London Symphony Orchestra / Malcolm Sargent

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

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Thanks to a growing number of historic audiophile reissues, there is ample evidence that some pristine analog recordings from the past can match or surpass anything produced in the digital age. In 1959, Malcom Sargent and the London Symphony Orchestra recorded Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor on 35 mm three-track magnetic film for Everest, and the quality of the recording is so immediate and realistic that it's almost indistinguishable from modern state-of-the-art technology. Everest's innovative use of 35 mm film had several advantages because it had three times the surface of the customary quarter-inch recording tape, its thickness allowed recording at higher frequencies without printing through to other parts of the recording, and the sprocket holes along its sides permitted smooth playback with minimal noise and distortion. Tchaikovsky's music is marvelously clear and warm in this performance, and the LSO sounds as rich and vibrant here as it does on any later, all-digital recording. Apart from the minor bending of pitch in the clarinets at the very beginning, no doubt due to some stretching of the film, the intonation is generally accurate and the tone is astonishing for its clarity. Because this recording is such a marvel of studio magic, the stereo CD is packaged with a bonus two-sided DVD-10 that allows playback on DVD audio and DVD video players. Highly recommended.

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