The Special Sound of Chandos

Author: 
Edward Greenfield

The Special Sound of Chandos

  • (The) Planets, Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
  • Hamlet, Scène d'Ophélie: Mad Scene (Act 4 Scene 5)
  • Hamlet, Second Scène d'Ophélie (Act 4 Scene 5)
  • Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 1, Rondo (Allegretto)
  • Dido and Aeneas, Overture
  • (An) Irish Symphony, In the Antrim Hills
  • Tam O'Shanter
  • Egyptischer Marsch, 'Egyptian March'
  • Solomon, ~, Sinfonia (Arrival of Queen of Sheba)
  • Pulcinella, Sinfonia (Overture)
  • Pulcinella, Serenata
  • (6) Studies of Francis Bacon, George and the Bicycle

It is good to have on Compact Disc format such formidable evidence of the prowess of the Chandos engineers. As our quarterly report in ''Sounds in Retrospect'' has regularly been saying, many Chandos issues—particularly in the orchestral field—vie with anything being produced by the major companies in their full and well-balanced sound.
A wide-ranging selection of ten items on this disc speaks for itself, though as so often with CD the idiosyncrasies of each recording come out the more plainly—the free reverberation in the Ophelia scene from Tchaikovsky's Hamlet for example (with the voice of Janis Kelly caught extremely vividly in face-to-face illusion), the comparable reverberance of the Weber Clarinet Concerto, with Janet Hilton an outstanding clarinet soloist, the rich and warm sound of the slow movement from Harty's Irish Symphony, all of them reflecting the fact that to be believable instruments and voices have to relate to a background acoustic. It is not enough to have the sound-source recorded close and a vague acoustic presented as a background, which is too often the way these days with engineers favouring close-up microphone placing and multi-channel recording.
In Malcolm Arnold's Tam O'Shanter for example, with its heavy, even aggressive scoring, it is very impressive how the thick textures are clarified. The chamber textures of Cantilena playing Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and of the ECO under Sir Alexander Gibson playing Stravinsky's Pulcinella (the ''Serenata'' and ''Scherzino'') are caught with equal vividness in slightly less open acoustics, and the final item is in its way equally impressive, the fifth movement of Gerard Schurmann's Six Studies of Francis Bacon ( ''George and the Bicycle''), starting with tam-tam strokes so hushed you have to prick the ears to hear them. On CD with its absence of background they are flawlessly clear.
The opening item is ''Jupiter'' from Gibson's recording with the SNO of Holst's suite The Planets, and impressive as it is—if anything finer than on either of the CD issues of The Planets so far, Karajan's for DG (400 028-2—reviewed on page 144) and Maazel's for CBS (CD37249, 4/83)—I find it just a shade disappointing that the string sound has some digital aggression, with violins biting rather too hard out of a generally warm texture. Maybe when transferred complete that Chandos version of The Planets will—as on LP—outshine in sound quality its direct rivals.'

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