Finally we have a superb remastering (in DSD) of a fabulous recording of Holst's masterpiece, The Planets. The sound on this CD is far and away better than any previous CD release of it we've had. The root problems were overbearing brightness and a shrill glare, a severe lack of warmth and body, and a forward, harsh perspective combined with compressed, limited dynamic range. For these reasons, the original Red Seal release was practically unlistenable. Making matters worse, the RCA 'Victor Surround Sound' and 'Basic 100' releases were both remixed in processed "surround sound", resulting in sonic disasters. The super-budget Classical Navigators issue was muffled and congested - and probably not from original master tapes.
Sony has thankfully, at long last, taken the time to expertly and carefully remaster this great performance. It has transformed this recording in a way we could never have imagined or hoped. Much like the remastering miracles we heard on many Ormandy and Szell CBS recordings, this RCA receives the same sonic transformation. Completely gone is the forward, bright, shrill glare that we assumed was inherent on the master tapes. And now we hear, like you cannot believe, glorious warmth, body and richness; a realistic, atmospheric portrayal of an acoustic recording space; and a full, dynamic range. Yes, there never is quite a true pianissimo, but it's so much closer than we've had before, it is hardly cause for complaint.
And the performance - well, it is Ormandy at his very finest and most inspired. And the fabulous Philadelphia Orchestra responds with spontaneity and vigor. Endearingly, I had forgotten the clarinet squeak in Saturn - hilarious! And another pleasant surprise is the potent contribution of the organ. This is missing or inaudible on most modern recordings, and certainly did not make an impact on previous issues of this one. But it is very much heard (and felt) here now. The chorus in Neptune is perhaps a little too forward, but it sounds like hundreds of voices, slightly misty and very atmospheric.
The CD plays for just 50 minutes, but I shall not complain (this time). The classic excellence of the performance combined with DSD remastering and a ridiculously low price all make up for the rather short playing time. For all music lovers and audiophiles alike, this release is cause for celebration. Buy it without hesitation and sit back and luxuriate in a sonic marvel and a true classic performance.
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