_Conductors – Maag

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 – Adjusting the VTA to Achieve Correct String Tonality

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More VTA Advice

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When your VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate are correct, this is the record that will make it clear to you that your efforts have paid off.

What to listen for you ask? With the proper adjustment the harmonics of the strings will sound extended and correct. And you can’t really know how right it can sound until you go through hours of experimentation with all the forces that affect the way the needle rides the groove.

Without precise VTA adjustment there is almost no way this record will do everything it’s capable of doing. There will be hardness, smear, sourness, thinness — something will be off somewhere. With total control over your arm and cartridge setup, these problems will all but vanish. (Depending on the quality of the equipment of course.)

We harp on all aspects of record reproduction for a reason. When you have done the work, pressings such as this one are simply GLORIOUS.

Whatever Happened to Decca’s Famously Rich, Rosiny Strings?

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play, it’s an art that is not lost on us.

It’s also 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.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many Golden Age records.

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


Mozart – Clarinet and Horn Concertos / Maag

More of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

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  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful classical release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, clear, present and transparent, with a HUGE bottom end, you better believe that this is some Demo Disc sound
  • Both sides are open, high-rez, and spacious, with depth like you will not believe and some of the least shrill string reproduction we have ever heard for this music (which is the main problem we run into on the album)

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Mendelssohn – A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Maag

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

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  • This classical masterpiece finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • A spectacular Demo Disc Quality Orchestral recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic
  • The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons simply cannot be equaled
  • Maag’s performance here is famous, and widely considered definitive

Audiophiles have known of this record’s sublime sonic qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly natural recordings such as this one.

Speakers Corner did a reissue of this record on heavy vinyl, which was quite good — too fat in the mid-bass but otherwise acceptable. It sure doesn’t;t sound like this though! This is the real thing. You won’t find too many 180 gram records that sound like this one, if you can find any. (more…)

Rossini – Overtures / Maag

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  • With a BETTER than Triple Plus (A+++ to A++++) side two and a side one that earned a very respectable grade of Double Plus (A++), the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • Wilkie’s Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s Rossini is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

*NOTE: On side two, a light crackle is audible on the first minute and during the early quiet intro to Track 1, Semiramide Overture. Afterwards, the record plays about as quiet as they ever do, Mint Minus Minus.

Please note: we award the More Than Three Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we called it A+++ to A++++!

We award this copy’s side two our better than Three Plus grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

The reason we called side two More Than Three Pluses is that of the eight or so copies we had in our shootout, no other copy on either side sounded as good as side two of this copy. We play a lot of classical records around here and this one really stood out from the pack as a true One Percenter.

Maag breathes life into these works as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

Everyone needs a good Rossini Overtures – the music is exciting and fun, not to mention Demonstration Quality on a pressing such as this. The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons could not be equaled. Gamba on London was much too sleepy for our tastes, and the famous Reiner on RCA left a lot to be desired. It’s mid-hall perspective and dynamic compression took all the fun out of this music. After hearing the killer Maag pressings, nothing else would do!

Note that the orchestra is none other than the Paris Conservatoire, whose playing of the famously demanding Stravinsky Rite of Spring, under Monteux (LSC 2085), is absolutely stunning as well. (more…)

Mozart/ Symphony 32 & 38/ Maag

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An exceptionally QUIET copy for an early Blueback pressing. The sound is old-fashioned Decca, which seems to suit this music quite well. The hall is reverberant, as it would have been in Mozart’s day, and the perspective is mid-hall. The string tone is excellent. Some of the louder passages might be a bit strained, but overall the sound is correct for this music. 

Maag and the LSO are of course Mozart experts and the performances here do not disappoint. A rare title and a lovely one.

Mendelssohn/ A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Mono with Maag – Reviewed in 2004

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London mono original Radio Promotion Copy with DEMO QUALITY SOUND!

Another winner on the early London FFRR Red Label. Maag’s performance here is famous, if not definitive. Audiophiles have known of this record”s qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly natural recordings such as this one.

Speakers corner did a reissue of this record on heavy vinyl which was quite good — too fat in the mid bass but otherwise acceptable. It sure doesn’t sound like this though! This is the real thing! You won’t find too many 180 gram records that sound like this one. (If you can find any.)

Here is the commentary I wrote for the Coppelia mono pressing. The same insights hold true.

This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don’t need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good — in fact, how much better — this copy sounds than the stereo pressing.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of the power of the orchestra, vcs 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about. That was ten [twenty five by now] years ago. Since then many high end mono cartridges have come on the market, specifically to bring out that sound.

But I don’t have a mono cartridge, and I sure don’t need one to hear how good this record sounds. Everything is right on the money. And of course with Ansermet, ballet conductor extraordinaire, you can be sure the performance is of the highest calibre. A top recommendation from better records.

By the way, there’s a good reason why London makes such good mono records. They ran a separate microphone feed into a monophonic tape recorder for their mono recordings, well into the stereo era in fact. Mercury did also, which is why many Mercury monos have excellent sound. RCA, on the other hand, frequently took the three-track master tape and simply mixed it to mono for their mono releases, which explains why a minority of RCA monos have good sound.

London knew how to do it right and the results speak for themselves.

Today’s Bad Sounding Reissue Is Decca SPA 503!

Apparently mastered with no regard to sound quality, this Decca SPA reissue is muddy, dull and smeary.

How do we know that? We go out of our way to play every pressing we can get our hands on, even cheap reissues such as this. That’s our job.  We play everything so you don’t have to.

Some of them are good, some of them are mediocre, and some, like this one, are ridiculously bad.

We know this music well, having done shootouts for these works. They are Demonstration Quality recordings if you have the right import pressings on Decca or London, and the performances are second to none.

More reviews of the recordings of Mendelssohn

More reviews of records conducted by Peter Maag.

Rossini / Overtures with Maag – The Best on Record

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a side two that’s not far behind, the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • This Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s William Tell is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

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It’s Records Like This that Give Reissues a Bad Reputation

Apparently mastered with no regard to sound quality, this Decca SPA reissue is muddy, dull and smeary.

How do we know that? We go out of our way to play every pressing we can get our hands on, even cheap reissues such as this. That’s our job.  We play everything so you don’t have to.

Some of them are good, some of them are mediocre, and some, like this one, are ridiculously bad.

We know this music well, having done shootouts for all four of these works. They are Demonstration Quality recordings if you have the right import pressings on Decca or London, and the performances are second to none.

More reviews of the recordings of Rossini

More reviews of the recordings of Mendelssohn

Mozart’s Wonderful Clarinet Concerto on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca reissue.

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90 when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

One of the best of the Deccas. I raved about this one years ago when it came out. If I had to pick a record to demonstrate how wonderful Decca recordings are, musically and sonically, this would be an easy choice. (more…)