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A Glorious New Release from HDTT of One of the Great RCA Living Stereo Albums - Prokofiev Lieutenant Kije, Stravinsky Song of the Nightingale, Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

12-10-2023 | By Rushton Paul | Issue 131

Prokofiev Lieutenant Kije, Stravinsky Song of the Nightingale, Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra. HDTT 1958 2023 (DSD256, DXD) HERE

One of the glories of the RCA Living Stereo catalog now in glorious sonics from HDTT. These recordings of Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije (1957) and Stravinsky's Song of a Nightingale (1956) performed by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have been a mainstay of audiophile demonstration recordings since their release on LP in 1958. They are legendary. And for good reason. These are exceptional performances in some of the best orchestral sound quality ever captured by the great RCA recording engineer, Lewis Layton.

Over the years, I've had in my library both the original LP and several outstanding reissues, including the superb Chesky RC-10 and the vastly better Classic Records 45 rpm. But today, I am stunned as I listen to the new DSD256/DXD digital reissue from High Definition Tape Transfers—wow! What an ear-opening experience. Sourced from two original RCA 2-track tapes released commercially in the mid-1950s, the sound is open, detailed, and dynamic. The timbre of the instruments is beautifully rendered, the percussion crisply articulated, the brass full of texture and depth. The trumpet solos in Kije are something of wonder that simply make my eyes begin to water.

The dynamics of this recording set this reissue apart from my recollection of even the best vinyl from my past collection. It is that incredible ability of good 2-track to make instantaneous shifts in volume, both micro-dynamically and macro-dynamically, that one simply does not hear with even the best vinyl. These dynamic contrasts are fully captured in this high resolution digital transfer. The Song of a Nightingale is the more dynamic of the two recordings, and in many ways the better recording sonically. The 45rpm Classic Records reissue was always among my demonstration discs.

Would the 15ips tape reissue from Analogue Productions played on a great tape deck, properly aligned and setup, sound even better? Possibly. But I don't plan to spend $450 for that reissue, plus invest in an entire analog tape playback system, to find out. No, for me, given my experience comparing DSD256 transfers from tape to the tape playback itself, I'm very happy to stick with this exceptionally fine digital transfer now released by HDTT. It is remarkable.

The precision of the members of the CSO is legendary, and these two recordings abundantly demonstrate that precision of ensemble and precision of performance. This recording as heard in this DSD256/DXD reissue allows one to hear every bit of what is happening within the orchestra—all the subtle shifts and punctuations, the hand-offs from instrument to instrument, the articulation of a phrase. It's all there for one to hear, in beautifully clear, open sonics. And, for all the detail reproduced, the overall sense of the sound is that of utter naturalness. There is no sense of artificial highlighting, no unnatural hyper-detail. It is really as if listening live from the front section of the hall where all is laid before you.

What a great experience! I strongly encourage you to experience this new reissue from HDTT played back in either DSD256 or DXD.