Miklós Rózsa – Quo Vadis (Music From the Film)

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More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This London Phase 4 Stereo pressing boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one 
  • These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
  • This 1978 re-recording of Rózsa’s original work for the 1951 film, here performed by the Royal Philharmonic in glorious orchestral sound
  • The Decca pressing is on the TAS Super Disc List, but as readers of this site know all too well, that Decca is very unlikely to be competitive with one of our White Hot Stamper pressings
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Rózsa gets spirited performances out of the orchestra and the chorus, but with the latter he also achieves a level of subtlety in their performance of his work which greatly enhances the finale to the piece.”

This vintage London Phase 4 pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Quo Vadis Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For On Quo Vadis

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

Marcus And Lygia
Fertility Hym
The Burning Of Rome
Petronius’ Banquet, Meditation And Death
Ave Caesar

Side Two

Chariot Chase
Assyrian Dance
Aftermath (Death Of Peter: Death Of Poppaea: Nero’s Suicide)
Hail Galba

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Miklós Rózsa’s music for the 1951 movie Quo Vadis is one of his most elusive major scores. It was among the earliest of his MGM scores to be released as a commercially available soundtrack LP — a 10″ album on MGM Records, around the time of the movie’s release — but the master to that album was apparently destroyed in a studio fire, which explains why it was never reissued on any subsequent 12″ vinyl compilations of the composer’s early soundtracks. And unlike his later music for Ben-Hur, which took on something of a life of its own, the score for Quo Vadis never quite lingered in the music catalogs of subsequent decades — perhaps because the movie itself, although successful, was no Ben-Hur; the latter played off around the world for years after its 1959 release, and was a major “event” film when shown on network television, even as late as the early ’70s, a status that Quo Vadis never enjoyed.

But in 1978, Decca/London released a pair of Rózsa re-recordings of his own work, of his music from Ben-Hur and his score for Quo Vadis, the former with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the latter with the Royal Philharmonic. This isn’t the complete music from Quo Vadis, but the 40 minutes on this album does represent the dozen major cues from the movie, and in glittering stereo sound. Rózsa gets spirited performances out of the orchestra and the chorus, but with the latter he also achieves a level of subtlety in their performance of his work which greatly enhances the finale to the piece. Elsewhere, the orchestra generates blood and thunder everywhere required of it — one of the reasons for the popularity of Rózsa’s religious film scores is that they’re about as exciting as they are uplifting, and as the conductor here he guides the orchestra to a peak of drama in the playing.

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