do anything else to emphasize the low frequencies, they just take great pains not to lose them. After listening to the Mussorgsky/Järvi Telarc SACD on several dozen systems I can now report that the naysayers are incorrect, Telarc's are not bass heavy but in the correct proportion, and to me sound very much like what I hear in a concert hall. I played it with speakers in all price ranges up to $150,000 per pair."
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