CD+DVD Reviews

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 – The Utah Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel

From the acclaimed Abravanel/Utah Sym. Mahler series, now in 5.1 surround for the first time

Published on May 13, 2005

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 – The Utah Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 – The Utah Symphony Orchestra/Maurice
Abravanel – Vanguard/Silverline Classics DualDisc with DVD-Audio -
284215-2, 61:44:

Another in the series of
recordings of the Mahler Symphonies made in four-channel quadraphonic
sound in the early 70s by Vanguard. Only the Third was released as a
four-track open reel at the time, and for those with four-track
1/4-inch tape decks it was the best realization of the maligned quad
effort. The sonics of all these Utah Symphony Mahler recordings are
distinguished by the lengthy reverberation time of Salt Lake City’s
huge Mormon Tabernacle. The Utah Symphony was not quite up to the level
of the BSO or Chicago, but under Abravanel’s dedicated directorship it
achieved an amazingly high and consistent level of playing.

Silverline put a dedicated effort into the restoration of these
historic recordings, using specially modified analog open reel decks to
play the original tape masters. In the process they gilded the lily by
mixing the four-channel tapes to 5.1 digital surround at 96K. This
DVD-A mix is on the DVD side of the DualDisc, along with a stereo
version. The so-called CD Side of the disc (DualDiscs are not allowed
to use the Sony-Philips Compact Disc logo because it doesn’t meet Red
Book specs) is just plain 44.1 stereo PCM with no bells or whistles.

Be advised that the DVD side does not include any video footage of the
symphony and Abravanel performing the Mahler 5th. It does have three
short videos however: a memorial tribute to Abravanel, an interesting
behind-the-scenes video titled “Transferring & Restoring a Legacy”
(which you may have seen if you purchased any of the previous Utah
Symphony DVD-As), and lastly some video interviews titled “Remembering
Abravanel’s Utah Symphony.” there are also some historic photos and
performance memorabilia and a biography of Mahler, plus some ROM
content accessible only with a computer. One other feature not
discussed anywhere on the disc that I could find is a special Dolby
Headphone mix, which achieves a semi-surround-sound effect with any
standard stereo headphones from the multichannel DVD-A side of the disc.

- John Sunier




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