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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Multi-Channel Music > Franz Schubert – Symphonies No. 4 “Tragic” & No. 5/Gordan Nikolic + [Francesco] Zappa Symphonies – Crowning Glory/Simon Murphy (Naxos/PentaTone SA-CDs)

Franz Schubert – Symphonies No. 4 “Tragic” & No. 5/Gordan Nikolic + [Francesco] Zappa Symphonies – Crowning Glory/Simon Murphy (Naxos/PentaTone SA-CDs)


DSD 5.1 Sound: B     DSD Stereo: B     PCM Stereo: B-     Music: B



Despite its not reaching the mainstream (yet, we hope), Super Audio Compact Disc is still alive and well.  Besides the Mobile Fidelity limited editions, Sony still issuing some titles while still backing Blu-ray and other indie companies issuing the occasional title, Jazz and Classical companies continue to issue discs monthly.  Two resent offerings that are solid, if not spectacular, have their moments and come from distributor Naxos and one of the most prolific labels they handle: PentaTone.


I like the PentaTone product.  They have a certain love and regular for the classics that is distinct and gets you involved, with is not easy.  All their SA-CDs have the maximum three layers of 5.1 DSD (Direct Stream Digital), 2.0 DSD Stereo and PCM 2.0 Stereo for older CD players.  First up is Schubert – Symphonies Nos 4 & 5, led by the fine violinist Gordan Nikolic.  This was recorded with the Nederlands Chamber Orchestra and is a very well done rendering of the piece as compared to the several versions I have heard before.  Running nearly 68 minutes, it is a pleasure to listen to and is one of the best recordings of the work sonically to date.


The same can be said for the Zappa Symphonies SA-CD, which also offers pieces by Graff, Schwindi, Mozart and Stamitz.  Instead of this being works by innovative musician, composer, counterculture figure and multi-channel innovator Frank Zappa, it offers two works by 18th Century composer Francesco Zappa: Symphony in B flat – “The Cello Symphony” and Symphony in D.  These are under heard works and along with the included works by other composers (Graff and Schwindi’s own separate Symphony in D works, Mozart’s Symphony No. 5 “The Hague” and Stamitz’s Symphony in C, Op. 24, no 1) seems to want to present a group of works that have Dutch origins, connections and flavor.  This works well and the accompanying booklet confirms this theme.


I liked both, but was not overwhelmed like I always expect, but there is a certain pleasure to hearing a symphony in the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) format on SA-CD in multi-channel 5.1 sound mix in both cases that Blu-ray’s 1080i HD picture and lossless DTS-MA still cannot surpass.  It is just smoother, even in these cases where I expected more from the multi-channel sound as in previous Classical genre SA-CD releases (including several by PentaTone) because the lack of sonic ceiling has a smoothness that cannot be beat by any PCM-based format.  The DSD 2.0 Stereo is also good in its own way in both cases, but not as good as the 5.1 mixes.  The PCM 2.0 Stereo for CDs sounds poorer by comparison and that format could never deliver the smoothness of the other tracks anyhow.


Anyone interested in either release, especially SA-CD audiophiles, should consider getting them.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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