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  1. #1
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    The first new SACD arrived...

    ...and it's a big disappointment. It's a recording of the famous Saint Saens "Symphony #3," or the "Organ Symphony." This piece has been used extensively as a demonstration of many a fine audio system, especiall a good subwoofer, when the organ makes its famous appearance midway through the second movement. Audiophiles have used the Organ Symphony for demonstration for years, and the recording that likely started it was an RCA recording of the Boston Symphony, conducted by Charles Munch.

    I owned a mono LP of that recording many years ago, and have since purchased a Phillips LP with Eduard DuArt conducting, as well as two Telarc CD's - one with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the other with Christian Bedea and the Royal Philharmonic. The Ormandy recording is one of Telarc's early "SoundStream" recordings, which fairly recently was updated into an SACD (which I don't own. The Munch recording has also been remastered into an SACD, and I don't own that either - perhaps I should!). The Bedea recording is a Stereophile favorite, and my own personal favorite as well.

    So what's wrong with the new SACD? Well, there's certainly nothing wrong with the Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal, nor Yannic Nezet-Seguin's conducting. The orchestra sounds nothing less than wonderful, with velvety smooth strings and powerful brass and bass percussion. This recording, on the ATMA label, is also the first I've heard in which the piano is very clearly heard.

    But there's something really wrong.

    This is the "organ" symphony, in which the organ is the star of the show, and not just an instrument in the background, which is the manner in which it's recorded on this SACD. I was looking forward to some truly earlh-shaking low bass (something for which SACD's are justifiably famous), but it's just not there. the organ's entrance midway through the second (and last) movement sounds nice, but too polite, restrained, and distant - all of which are completely the wrong adjectives to be usiing to describe this wonderful work.

    So, the first of five new SACD's failed to live up to the promise of the SACD being "the best thing out there." We'll see what the next four sound like!

  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Munch version on SACD

    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel
    ...and it's a big disappointment. It's a recording of the famous Saint Saens "Symphony #3," or the "Organ Symphony." This piece has been used extensively as a demonstration of many a fine audio system, especiall a good subwoofer, when the organ makes its famous appearance midway through the second movement. Audiophiles have used the Organ Symphony for demonstration for years, and the recording that likely started it was an RCA recording of the Boston Symphony, conducted by Charles Munch.

    ...
    As a matter of fact I have the Munch version on RCA Living Stereo SACD. I don't recall being blown away by it, then again I don't particularly like the music.

    There is a review of the Nézet-Séguin version here at Allmusic. The reviewer there, Blair Sanderson, like the performance and sound pretty well.

    ...
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    Last edited by Feanor; 11-10-2008 at 04:59 PM.

  3. #3
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    I read that review before buying the disc, and it was a principal reason for buying it. And, I absolutely love the piece!

  4. #4
    Forum Regular Wits's Avatar
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    It's really unfortunate that CD's, especially ones such as SACD's that cost $20 to $30, aren't offered with a money-back guarantee that covers "I plain just don't like it" as a valid reason for return.

    I know all the reasons why this is impractical, etc., I'm just saying it sucks to have no recourse.

    Sorry to hear of your experience emaidel. Thanks for sharing it. In fact, I am being somewhat re-energized into the realm of the classical genre as a result of reading your posts.
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  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    If you like the piece

    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel
    I read that review before buying the disc, and it was a principal reason for buying it. And, I absolutely love the piece!
    I'm not that fond of the Romantic era music in general. I prefer Classical, Modern, and Contemporary, but that's just me.

    I listened again to the Munch version last night, and I think you might like it better for the organ work. The organ is a bit restrained in the 2nd movement here too, (as I suspect you would find), but much more promenent in 3rd where I suspect you wouldn't be disappointed. The Living Stereo SACDs are priced quite low so no reason not to go for it if you love this music.

    Incidentally I once briefly heard the organ at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, unfortunately not full concert. St. Joseph's is striking edifice, BTW.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    The organ is a bit restrained in the 2nd movement here too, (as I suspect you would find), but much more promenent in 3rd where I suspect you wouldn't be disappointed. .

    There are only two movements in Saint Saen's Symphony #3. In the first movement, the organ plays quietly in the background, but with some amazingly low notes many a system isn't capable of reproducing accurately. The most famous part of the symphony is the organ's entrance in the latter part of the second movement (that which I presume you're referring to as the third movement), and as I remember it on the Munch recording, it's quite stunning. Although written as only a forte, many a recording plays it as either a double, or even triple forte for sonic, and not musical, purposes. As I recall, Munch tends to have the organ a bit louder than originally scored, but the effect was fine. I do remember when I first bought the Munch LP and had a mono "system" that I listened to, that was basically pretty horrible, once the organ made its entrance, the 12" coaxial POS that I had all but rattled itself apart.

    I had debated about purchasing the remastered SACD of the Munch recording, and now likely will do so.
    Last edited by emaidel; 11-11-2008 at 05:18 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wits
    It's really unfortunate that CD's, especially ones such as SACD's that cost $20 to $30, aren't offered with a money-back guarantee that covers "I plain just don't like it" as a valid reason for return.

    I know all the reasons why this is impractical, etc., I'm just saying it sucks to have no recourse.

    Sorry to hear of your experience emaidel. Thanks for sharing it. In fact, I am being somewhat re-energized into the realm of the classical genre as a result of reading your posts.
    Fortunately, none of the five SACD's I purchased cost over $17.00 Both ArkivMusic.com, and ClassicalMusicDepot.com offer fairly reasonable prices on their SACD's. One of the discs I ordered is a new Telarc recording of "Pictures at an Exhibition" which, through Telarc is $20, but through ArkivMusic is only $17. Of course, I found it for $15 elsewhere after I'd already ordered it!

    And, I'm delighted that my posts have reinvigorated your interest in classical music. I will be reporting on the four remaining discs that I haven't yet received (my order was shipped to me from three different locations at three different times), and I hope you'll find them interesting and worthwhile.

    amazon.com does offer a recourse, but charges an astronomical restocking fee. I had ordered Lang Lang's disc of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto (a highly recommended disc, by the way), but mistakenly ordered the CD instead of the SACD. As I had opened the disc, for which I paid about $17.00, amazon charged me a whopping $8 restocking fee when I returned it!

  8. #8
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Indeed

    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel
    There are only two movements in Saint Saen's Symphony #3. In the first movement, the organ plays quietly in the background, but with some amazingly low notes many a system isn't capable of reproducing accurately. The most famous part of the symphony is the organ's entrance in the latter part of the second movement (that which I presume you're referring to as the third movement), and as I remember it on the Munch recording, it's quite stunning. Although written as only a forte, many a recording plays it as either a double, or even triple forte for sonic, and not musical, purposes.
    ...

    I had debated about purchasing the remastered SACD of the Munch recording, and now likely will do so.

    My mistake: I meant to say the 4th movement which is actually the second section of the 2nd movement ...
    Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 in C minor ("Organ"), Op. 78 per Allmusic ...
    1. I. Adagio - Allegro moderato
    2. Poco Adagio < subtle organ
    3. II. Allegro maestoso - Presto
    4. Maestoso - Allegro

    I wouldn't have had nearly the drama without my subwoofer, I must say. Certainly SACD ought to lick the LP for deep bass.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    I wouldn't have had nearly the drama without my subwoofer, I must say. Certainly SACD ought to lick the LP for deep bass.
    Actually, the Telarc recording with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra illustrated the shortcomings of the Dahlquist DQ-1W subwoofer.

    Adding the DQ-1W to the 10's made an enormous difference, but the sub never truly reached the depths a genuine sub should. While the bass drums on the aforementioned disc sounded amazingly powerful and deep, the ultra-low pedal notes from the organ were all but inaudible. Initially, I blamed this phenomenon on the recording, but after replacing the DQ-1W with an infinitely superior Definitive Technology sub, the bass drums are as powerful as ever, but the deep pedal notes can shake the foundation of my house, if I choose to play it loud enough.

    I recently performed with the Spartanburg Festival Chorus in a production of Vaughan Williams' "Hodie," (pronounced, "OOH-Dee-Ay", which translated from Latin means "this day"), and part of the huge orchestra included an enormous pipe organ that covered the entire wall in the auditorium in which we performed. Just as when we performed Brahms' "Ein Deutches Requiem" last April, the pedal notes on the organ actually caused the music in my hands to shake, let alone all the bones in my body!

    It's a genuinely realistic aspect of live music, and the addition of a quality sub to a good system adds immeasurably to the accuracy of the listening experience.

  10. #10
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    16 Hz !?!

    Quote Originally Posted by emaidel
    ...

    I recently performed with the Spartanburg Festival Chorus in a production of Vaughan Williams' "Hodie," (pronounced, "OOH-Dee-Ay", which translated from Latin means "this day"), and part of the huge orchestra included an enormous pipe organ that covered the entire wall in the auditorium in which we performed. Just as when we performed Brahms' "Ein Deutches Requiem" last April, the pedal notes on the organ actually caused the music in my hands to shake, let alone all the bones in my body!

    It's a genuinely realistic aspect of live music, and the addition of a quality sub to a good system adds immeasurably to the accuracy of the listening experience.
    It must have been an exhilarating experience! It's really not possible to reproduce such sound in one's living or rec room.

    I've looked at subwoofer drivers with the notion of DIYing a subwoofer with really deep capability, i.e. lower than 20Hz, say 16Hz like the deepest pipe organ notes. For starters it's a "pipe dream" (pardon the pun ): the 1/2 wave length of 16Hz is about 35 feet which is obviously impossible to reproduce in most rooms. Furthermore drivers capable of those notes aren't available from ordinary sources such as Parts Express or Madisound.

  11. #11
    Forum Regular Wits's Avatar
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    That is truly interesting--I had never thought about the physical requirements needed for reproducing sound, but of course it makes perfect sense. I wonder just how low a frequency we are hearing from the car stereos that bombard their occupant's ears with what has to be deafening SPL--you know the ones you can hear from two blocks away?
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    It must have been an exhilarating experience! It's really not possible to reproduce such sound in one's living or rec room.

    I've looked at subwoofer drivers with the notion of DIYing a subwoofer with really deep capability, i.e. lower than 20Hz, say 16Hz like the deepest pipe organ notes. For starters it's a "pipe dream" (pardon the pun ): the 1/2 wave length of 16Hz is about 35 feet which is obviously impossible to reproduce in most rooms. Furthermore drivers capable of those notes aren't available from ordinary sources such as Parts Express or Madisound.
    Following what you've just written here, I think you'll be interested by the first few paragraphs of this subwoofer review by stereophile:
    http://www.stereophile.com/subwoofers/957/

  13. #13
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Thanks, AA

    Quote Originally Posted by audio amateur
    Following what you've just written here, I think you'll be interested by the first few paragraphs of this subwoofer review by stereophile:
    http://www.stereophile.com/subwoofers/957/
    That was quite interesting.

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