On some copies of this album the strings are dry, lacking the full measure of Tubey Magic we know the tape to have. This is decidedly not our sound, although we’ve heard if often enough, having played hundreds of vintage Decca and London pressings over the years.
If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do.
Our 17D3 is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard. While it certainly makes our shootouts much easier, it does bring out the flaws in all but the best pressings — exactly the job we require it to do.
Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.
With a sonic grade of A++, the sound is glorious, with practically all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving. The presentation is shockingly three-dimensional, with an exceptionally wide and deep stage. The orchestral sound is rich and sweet, yet the guitar is clear and immediate. Managing to balance — so effortlessly — two dissimilar elements such as these, in 1959 no less, requires an enormous amount of skill and effort. Fifty-odd years later, those of us with good turntables are profoundly thankful for their achievement, in terms of both performance and sound.
If you were only to be allowed one Guitar Concerto recording, this would probably be the one to own. You will recognize the main theme instantly; it’s the one Miles Davis appropriated for the astonishingly innovative Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans which came out the following year in 1960.
Side One – Guitar Concerto: “Concerto De Aranjuez” (1939)
A++, including all the qualities we discussed above, with an especially immediate and real solo guitar.
With a bit more top end extension this side would have been White Hot. It should be noted that no Decca or London copy in our shootout had as much top end as we would have liked on the Rodrigo, a fault perhaps in the recording?
Side Two – Fantasìa Para Un Gentilhombre (1954)
A++, equally good in its own way. Rich and lush strings, but slightly veiled compared to side one. So musical and analog, although, like many concerto recordings, the guitar is much larger in the soundfield of the recording than it would be in the concert hall.
The music is reminiscent of Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, for those of you familiar with the work (a longtime resident of the TAS List. Wish we could find them!).