96kHz/24-bit, FLAC; Decca 483 2320 (supplied by www.highresaudio.com)

The time when the Manfred Symphony was cut (Toscanini, Kletzki) or worse, cut and pasted (Ahronovitch), has long gone; and it now seems it was Balakirev who first suggested replacing harmonium with organ in the finale – which nearly all conductors do (Markevitch excepted). In this marvellous recording from Prague’s ample Rudolfinum it’s the way Bychkov integrates all those finale episodes and flashbacks into a coherent whole that impresses most. Back in 1972 a HFN editorial review suggested that Decca’s earlier VPO/Maazel version ‘would be unlikely to be surpassed’ as an orchestral recording – but it clearly is by this one over 45 years later! Bychkov’s is a powerfully dramatic account with a glowing richness missing from Pletnev’s cooler Pentatone Manfred with the Russian National Orchestra, which we also reviewed in this section [Album Choice, HFN Jun ’14]. CB

Sound Quality: 90%

Hi-Fi News Lab Report

Digital throughout (recording, mixing and mastering) and mercifully free of obvious distortion or compression, this file still shows some low-level (<–80dBFs) spuriae, particularly 20kHz-48kHz. Slightly untidy then, but inaudible. PM