This London UK pressing from 1967 has excellent sound on both sides. Some of what we’ve always liked about Decca/London from the period (mid- to late-’60s, in this case 1967) can be heard on this pressing: transparency; the texture on the strings; the natural timbre of the instruments.
These London pressings are quite hard to find in our experience. The music is wonderful throughout, perhaps the reason that so few of these have found their way to the record bins here in L.A.
Here Mehta is conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, not to be confused with the recordings he made in Los Angeles with the L.A. Philharmonic in Royce Hall.
A Word about Mehta and the L.A. Phil
Unlike many audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them, we have never been impressed by the recordings Zubin Mehta made with the L.A. Philharmonic.
In a review of another Mehta recording, we noted:
They almost always suffer from exactly the same problems that we heard on this album. We had about five copies on hand in preparation for a shootout, some of which I had noted seemed to sound fine, but once we listened more critically we started to hear the problems that eventually caused us to abandon the shootout and give away the stock to our good customers for free.
The exceptionally rare copy of Mehta’s Planets can sound good, but 90% of them do not — just don’t make the mistake of telling that to the average audiophile who owns one. Harry told him it was the best, he paid good money for it, and until someone tells him different it had better be “the one Planets to own.”
We see one of our roles here at Better Records as being the guys who actually will “tell you different,” and, more importantly, can back up our opinions with the records that support our case.
This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review
Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.
We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)
We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.
Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.
As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.
The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.
Commentary on Les Préludes
by Dr. Richard E. Rodda
Les Préludes, the most popular of Liszt’s thirteen symphonic poems, had its beginning in 1844, when the composer met the French poet Joseph Autran in Marseilles at a banquet in Liszt’s honor. Within days, Liszt set one of Autran’s poems, Les Aquilons (“The Winds”), for mixed chorus and piano; this work was performed by a local chorus almost before the ink had dried. Liszt set three further of Autran’s poems – Les Flots (“The Oceans”), Les Astres (“The Stars”) and La Terre (“The Earth”) while on tour in Spain the following year. In 1848, Liszt, having made a study of orchestration during the intervening years, tried his new-found skill in an overture called The Four Elements to preface the quartet of vocal compositions set to Autran’s verses. Three years later (by which time the overture had been rechristened Symphonic Meditations), Autran sent Liszt his Poèmes de la Mer. Reading these verses recalled to Liszt his earlier pieces inspired by the poet and, referring to the overture and four choruses, he replied, “We will do something with it one fine day.” Between 1852 and 1854, Liszt, indeed, did something with it — he completely recomposed the overture as a symphonic poem, and presented it in 1854 under the title Les Préludes.
During the revision process, Liszt discovered that a long, meditative poem by the French writer and statesman Alphonse de Lamartine evoked emotions similar to those he envisioned in his music. It was from the title of Lamartine’s poem – Les Préludes from the collection entitled Nouvelles méditations poétiques – that Liszt derived the name for his new work. Though the words have little more in common with the music than a general sharing of contrasting sentiments (love–war), Liszt chose to preface the published score with his prose interpretation of the original poem:
What else is life but a series of preludes to that unknown hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death? Love is the enchanted dawn of all existence; but what fate is there whose first delights of happiness are not interrupted by some storm, whose fine illusions are not dissipated by some mortal blast, consuming its altar as though by a stroke of lightning? And what cruelly wounded soul, issuing from one of these tempests, does not endeavor to solace its memories in the calm serenity of rural life? Nevertheless, man does not resign himself for long to the enjoyment of that beneficent warmth which he first enjoyed in Nature’s bosom, and when the ‘trumpet sounds the alarm’ he takes up his perilous post, no matter what struggle calls him to its ranks, that he may recover in combat the full consciousness of himself and the entire possession of his powers.
Liszt was the originator of the “symphonic poem,” a one-movement orchestral composition whose music bears a relationship to a literary work, painting, historical event, legend, topographical feature or some other extra-musical stimulation. The symphonic poem, a genre later enthusiastically adopted by many other composers, is sectional in design, with frequent borrowing from such traditional forms as the sonata and rondo. Les Préludes loosely resembles a sonata form. It opens with a slow introduction which presents the work’s principal theme. Much of the music that follows grows from transformations of this germinal melody. The theme is presented in a bold, vigorous version by trombones to begin the sonata form proper, and is soon joined by a swaying, complementary melody sung by the horns. The “development” section contains sentiments first martial, then loving, and finally pastoral. The “recapitulation” is devoted mostly to the lyrical complementary theme. The brilliant coda, a grand, heroic transformation of the main theme again led by the trombones and tuba, brings Les Préludes to a stirring close.
Liszt: Preludes – Symphonic Poem No. 3
Wagner: Lohengrin – Prelude To Act 1
Wagner: Prelude To Act 3
Wagner: Parsifal – Prelude
Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg – Prelude