This is a review of the Fricsay release as Blu-ray audio only. This was a copy and paste from the website www.arkivmusic.com
Deutsche Grammophon’s sound at the time of this recording (in the age of Mercury Living Presence and RCA Living Stereo) was notorious among audiophiles for its relentless mediocrity. There was a reasonably detailed mid-range with minimal hall sound and virtually no information at the frequency extremes. In short, they sounded dull. That was very frustrating because of the outstanding musical value of their recordings and the quality of their artists. In that context, this Blu-ray audio disc is a minor revelation. Sure, it sounds like a souped-up Deutsche Grammophon recording, but it is far more involving because of the presence of at least some hall sound and more prominent but not particularly harsh highs. Significant bass is still missing in action.
Fricsay’s performances crackle with excitement. His highly subjective approach to a limited extent resembles Leonard Bernstein, but without ever being self-indulgent or overdone. The Moldau moves quickly in comparison to the slower tempos that are common now. Les Préludes is very exciting without being pompous or bombastic. In fact, the soft, pastoral, middle section with its solo harp and woodwinds is the high point of this performance. Fricsay’s “New World” Symphony is special. The second movement is nearly as slow as Leopold Stokowski’s interpretation (but Fricsay doesn’t meddle with the orchestration). The fourth movement is very dynamic despite a well-chosen middle-of-the-road basic tempo. In fact, Fricsay’s tempos are never excessive, but there are enough personal touches to make his ideas sound very individual. My principal problem with all of these works is the blatty, almost tinny brass that is very aggressive and penetrating, but works against the burnished warmth that would benefit Fricsay’s Romantic approach.
This Blu-ray audio disc is easily recommendable as a tribute to a great conductor, heard for the first time with sound that you will not be accustomed to in a vintage 1960 Deutsche Grammophon recording.