SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloe (complete ballet); Pavane pour une infante défunte – Boston Symphony Orchestra (Orchestre de Paris in Pavane)/ Charles Munch – HDTT
Published on June 16, 2008
This lush and impressionistic ballet is Ravel’s longest work and as far as I’m concerned his masterpiece. Using a large orchestra, expanded percussion section (including a wind machine) and a large wordless chorus, he created some of his most passionate and dramatic music, in what he himself described as a “choreographic symphony.” It’s always been the Ravel work to which I return again and again. First on a mono RCA LP, then a Living Stereo LP, then a disappointing CD reissue (so back to the LP), then the Living Stereo SACD of 2004.
That performance was recorded two-channel only in 1955 in Boston’s Symphony Hall. In 1961 it was done again in the same venue, and that’s the source of the RCA prerecorded quarter-track tape which HDTT has processed with their array of high-end mastering equipment to squeeze the utmost fidelity out of the original tapes – especially in their 96K/24-bit DVD-R versions. So the two Daphnis recordings are not exactly the same, and comparisons between them are interesting. The chorus seems to be more forward in the later recording and the whole performance sounds just a bit more energetic. There may have been extensions in the high end range of the mikes used, or it could be the quality of HDTT’s processing gear.
Doing an A/B comparison of the two recordings on two of my decks was not easy because they each have different track allocations. I was finally able to switch back and forth on the same section. The RCA SACD has to feed thru the six-channel direct input on my Sunfire preamp, preventing use either of my Benchmark DAC1 or processing with ProLogic II for surround effect. The 96K DVD-R, however, can benefit from both, giving it an edge over the SACD. While the SACD has a richer and more lush sonic, especially in the mid-bass, the DVD-R excels in the high end and in greater transparency. In fact some might feel it’s a trifle peaky, but the DAC1 reduced that complaint. The chorus has much more impact, as do the low-level subtle string sounds – as at the very beginning and several other spots in the work. There is also the cost to consider, since the RCA SACD runs less than half the cost of the HDTT. Fans of Daphnis and Chloe would have to have both.
- John Sunier