HANDEL:  Royal Fireworks Music.  Water Music Suite
English Chamber Orch/Johannes Somary
BACH GUILD VDS 510 TT: 52:06
(5 channel)
These familiar Handel masterpieces emerge in a new light as engineered in this multi-channel recording made in Conway Hall, London, 1973.  The orchestra is spread around the listener; we find ourselves right in the middle of what's going on, and it is a most pleasing audio experience.  Water Music consists of eleven movements drawn from the entire work; it, and Royal Fireworks, are presented in the original scoring in these fine, large-scale performances under Somary's direction.

MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL:  Pictures at an Exhibition.  Khovanschina Prelude.
New Philharmonia Orch/Sir Charles Mackerras, cond.
VANGUARD  VSD 509  TT:  37:22
(5 channel)
Recorded in All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London, in July 1973, this is another 8-track original analog recording that is here presented in 5.0 surround.  The orchestra was spread around the conductor so some instruments come from the rear which perhaps is a bit disconcerting - even the conductor wouldn't hear the music like this while on the podium - however, it is a pleasant, unusual listening experience.  While these two works made a rather short LP in their original issue, on high-priced SACD it is inexcusable to have such brief playing time - this and Stravinsky's Petrouchka, also on Vanguard with the same conductor, could easily have fit onto one SACD with room to spare.

R.E.B. (June 2002)