Tchaikovsky / Swan Lake – Fistoulari Conducts Our Favorite Recording of the Highlights

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

Kenneth Wilkinson engineered this album for Decca in 1961, and, as usual, he did a great job.

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 timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

Highlights of the recording include huge amounts of bass; a clear snare at the back of the hall (a good test for transparency, of both the record and of your system and room); full-bodied horns and strings which never become blary or shrill; and of course huge amounts of space.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their mediocrity.)

Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.

Like Live Music

In my notes I remarked that when the music is quiet the sound is so spacious, clear, and sweet it will have you thinking you are sitting in the concert hall.

One thing live classical music does much better than any recording in my experience is that it gets very, very quiet, yet stays clear and spacious.

None of the thousands of classical recordings I have heard to date reproduce that quality completely, but this one gets awfully darn close. Other records with that live music quality can be found here.

Note that the big finale at the end of side two is loud and HUGE on this album. There is a touch of compressor overload, but no actual inner groove distortion. At first we thought the former may have indeed been the latter because we had a copy or two with chewed-up inner grooves.

This one plays clean to the end, and boy does it get loud and powerful at the climax of the work.

All the qualities we look for in a classical recording are here:

  • lovely string tone and texture,
  • rich tonality,
  • a big hall,
  • no smear,
  • superb transparency

How many classical records have all of these qualities in such abundance?

One out of a hundred? If that!


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