The original RCA Living Stereo pressings we played in our 2014 shootout were not competitive with the best Deccas and London reissues.
In our experience with Finlandia, not so much.
The record you see above is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1961 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from the early-’70s, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.
Correct from top to bottom, and there are not many records we can say that about. So natural in every way.
The brass is HUGE and POWERFUL on this side. Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Mackerras is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)
The brass is big and clear and weighty, just the way it should be, as that is precisely the sound you hear in the concert hall, especially that part about being clear: live music is more than anything else completely clear. We should all strive for that sound in our reproduction of orchestral music.
The opening track on side one, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music. Mackerras and the London Proms make it magical.
The richness on this side is awesome. So 3-D, with depth and transparency to rival any recording you may own.
You can be pretty sure of two things when you hear a record of this quality: one, the original won’t sound as good, having been cut on cruder equipment.
And two, no modern recutting of the tapes (by the likes of Speakers Corner for example, but you can substitute any company you care to choose) could begin to capture this kind of naturalistic orchestral sound.
I have never heard a Heavy Vinyl pressing begin to do what this record is doing. The Decca we have here may be a budget reissue pressing, but it was mastered by real Decca engineers (a few different ones in fact), pressed in England on high quality vinyl, and from fairly fresh tapes (nine years old, not fifty years old!), then mastered about as well as a record can be mastered. The sound is, above all, REAL and BELIEVABLE.
The brass has weight, the top extends beautifully for those glorious cymbal crashes, the hall is huge and the staging very three-dimensional — there is little to fault in the sound on either side.