Friday, December 17, 2004

Britten does Britten does xrcd: The Young Person's Guide



This is yet another beauty--the first of several items from the Decca catalog JVC has been licensed to release on xrcd. The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is magnificently-recorded (1963); the performance is also beautifully-played by the LSO, though I find Britten's conducting a bit slack and underpowered. I also miss the narration (it would've been nice to have him do it [he could've "tracked" it]), though it does allow one to hear niceties of the orchestration usually missed in narrated versions. The accompanying Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge is really lovely, and if anything even better-recorded (1966).




In comparison to other versions of the YPG, I find the Slatkin LP reissue (Capitol) a bit of a disappointment, especially for such a legendary recording: miked too close-up; most competitive, I think, would be the Fiedler (RCA Living Stereo), narrated by Hugh Downs, also a magnificent recording: stronger in the bass, but more "colored" and overtly spectacular than the Britten, which I feel is more transparent and natural. JVC is demonstrating a lot of imagination in selecting the items to be reissued: no doubt they could've chosen to release the Fiedler, given their extended Living Stereo project, but this one was smartly-chosen.

Very highly-recommended, in whatever form.

MK

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