PUCCINI Turandot – Mehta
When Karajan's DG Vienna recording of Turandot appeared on CD, I immediately wondered how this much older Decca set would sound in the new, clearer medium. My impression then was that the 1972 recording, even on LP, was firmer and better defined, and so it proves to be. On CD this more than ever is confirmed as one of the very finest of the many opera recordings made in London's Kingsway Hall, with a vivid sense of presence and reality. Even the deep tones of the bass drum at the very start are more effectively caught here than on the digital Karajan recording, and even the detail within the heaviest tuttis and choruses has a definition one normally associates with digital recording. It is striking too how firmly placed within an identifiable acoustic each solo voice or instrument is, and if there is a limitation of frequency range compared with the latest recordings, I find it hard to detect when the atmosphere is so realistic.
As for the performance, I still count it the most satisfying of all with Sutherland an icy Princess who gives signs of human vulnerability far earlier than usual, and is the more moving for that.
Caballe and Pavarotti are both in magnificent form too. Mehta equally is challenged by his starry cast to produce an outstandingly strong and colourful reading. The Decca CD set has fewer separate bands than the DG but plentiful 'indexing', which I fear I cannot utilize on my machine. Two CDs for the Decca set as against three for the DG is another clear advantage. The second CD here begins with Turandot's entry and the big aria ''In questa reggia'', which is just as convenient as having one CD per act.'