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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Multi-Chanel Music > Naxos Classical SACD Wave with Orff’s Carmina Burana/Tchaikovsky - Hamlet – Romeo & Juliet/Brahms Piano Trios 1 & 2/Chopin – 2 Piano Concertos/Schubert – Arpeggione/Bach - Vivaldi Oboe Conc, Bach C...

Naxos Classical SACD Wave (10/08): Orff’s Carmina Burana, Tchaikovsky – Hamlet – Romeo & Juliet,  Brahms Piano Trios 1 & 2, Chopin – The 2 Piano Concertos, Schubert – Arpeggione, Bach – Vivaldi Oboe Concertos, Bach Cantates 61, 122, 123, 182.


PCM 2.0: B     DSD 2.0: B+     DSD 5.1: A-     Extras: B     Music:


Carl Orff - Carmina Burana A

Tchaikovsky – Hamlet Op.67a & Romeo & Juliet A-

Johannes Brahms - Storioni Trio Piano Trios No. 1 & 2 A-

Frédéric Chopin - The 2 Piano Concertos A-

Schubert - Arpeggione A-

Bach – Vivaldi: Oboe Concertos A

Bach - Cantates 61, 122, 123, 182 A



After our last coverage from Naxos our appetites were certainly wet for what would be next, we didn’t expect that we would be knocked off our feet though with yet another six extraordinary titles from some of the best names in classical music, plus some phenomenal recordings from some of the premiere musicians in the business, the result are six SACD’s that any serious classical music fan should immediately add to their library.  Immediately I say!


You can read about our previous coverage here:





This time around we get the big boys: Orff, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Bach, and Vivaldi!  Wow!  I’ll begin with the technical performances from these titles as most people are already familiar with these composers and are likely familiar with the works, these particular recordings I’ll detail a bit later.


I began my listening session in DSD 2.0 stereo, which I thought would be a good starting ground for these titles.  I had never heard these exact recordings previously and was quite curious about that particular aspect first, so I restrained myself from going into multi-channel land until I had the chance to just absorb these particular arrangements.  My initial response was highly positive even as familiar as I was with each of these works, I was noticing more detail and depth that was bringing out more of the instruments than ever before.  I also had a greater sense of a more ‘live’ performance.  The Orff disc in particular has a very strong presence that was still able to feel big enough, despite my listening space being significantly smaller than a normal concert hall.  The soundstage created from these recordings is huge!  I mean huge!  Not only in width, but in depth and in particular the deep swells feel low, while the sounds of oboes or clarinets in particular soar well above the mix.


The DSD 2.0 mix gave me a very good middle-ground to start with and each title was particular strong, solid, and felt very balanced throughout.  I was still itching to try the 5.1 mixes, but still reserved myself.  I switched then to the CD layer on my player and began my way through the titles again.  This time, I was a bit disappointed as the spacious mix now felt compressed, limited, and not as full.  As expected though, the CD layer just couldn’t come close to the fullness, richness, and overall warmth that was immediately present with the Direct Stream 2.0 mix.  There was however a bit more low-end noticeable on the CD layer, but it was flatter and less defined, so despite being more prominent, it was unappealing.


Finally after listening through a few tracks from each title, I switched my setup again and prepared myself for multi-channel bliss.  I sorted through the titles again and sat back for my enjoyment.  What would follow I was unable to predict.  Very rarely am I completely enamored with a mix, at least to the point where my speakers disappear and it’s just the music and I, but that is the best way to describe my multi-channel experience with these particular discs.  Each title, slightly different in its character, but nonetheless the mixes were incredibly defined, faithful to the source, and impressively smooth, warm, and presented a soundstage that detailed throughout.  The DSD 2.0 mixes were certainly getting a run for their money as the 5.1 mixes now explored new territory by adding yet another dimension to an already incredible sound-field.  It should be noted that in comparison with typical 5.1 movie mixes, music is different and does not always engage with surround involvement quite the same.  Here, we get a more approximate mix that feels like a concert hall with the surrounds picking up the ambience and offering more space in the front channels to dedicate to the full-range of instruments, which clears the way and allows more of the initial sound from the instruments to penetrate through first.


For most people, this will come down to a matter of preference, as some classical fans are predominately 2-channel people.  Often high-end systems (even still) are dedicated 2-channel setups, which when done correctly with a stereo set of speakers can often outperform some of the best 5.1 music setups.  That being said, it’s great to have the option and again it will likely be a matter of preference.  I tend to gravitate a bit more to the 5.1 mixes, even though the surrounds are used sparingly to just add a little bit of the ambience, I prefer the tighter, less claustrophobic sound that is coming from the front three speakers in this arrangements.


Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is perhaps one of the most recognizable classical pieces today; it has been used many times in commercials, films, etc and should be the staple in any collection.  Here we have The London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra under the directing of Richard Hickox delivering the work, which runs just over 1-hour and is broken down into 25 tracks.  This particular recording also features Laura Claycomb (soprano), Barry Banks (tenor), and Christopher Maltman (baritone), plus the Tiffin Boys’ Choir.  There is a fantastic liner note inside, which gives us in-depth information about Orff, the soloists here, plus the orchestra and other great details that cover just about every facet of this incredible recording.


Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet Op. 67a includes the overture and incidental music, which is the most memorable section from that piece and is performed here by the Russian National Orchestra, which makes sense and is wonderfully conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, the Hamlet Op. 67a takes up the first 17 tracks of the disc and features Tatiana Monogarova on soprano for tracks 12 and 13 (which are the scenes in Ophelia’s room), as well as Maxim Mikhailov on bass for track 15 (which is scene 1: Gravediggers Song).  This is then followed by a 16-minute powerhouse from Romeo and Juliet entitled “Fantasy Overture”, which the key here is that it is the original 1869 version and therefore makes this particular recording a much sought after one for that fact alone!  There is a terrific booklet included as well, which gives details to the scenes as well as the English translations for the piece, plus a biography on Jurowski.  Jurowski has also conducted some other prolific work as well including Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev, his work here is top-notch and first rate!


Johannes Brahms is certainly one of the more well-known composers in the classical realm, but is often overlooked and underrated for his traditional work, but here we get his first and second Piano trios, which were written towards the later part of his life in a more mature style that combined his signature style along with some simply aggressive attempts to outdo himself and his previous versions of these pieces, the result is some of his best work and his most progressive.  Here we are treated to the Storioni Trio’s recording, which consists of Bart van de Roer on piano, Wouter Vossen on violin, and Marc Vossen on violoncello and was recorded in the Concertboerderij Valthermond in the Netherlands under the recording engineering of Daan van Aalst.   

The Set includes: 


Piano Trio No. 1 in B, Op. 8


1)     Allegro con brio

2)     Scherzo (Allegro molto)

3)     Adagio

4)     Allegro


Piano Trio No. 2 in C, Op. 87


1)     Allegro

2)     Andante con moto

3)     Scherzo (Presto)

4)     Finale (Allegro giocoso)


Also included with this set, along with the Chopin: The Two Piano Concertos in a PAL formatted DVD disc and both serve as a great bonus to see the footage of the production and adds yet another dimension to the recording.  Because it’s in the PAL format, most U.S. players will not handle the disc, unless you have a PAL to NTSC concerted in your machine.   

Chopin’s: the Two Piano Concertos features Sa Chen on piano, plus the Gulbenkian Orchestra under the direction of Lawrence Foster.  This particular disc boasts one of the more interesting mixes that I have heard, the DSD 5.1 mix not only feels like a ‘live’ performance, but there are often times when the piano stems from the mix a bit more and has some creative mixing to allow the piano to stream through the mix in a more cutting, yet not distracting way, which is often hard to do when you have the fullness of an orchestra, but there are several moments where the piano gracefully overtakes the arrangement and it must be heard to be realized!  It’s that good!  Sa Chen’s piano work is inspiring as she commands the concerto with dynamics and grace.


The Set includes:


Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor Op. 11


1)     Allegreo maestoso

2)     Romance Larghetto

3)     Rondo – Vivace


Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21


4)     Maestoso

5)     Larghetto

6)     Allegro Vivace


Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione features two terrific talents in Anne Gastinel on violoncello and cello testore (1690) and Claire Desert on Piano and was recorded in the Studio Tibor Varga in Switzerland and recorded using the Sonic HD Studio in 24bit/96kHz.  There are very few recordings out there with this particular composition, especially very good ones, this is the best recording that I have heard and it’s a relief to finally get not only a superb recording, but one that features the music with surround-sound capabilities.


The Set includes:


1)     Sonata for arpeggione & piano in A minor ("Arpeggione Sonata"), D. 821

2)     Ständchen ("Leise flehen meine Lieder"), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/4

3)     An die Musik ("Du holde Kunst..."), song for voice & piano, D. 547 (Op. 88/4)

4)     Sonatina for violin & piano in D major, D. 384 (Op. posth. 137/1)

5)     Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen ("Ruh'n in Frieden alle Seelen"), song for voice & piano, D. 343

6)     Die Forelle ("In einem Bächlein helle"), song for voice & piano, D. 550 (Op. 32)

7)     Der Doppelgänger ("Still ist die Nacht"), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/13

8)     Auf dem Wasser zu singen ("Mitten im Schimmer der spiegelnden Wellen"), song for voice & piano, D. 774 (Op. 72)

9)     Täuschung ("Ein Licht tanzt freundlich"), song for voice & piano (Winterreise), D. 911/19 (Op. 89/19)

10)  Der Müller und der Bach ("Wo ein treues Herze"), song for voice & piano (Die schöne Müllerin), D. 795/19 (Op. 25/19)


It’s quite obvious from this recording that both Gastinel and Desert are highly gifted players, but there is a terrific documentary DVD also included on Anne Gastinel titled “si j’avais su”, which is directed by Perrine Robert and is a phenomenal portrait of her life, her dedication to the art of music, but also gets deep enough as well into her fears of playing, her criticisms that she has of herself, and many of the other problems that coincide with being a premier artists of her caliber.


We also are excited by the compilation disc included in this classical wave that features J.S. Bach, Carl Philip Emanuel Bach and Antonio Vivaldi, which features Heinz Hollinger on Oboe along with the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Raymond Leppard.  The refreshing quality here is that much of Bach’s work is primarily featured on organ and harpsichord, so having the Cantatas and Oboe Concertos here is truly sublime.  This coming fresh off our coverage of the Bach Concertos, which we recently covered on Blu-ray, you can read about that particular disc here:





These recordings took place in the Wembley Town Hall in London and Musica Theatre - La Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland in 1974, which means that from this set, these are the oldest recordings, originally these were quadraphonic recordings, which was at the time way ahead of the curve of conventional 2-channel stereo work.  There is a phenomenal booklet included that details the recording process and the work done for this release, which breaks down the careful procedures utilized in bringing this to the digital world of the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) process utilized in SACDs.  The original technicians were also consulted here to retain the artistry of the original work in order to preserve these rare high-end recordings.


The Set includes: 


J.S. Bach’s Cantata’s BMV 12 and 21


C.P.E. Bach’s Oboe Concerto in B flat and Oboe Concerto in E flat


Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings in B Flat 



Bach fans should rejoice with this second helping of Bach in another terrific SACD release entitled Bach Cantates, which features numbers 61, 122, 123, and 182, which were recorded under the direction of Eric Milnes and the Montreal Baroque, which essentially broken down is Cantates for the Nativity and is broken into 26-tracks for this release.  Featured here are Monika Mauch (soprano), Matthew White (alto), Charles Daniels (tenor), and Harry Van Der Kamp (bass), plus the orchestral arrangement featuring 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, traverso, recorder, oboe, bassoon, harpsichord, and organ.  The booklet here is in French, but detailed for those who can read it.


The Set includes:


1)     Nun Komm, Der Heiden Heiland BMV 61 (tracks 1-6)

2)     Das Neugeborne Kindelein BMV 122 (tracks 7-12)

3)     Liebster Immanuel, Herzog Der Frommen BMV 123 (tracks 13-18)

4)     Himmelskonig, Sei Willkommen, BMV 182 (tracks 19-26) 

Overall we are highly pleased with this superb selection of Super Audio discs from Naxos and can only hope to continue coverage of grade A product.  Classical fans should rejoice with these releases and their particular arrangements, dedication to perfection, and high-end recording processes to make their way to a format like SACD possible.  Any of these discs would make a fine addition to any music lovers set, or grab all seven and go crazy, either way you’ll be satisfied with the product here!



-   Nate Goss


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