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For many years my objective in setting up a music-listening room has been to recreate the concert hall experience as closely as the technology and my pocket book would permit. Accordingly, when I purchased this disc after reading several very favorable reviews, I was nevertheless fully prepared to trash it as gimmicky nonsense. The idea of parts of the orchestra being located to the side and behind the listener location struck me as being ludicrous. Well, my preconception was wrong.

The effect of this recording is to immerse the listener in the music, clarifying details to an unprecedented degree. As an example, at the end of the last movement of Beethoven 7, there are sustained wind chords that must be clearly balanced against the rest of the orchestra as the music surges forward. This is accomplished magnificently - better than I have ever experienced it. Against all expectations, the sound is both natural and musical.

The performances themselves IMO are very fine - sensitive and exhilarating when call for. If you can stay in your chair at the end of the seventh, you have more self control than I have. One could perhaps wish for slightly larger string sections, but this is my only minor complaint. It doesn't even warrant subtracting half a star. The overall effect is that good. I can only imagine how much the symphonies of Schumann could benefit from this approach. Tacet, are you listening?

This should probably not be you only versions of these two scores. If you listen in stereo, either loudspeakers or headphones, take a pass on it. For others, if you take the plunge, keep an open mind: you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

Brian Smith

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