The original RCA Living Stereo pressings we played in our 2014 shootout were not competitive with the best Deccas and London reissues.
Is the original the best way to go? In our experience with Finlandia, not so much.
The budget Decca reissue you see here 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 tapes have been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, 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. [Not true, see Two Things below.)
When you hear how good this record sounds, you may have a hard time believing that it’s a budget reissue from 1970, but that’s precisely what it is.
Even more extraordinary, the right copies are the ones that win shootouts
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.
When you hear a record of this quality, you can be pretty sure of two things: one, the original is unlikely to sound as good, having been cut on cruder equipment.
[I no longer subscribe to this view. There are many original pressings mastered in the ’50s that are as hi-rez and undistorted as anything made after them.]
Live and Learn, I say.
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. [Mostly still true.]
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.
- Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records
- Classical – “Sleeper” Top Quality Recordings
- Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound
- Classical – Demo Disc Quality Recordings
- Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection
- Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection available on our site