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Rachmaninoff: Piano Concertos 1-4 - Ashkenazy, Previn

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concertos 1-4 - Ashkenazy, Previn

Esoteric  ESSD-90274/75 (2 discs)

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra
André Previn (conductor)

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Comment by miklovj - August 11, 2023 (1 of 9)

Has anyone compared this one to the other 2019 japanese SACD with this catalog number UCGD-9077/8? Since it's one of my favourite records ever and I have CD, and SACD, it would be nice to know if this esoteric remastering is worth the money they ask.

Comment by Steven Harrison - August 11, 2023 (2 of 9)

Well, you will never get a consensus about the relative value of any Esoteric offering. Just look at some of the comments on the various releases here.
I personally really like the Esoterics, especially the newer ones since they moved from JVC to their own house with the newer gear. But that is just me.
I even at times have bought Esoteric releases of sacds that I already have. There usually is not much difference, though there can be subtle differences upon close listening.

The best way to purchase these is from Japanese Ebay sellers at release, or soon thereafter. The price tends to escalate rapidly after a couple months.

Comment by miklovj - August 15, 2023 (3 of 9)

Well, thank you for your opinion and suggestion! I know it's better to listen with our ears but this thing costs! Also since it's a double sacd the price is really high...

Comment by Longjohns and Wifebeaters - August 15, 2023 (4 of 9)

I've yet to hear an Esoteric SACD that I would have preferred over the Universal Japan SACD releases, and that by a fairly clear margin. The latter are new transfers from original tapes, the former (at least used to be) souped up digital copies of the originals or backup files. Sure, they still beat the corresponding CDs, to my ears, but they do have characteristics that I don't really care for, compared to the Universal Japan (any of them: Decca, DG, Philips, whatever) or EMI Japan DSD remasters, such as boosted up low frequencies and a bit of extra boom. The Esoterics also don't have the same sense of spatial openness (they are more flat), separation, and clarity.

I've heard maybe ten–twelve of them that I have been able to directly compare.

Funny thing, though, they sometimes even considerably improve on the originals when these are early digital recordings. Don't ask me how that can be.... And their piano recordings sound better than their orchestral ones, in comparison.

Summa summarum, I would definitely go for the Universal Japan release.

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 16, 2023 (5 of 9)

Same here, Longjohn! I absolutely agree and couldn't have said it more aptly.

Comment by DYB - August 17, 2023 (6 of 9)

I've enjoyed many Esoteric releases, especially their souped-up digital recordings, and I'm sure this one is... fine. What I continue to be puzzled by is their choice of repertoire which includes many titles that have already been released within just a few years by the original labels. Esoteric is littering the market with what I'd argue is a completely unnecessary issue and these Rachmaninov recordings is a perfect example. Decca Japan issued stunning SACDs just a year or two ago. (Also Böhm's Mozart Requiem and Jochum's Concertgebouw Bruckner are duplicates of something original labels issued just recently.) What in the world does Esoteric think they can contribute that is so Earth shattering? I can easily make a list of 20+ great historic titles that have never received a high definition upgrade, including Rachmaninov. (Rach's complete Songs with Elisabeth Söderström and Vladimir Ashkenazy is a magnificent set that hasn't been remastered, is just one example.)

Comment by Steven Harrison - August 18, 2023 (7 of 9)

Hi miklovj,
All I can add to my previous post is that there is not likely much difference between the 2019 issue that you already have, and this new one.
Though as can be read by some of the comments, there are differences. But if I was like you and already had the 2019 issue and liked it. That would be good enough.

Comment by Steven Harrison - August 20, 2023 (8 of 9)

The question of disc provenance has come up again here. So I got to doing some research that I likely could have done long ago, or more easily if we had an actual forum to discuss these matters. Nonetheless, thanks go to Tony Reif for posting this link:

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/37134-deutsche-grammophon-and-emil-berliner-studios-duplicity/

And to make everything much easier, here is the gist of the information provided in the link:

The information below is from Rainier Malliard at Emil Berliner Studios in response to an email query from the poster in the audiophilestyle.com thread

"Emil Berliner Studios has been very kind to provide additional information:
The work flow is like this:

1. Getting the original analogue master from the archive. Depending on the recording year it could be either: 2-track ¼ inch , 4-track ½ inch, 8-track 1 inch or 16-track 2 inch tape. From 1972 Dolby A was used almost mostly. All DGG tapes (later than 1956) run with 15 ips and ISRC equalization. Emil Berliner Studios spend a lot of time researching and finally finding the right originals tapes in the archive to avoid using old analogue transfers to other tape copies.

2. Analogue remastering and restauration of the tape (see the photo: cleaning splices)

3. Analogue to digital transfer

4. Remixing if needed (needed with 4, 8 or 16 track originals)

5. Additional processing and restoration in the digital domain.

6. Creating and archiving new PCM digital master

7. Creating DSD-Copies or PCM HighBit Copies from this master for commercial products"

Thus that is the provenance of the Universal Japan sacd reissues.

Esoteric and Tower Japan are licensed customers and may not get this same workflow. Certainly now Esoteric notes that for digital recordings they receive upconverted cd masters. Hard to know what they get for analogue recordings like this particular Rachmaninov release. And the same for Tower Japan. Unless the licensees provide the information.....................

The Esoterics are all about Esoteric, and they have been since Day One. It is a series designed to show off their own equipment, and that equipment is now the Grandioso series in their very own studio room.
Tower Japan is different, but they still do not provide much information.

So, outside of the nice packaging of the Esoterics.....................
Yet, I still find that the Esoterics sound great.

Comment by miklovj - September 6, 2023 (9 of 9)

Wow! I was out of the forum for a while and now I find some interesting and very well explained answers. Thanks to you all. You were so useful!