This SACD has finally moved me to think of it as my long-sought reference disc of Nos. 1 & 2Beethoven′s First and Second Symphonies, together with their roughly contemporaries in time, the First and Second Piano Concertos, marked the arrival of a new voice to the concert halls of Vienna and by extension the world at large. The First was premiered on April 2, 1800 and the Second two years later on April 5, 1802. These two symphonies certainly made demands beyond the audience′s willingness to follow and accept what evidently was the outset of a new and provocative symphonic form. These two symphonies provocatively traveled henceforth to this date well beyond the "beautiful - elegant - aristocratic" compositions of Mozart, Haydn and the like.
I have heard these two works (and also by the same performers the 7th and 8th Symphonies) many times both live in different halls with different orchestras as well as many recordings However, I have to confess I was never satisfied by those performances either at the artistic level (both live and recorded) or at the aural level when recorded. Artistically they were never right, mostly because of extraneous changes to the original instrumentation and orchestration and when recorded, because of the invariably banal sound.
Happily, I can say here and now that this SACD in either ist Pure Tube Stereo or Real Surround Sound version as created by Tacet, has finally moved me to think of it as my long-sought "reference" CD both artistically and aurally.
The Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Wojciech Rajski faithfully conveys exquisitely-crafted performances captured by Tacet′s sound recording techniques, giving full body to two works scored for small orchestra albeit still keeping the instrumental doubling in the woodwinds (oboes - flutes - clarinets - bassoons) and the brasses (trumpets - horns) and reduced numbers in the string choir.
In this SACD, Tacet gracefully captures all the nuances as intended by Beethoven whether we listen to it as a Pure Stereo "Tube Only" or as a 3/2-channel Real Surround Sound. Each of these options sounds different from each other not to a detriment but as a new and different aural experience from the psycho-acoustical point of view. I certainly was thrilled to hear these works in either format, each form adding a new perspective and aural dimension.
My impression was that once I found the correct configuration for the front speakers for the Pure Stereo version and also the correct one for the 3/2 version the sound emanating from the speakers sounded as expected. The stereo version (speakers in front 10 ft. Apart) offered a full-bodied sound with perfect instrumental imaging; nothing flat or overly brilliant here. The 3/2 was also full-bodied and instrumental imaging was heightened by intelligent mike placing. All in all marvelous sounds in either version. Notable passages to listen given the two sound options with their respective characteristics and acoustic nuances, as follows:
On the First Symphony, First Movement, Adagio molto - Allegro con brio: At 1:50 the beautifully captured contrast between the main and the subordinate themes in an exquisitely crafted little fragment which moves in quick succession from the oboe on the left to the flute on the right to the first violins on the left as the building block to an skillfully weighted "tension" and "release" when it reaches the finale. On the Second Movement, Andante cantabile con moto: At the end of the extended motive with the delicate pianissimo of the timpani on the left-center against the flute (on the right), against the first violin′s triplets on the left at 1:28. On the Fourth Movement, Finale - Adagio, allegro molto e vivace: The finale begins at :30 with the beautiful sounds of a single scale creeping upwards slowly through the first violins on the left reaching one note further with each repetition and in the end, with little patience, becoming a dance like theme which extends itself to the end.
On the Second Symphony, Second Movement. Larghetto: The beginning a broadly flowing melody for the massed string choir which is immediately and delicately echoed by the woodwinds at 0:18. On the Third Movement. Scherzo - Allegro: The middle section (or trio) starts as a faint delicate 1700′s trio for the winds only to burst in wild, unpredictable blast by the full orchestra at 1:40.
On the Fourth Movement. Allegro molto: The first two and last two notes of the explosive beginning serve as thematic fragments to be tossed back and forth in an antiphonal fashion between the instruments of the orchestra at 0:21 marking the start of a tension- loaded musical structure (in rondo-sonata form) all the way to the finale.
Finally, I think of these performances as two beautifully-crafted period interpretations with modern instruments and a much needed addition to the already large Beethoven discography. Beautiful performances and glorious sound, definitely a reference CD/SACD!