_Conductors – Kubelik

Handel / Water Music Suite (Complete) / Kubelik / Berlin Phil

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  • A+++ on side one – dynamic, huge, rich and open. This is a DG? Yes! 
  • All three suites, and one of the best performances we know of
  • Side two is exceptionally transparent – you hear into it beautifully
  • One of the best DG recordings we have ever played, a true Demo Disc

The performance here by the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Rafael Kubelik is currently a favorite, owing in large part to the fact that it has the kind of sound I find the most natural and enjoyable. With White Hot and Super Hot stampers respectively, this copy is right up there with the best recordings of the Water Music we’ve heard.

This is of course a well-known, well-respected performance by one of the greatest orchestras in the world, the home to Von Karajan at the time. We went through an elimination round for the work a while back, winnowing a large number of recordings down to those that had the best sound, regardless of performance, and we are happy to say that this one acquitted itself beautifully on all counts.

We audiophiles want the music we play to sound its best, a requirement which more often than not involves compromises of one kind or another. We managed to find three (!) recordings that had both superb sound and top quality performances. On the best pressings all were of Demo Disc quality, and most were pressed on very quiet vinyl. (more…)

Dvorak / Symphony No. 9 – An Overview of Mehta’s, Kertesz’s and Kubelik’s Recordings

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An Overview

We got off to a rough start with this piece of music. The early pressings we played were often sonically uninspiring, and that’s being charitable.

  • The London Blueback pressings with Kubelik (CS 6020) that we had thought were competitive with some of the better recordings we had on hand turned out to be generally disappointing. The strings were often hard and shrill, the overall sound crude and full of tube smear. These Londons cost us a pretty penny owing to the very high quality condition we require them to be in for our shootouts. All that time, effort and money was in the end for naught. A big chunk of dough was headed down the drain.
  • The Stereo Treasury pressing of this same performance sounded better to us than any of the Bluebacks we played but far from competitive with the recordings we ended up preferring.
  • The Londons and Deccas from 1967 with Kertesz conducting the LSO also left much to be desired sonically. After hearing the 9th on both London and Decca, we did a quick needle drop on the other symphonies from the complete cycle that Kertesz conducted and concluded that none of them were worth our time. The trade-in pile was growing ever taller.
  • Then some good news came our way when we dropped the needle on the Decca/London recording with Mehta and the LA Phil. Our best London sounded shockingly good, much better than the one Decca pressing we had on hand. His 8th Symphony (CS 6979) is also quite good by the way. This is surprising because we rarely like anything by Mehta and the LA Phil. from this period — the recording in question is from 1975 — but of course we are happy to be surprised when they sound as good as the ones we played.

The one that seemed to us to be the best balance of sound and performance was conducted by Istvan Kertesz, but not with the LSO. His recording with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1961, his debut for Decca as a matter of fact, is the one that ended up winning our shootout of a dozen pressings or so. (more…)