The dbx-encoded disc made from a digital master tape seems destined to become a permanent part of the record scene. The "RT" series (from M&K Real Time Records) now includes three additional albums, and the labels of Varese Sarabande and Chalfont are also represented.
RT-204, 205 and 206 continue the recordings of the Philharmonia Hungarica conducted by Zoltan Rozsnyai playing well-known orchestral showpieces. With RT-204, which contains the Berlioz Rakoczi March (in addition to the Overtures by Rossini to "The Thieving Magpie," "The Barber of Seville" and "William Tell"), it appears that dbx and M&K are joined in battle with Telarc over the issue of who can reproduce the biggest drum on record. The deep percussion in the Berlioz is awesome; stereo owners whose amplifiers lack ample power reserves or whose loudspeakers lake ample dynamic range are forewarned.
RT-205 (List Liszt's Les Preludes; Dvorak's Slavonic Dance no. 8; Smetena's "The Moldau") boasts some exciting transient effects and tonal color that should test your pickup's high frequency response, not to mention that of your tweeters. RT-206 (Handel's Water Music Suite; Aria from Concerto Grosso no. 12; Bach's Air for the G String; Pachelbel's Canon in D) is no less aurally interesting for its treatment of less overtly sensational music via the digital-dbx process.
The Varese Sarabande offering (VCDM 1000.10) and the Chalfont album (SDG-301) both feature Morton Gould conducting the London Symphony, and both of these were originally taped by the Soundstream digital system which, judging from the results, may have a slight edge on other digital taping systems in terms of ambience (the Telarc recording of the Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra/Murray rendition of the Saint-Saens Organ Symphoney, described here recently, also was made from a Soundstream Digital tape). Or it may be a matter of how the microphones were placed. Whatever, the new Morton Gould releases abound in stunning sonics played by one of the world's top-ranking orchestras. The Varese Sarabande album contains Gould's Latin-American Symphonette, the Cotillion from "Fall River Legend"; a world premiere recording of Festive Music; the Philharmonic Waltzes; "Quickstep" from Symphony on Marching Tunes. The Chalfont album includes the Festive Overture of Shostakovich; Ravel's Bolero; the complete Estancia Ballet Suite of Ginastera; and the Polka and Fugue from "Schwanda" by Weinberger. To be sure, most of this music is familiar to many listeners, but I doubt that anyone has heard recordings of it that sound as realistic.
For a sample of how traditional chamber music might sound when given the digital treatment (no dbx encoding this time), there's a Telarc release (Stereo DG 10046) of Chausson's Concerto for Piano, Violin, and String Quartet played by Lorin Maazel, violin, Israela Margalit, piano, and Messrs. Majeske, Goldschmidt, Bernon and Geber, who comprise the Cleveland Orchestra String Quartet. From Japan there's a Denon album (OX-7131-ND) of the Prague String Quartet performing the Borodin Quartet No. 2 and the Prokofiev Quartet No. 2. While the playing of the Borodin is not as fluid as that found in an earlier London album (STS-15046) done by the group known as the Borodin Quartet, the new version does sound ultra-clean and boasts remarkable "presence." The first of the newly launched Mastersound discs from CBS that I have heard is the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony performed by the N.Y. Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein (IM 35854). Initial reaction is to credit the sound with a better overall spectral balance (less sense of high-frequency boost) than was apparent in many of CBS' former releases. Bass and ambience are good, though not quite as full as on some other recent super discs.