Recording of December 1973: Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Vocalise
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Donald Johanos, cond.
Turnabout TV-54145S (LP). David B. Hancock, eng.; Tom Mowrey, Musical Supervision, Recording Director. TT: 41:18.

Not a new recording, and one that has already received raves in all the other audiophile publications, but if Stereophile is the only such magazine you read, you'd just better know about it, for this is the definitive symphonic recording to date.

Buy it, listen to it, and get a good idea of what the other record companies have been doing to the sound of live music. The performance is a bit blah and imprecise, but in a case like this, musical values will have to take a back seat to sound. And what sound!—J. Gordon Holt

Anton's picture

I remember buying that LP after reading what JGH 1973! Damn!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

It has to be the most plodding version imaginable. As for the sound, how was it possible to make the Dallas Symphony Orchestra sound so small? I don't get this recording's iconic status at all.

Ortofan's picture

... the performance and sound quality of the recording of these works by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Eiji Oue on the Reference Recordings label?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

The acoustic is a bit more resonant than ideal, but, to these ears, the performance really works.

It is quite possible that I'll be reviewing another version before long.

Indydan's picture

Wait for the MQA version. It will sound elegant and amazing.

johnnythunder's picture

playing an orchestral masterpiece with zero "Russian" feeling and passion. I'll take the Jansons or Tamirkanov or Ashkenazy recording of this piece anytime. The lack of richness and tonal opulence necessary for this piece is nowhere to be found on the Dallas recording. Its reputation rests on some good bass drum thwacks and crescendos at the climax of the first movement.

dalethorn's picture

I don't know about Turnabout, but many of the biggest record co's put out some really bad LPs in that time period. Maybe if I had good remaster of this it would sound better. The only other version I have is on a free disc that came with a BBC magazine, and while it sounds much better, the pacing is similar.

Edit: I don't have the $35 SACD version of this, so my compilation CD with other works is probably worse in sound quality.

ednazarko's picture

I love reading the comment threads on these album reviews/recommendations. Almost every one of them has linked me up with some recording I'd never heard before that I found really interesting... not necessarily my new favorite, but every time, something worth listening to. Which got me thinking.

Wouldn't it be fun to have a "four versions three listeners" series? (I picked the numbers out of my... um... out of the air...) Idea being, several people bring forward what they think are the definitive recordings of some piece - The Firebird, Beethoven's late string quartets, like that - and several OTHER people do a close listening session and bat the opinions back and forth.

I expect I (if not we) might get some insight into where our sense of many things comes from. Like, "this is the right pace" for any given album. For whatever reason I've always been really strongly reactive to "this is too fast" or "too plodding". Based on... what? Maybe I'm wrong. Would be great to hear about the production, the orchestral balance (as someone who sat in the back rows of orchestras for 20 years I always think the strings are too forward), etc.

Just a thought. On the Stereophile team, I think there's significant enough differences of opinion to make this an interesting feature. And I suspect it'd drive out a lot of "no, but listen to this" recommendations which is what I'm really excited about.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

This is what I do in my Voices that Touch the Heart classes in Port Townsend. We play multiple versions of the same aria, song, or cycle and then discuss. I'm not sure, however, that it's the best way to proceed here. There is enough me against you on these forums without us adding fuel to the fire.

That said, you'll discover, in every issue of Gramophone, that two or three critics take on a recording that has achieved iconic status, and discuss to what extent its reputation is deserved and has endured the passage of time and emergence of more competing recordings.

I think you'll enjoy my next review ;-)

ednazarko's picture

All my music theory and musicology stuff is way, way back in the past, and now that I've got time to explore again, it's on my mind. I've done some things on Tidal with listening to two or three different versions of something.

As to the "me against you" I think as long as you avoid the three letters "MQA" you'd be fine. More seriously, though, these recording threads are probably the most civilized on the site. The only threads where I learn beyond what was in the original story. (pretty much stopped reading threads elsewhere.)

What might get contentious is something I've noticed recently, which is doing "covers" of classical compositions, with the same degrees of freedom as doing covers in pop music. Listened to Brad Meldau re-interpreting Bach. Still not sure if I liked it or not. THAT could get some real arguments going.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

if industry trends continue, I will end up reviewing more of those three little letter discs or downloads that don't seem to be greeted with those "Three Little Words" that are the hallmark of Valentine's Day. Such are the ways of the world...

If you think the threads on this forum are uncivilized - they are milder than they would otherwise be, thanks to John Atkinson's deletions - try a certain computer audiophile site not connected with Stereophile. Take a deep breath first.

I really appreciate your comments. Thank you.