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  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 'Fate' & 6 - The New Dimension of Sound Symphonic Series [7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Disc] [BD25 Audio Only] [Blu-ray]
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 'Fate' & 6 - The New Dimension of Sound Symphonic Series [7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Disc] [BD25 Audio Only] [Blu-ray]


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Modern recording techniques have come alarmingly far in just a few short years. I've had the pleasure of having several commercial recordings released, and my earliest days in the recording studio were spent amid the flutter of reel to reel tapes. Later, exciting 'improvements' like audio Betamax (yep, you read that right) and then digital media like ADATs came into play. Over the past couple of decades-plus, we've seen the advent of hard drive recording systems, with the ubiquitous use of bells and whistles like ProTools, which can make even amateurs (are you listening, Ashlee Simpson?) sound at least passable, what with pitch correction, WAV editing and the like. Casual listeners to modern day product might be quite surprised to see how a recording is assembled, and assembled is, for better or worse, the correct term. Even back in the days of analog recordings, it wasn't unusual for rhythm tracks to be laid down first, often with 'scratch'; vocals, and then for the vocalist to come in to take their final version at a later date. While editing was certainly a more involved procedure back in the day, tape editors became so facile with their 'archaic' medium that even syllables could be fairly seamlessly fixed for a final product. (Anyone wanting a good laugh should listen to John Barry's commentary on You Only Live Twice, where he details the editing lengths they had to go to get a final take of Nancy Sinatra's vocal on the title tune). However, as often as pop, rock and even Broadway cast recordings were 'assembled' in the halcyon days of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, even after the advent of hard drive recording, you could count on one genre to preserve at least a semblance of the 'live' ensemble experience, and that was of course classical music. Not anymore. Choral composers like Eric Whitacre have pioneered the idea of a 'virtual choir' where people separated by continents are able to 'join together' to sing via such media as YouTube. And now we are introduced to an 'assembled' orchestra under the 'virtual baton' of Alexander Jero. Jero has been a pioneer in audio Blu-ray and has released several outstanding discs where he's licensed previously recorded material and repurposed for hi-def audio in often rather striking surround versions. Jero is recording a glut of classical warhorses anew, hiring college students to come into his private studio to work under his own baton (hence the ubiquitous use of his image on the covers of all of these releases, something that has caused some comment here on Blu-ray.com). However, these are not live ensemble recordings in the traditional sense. Jero brings sections in separately, and records them, often utilizing previous recordings as reference material. He then assembles the final product in the mixing room. It's an unusual approach for a genre as hopefully organic as classical music, and listeners' reactions may be colored by the knowledge that high tech wizardry has at least helped to craft the architecture of any given performance. --Jeffry Kauffman (Blu-ray.com)

Jero's approach to these two Beethoven Symphonies is, in the case of the Fifth at least, unusual. I have never in my life heard the opening movement of the Fifth taken at such a brisk tempo, and I had to wonder what reference recording Jero utilized to help him shape his take on this movement. This isn't fate knocking at the door, it's fate bursting through the door with a bulldozer. While it's true that Beethoven is often treated with such extreme respect that interpretations of his pieces can come off as overly staid and stilted, the opening movement of Jero's Fifth just left me breathless, and not necessarily in a good way. Luckily, things improved, albeit fitfully, through the rest of the Symphony. Tempi were still inexplicably fast a lot of the time, but there was some unusually fine playing, especially from the strings. The Sixth is supposed to be a more relaxing, sylvan affair than the brusque Fifth, and Jero calms down at least a little bit in his approach to this 'Pastoral' piece. I still would have preferred a calmer, more nuanced approach, but there is some exceptional attention to detail along the way here, with some nice tenuti and phrasing that help to give the listener at least the option of breathing (as it were) now and again. Jero is evidently about to embark on some Master's level conducting studies, and it's my hope that once he works repeatedly with a complete ensemble, under the tutelage of a 'real' conductor (as opposed to simply utilizing reference recordings), he'll be able to fully realize what is undoubtedly the real talent he already possesses. You may have qualms about Jero's interpretations of these classic scores, but few of you should have any issues with the sterling audio quality of this Blu-ray. Jero has always done an outstanding job with his audio Blu-rays, and these Beethoven Symphonies are certainly no exception. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is brilliantly effective, with excellent separation between sections and oustanding fidelity. The surround mix is about as immersive as one could hope for, and indeed in listening many people may think that they, not Jero, are the 'virtual conductor'. Jero has very smartly placed the orchestral masses according to their typical sectional positioning and the utilization of the rear surrounds also adds some decent (albeit 'artificial') hall ambience. These are two 'warm' recordings, with very nicely burnished string and brass sounds. Fidelity is top notch through all frequency ranges and the dynamic range is completely amazing, capturing everything from the bombastic opening of the Fifth and 'storm' sequence of the Sixth to the quieter, more reflective and lyrical passages that both Symphonies contain. --Jeffry Kauffman (Blu-ray.com)

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