Holst / British Band Classics Vol. 1 / Fennell – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

More British Band Classics Vol. 1 / Fennell

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This RARE Super Hot Stamper Mercury Mono original pressing has the kind of BIG, LIVELY, tonally correct sound that not one out of fifty mono records we play can lay claim to. If more mono records sounded like this one I wouldn’t be so down on mono all the time.

But they don’t. Most mono records sound SMALL. When you have big speakers, set far apart and far from the back wall, in a pretty good sized room, small is just not the sound you want to hear! Especially when it comes to classical music. I want a front row seat, and this record is a first class ticket to one. 

This is the kind of recording that brought Mercury fame for its Living Presence sound.

Side One

A++, so present and lively and clear. Not all the top end extension I would have liked, but the tonality is Right On The Money (ROTM) and you don’t hear many classical records that are this right. It’s not lacking in space or depth; it just lacks width, left to right.

Thankfully it also avoids many of the problems we hear with Golden Age Classical recordings — it’s not shrill, hard, recessed or congested.

Side Two

A+ sound, big and bold but suffering from some smear, hardness and congestion. The music is so good you may not mind the recording’s shortcomings though!

Superb Music

The music by Holst and Vaughan Williams is superb. If you like British Band Classics Volume 2, one of the all time great Mercury Stereo recordings, this is a Must-Own record as well. It was my personal copy, but when do I have time to play my own records these days? Let’s find it a nice home where it can do some music loving audiophile good.

The First Classical Record I Bought as an Audiophile

Incidentally, British Band Classics Volume Two was the first Mercury LP I ever bought. After hearing it at an audiophile friend’s house, I went down to Tower Records and found it in the bin. I think the price was $3.99 for the Golden Import pressing, which of course was the only one available. That was what I had heard, so I had no idea that the original even existed, let alone sounded better and would one day sell for many hundreds of dollars. This was in the ’70s, when you could walk into a record store and buy new records, and long before HP created a feeding frenzy for vintage Mercs.

As I’m writing this, I can picture myself in the store. I can still remember that the clerk who helped me find the record commented that I should have come in the week before when the record was on sale for $1 off. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth that day. This album went on to become one of my personal treasures. I used to marvel at the way the wind instruments actually sounded like the pipes of an organ. (I wasn’t really sure at first that there wasn’t an organ playing somewhere on the record. I didn’t know much about classical music then. )

When I went to England a number of years ago I attended a wind band concert in the park not far from Buckingham Palace. Out in the open the sound was very sweet but dull — apparently high frequencies dissipate in the open air. It was one of my early lessons in audio. Live sound is not always what it’s cracked up to be, and recorded sound can be amazing — on the right stereo with the right pressing of the right recording.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Holst – Suite No. 2 in F
Williams – Folk Song Suite

Side Two

Williams – Toccata Marziale
Holst – Suite No. 1 in E Flat