The Utah Symphony was considered little more than a provincial orchestra when Maurice Abravanel took over its leadership in 1947. He built it into a fine performing ensemble that often outplayed its formidable rivals. If joy in music making can be factored in, the Utah Symphony and Abravanel were the best in the land. The orchestra was fortunate to sign with Vanguard Records and to have Seymour Solomon produce its recordings.
One of the earliest projects Vanguard took up in Utah was to record the complete Mahler symphonies. Though that happens regularly now, it was not a common event back then. The Utah recordings were real pioneering efforts. The orchestra played at and often beyond its peak, and Abravanel proved to have a tremendous feeling for the composers music, particularly its lilting dance-inspired sections. The music making was exhilarating and the recordings well defined and ideally balanced. The last three or four minutes of the Symphony No. 5 are among the most radiant in the history of recordings.
Silverline began re-releasing the Abravanel Mahler recordings last year on DVD-Audio discs, re-mixing both 3.0 and 4.0 masters into 5.1 sound. Starting with these two, the series has made a jump to DualDisc. The DVD side is still DVD-Audio, with 5.1 advanced-resolution sound; the CD side allows the complete work to be played on a CD player, such as the one you might have in your vehicle. The sound on the CD side is excellent for that format. DualDiscs were reported to have time constraints imposed on them, but having the complete 70-minute Symphony No. 6 on both a CD and a DVD-A side makes one wonder if that is a real problem or not. The discs played perfectly in all of my players, stationary or mobile.
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