Beethoven’s Symphony #6 with Ansermet – Our Favorite for Performance and Sound

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Beethoven / Symphony #6 (Pastoral) / Ansermet

    • With Double Plus (A++) or better grades on both sides, this is a wonderful find from our first shootout in two years
    • The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely
    • Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is almost nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There
    • Recorded in Geneva’s exquisite Victoria Hall in 1959, this is a top performance from Ansermet and the Suisse Romande, the best we know of

Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat none of them, will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds. Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.

The texture on the strings is captured perfectly; this is by the way an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely. We have discussed this subject extensively on the site. The “rosin on the horsehair” is a sound that is apparently impossible to encode on modern vinyl.

Other Pressings

The best pressings from Readers Digest set with Leibowitz conducting were very good but no match for Ansermet and the legendary Orchestre De La Suisse Romande and the lovely Victoria Hall in which they recorded.

We have liked Monteux on RCA for the 6th in the past. We do not believe the best pressings are competitive with this London.

The ’60s Decca/London cycle with Schmidt-Isserstedt and the Vienna Phil has always sounded flat and modern to us on every pressing we’ve played.

Production and Engineering

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from October of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. Released in 1960, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, perhaps of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound that goes beyond all the other recordings we have played, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

 

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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