_Conductors – Maag

Mozart – Clarinet and Horn Concertos / Maag

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

More music conducted by Peter Maag

  • 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 ran into on the album)
  • These wonderful concertos — some of the greatest ever composed — should be part of any serious Classical Collection.
  • Others that belong in that category can be found here.
  • Kenneth Wilkinson was probably the engineer for these sessions in glorious Kingsway Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

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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

  • 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 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…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony – Opaque and Crude?

What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

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

More music conducted by Peter Maag

This is a very old listing, probably from more than ten years ago. With the improved cleaning technologies we currently use, many of these old records sound a whole lot better than they used to.

Still, there are some Deccas and Londons that we cleaned and played recently that were disappointing, and they can be found here.

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca chocolatey, rich, sweet sound. It”s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles. 

The performance here by Maag is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound. If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this London should be right up your alley.

Side One Versus Side Two

With a grade of A+ we felt that the sound was a bit opaque and crude, with some smear to the strings (which in many ways is the classic Decca sound from the era).

For more on the subject of opacity on record, click here and here.

Side two improves on the sound in all these areas.

Side two had less smear and less distortion and congestion than we heard on side one. It’s also even RICHER sounding, if such a thing is possible. More transparent too. A good balance of clarity and richness. 

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Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony / Maag

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

More music conducted by Peter Maag

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, the equal of the last Blueback pressing we listed (shown in the second picture)
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too
  • There is a rosiny texture to the strings that no record made in the last 30 years can capture, and if you don’t believe me, we offer this pressing as proof

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

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca rich, sweet sound. It’s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles.

The performance here by Peter Maag and London Symphony Orchestra is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound.

If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this Decca should be right up your alley. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which Decca recordings are justly famous. (more…)

Rossini / Overtures / Maag – The Best on Record

More of the music of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

More of Our Favorite Performances with Top Quality Sound

  • With superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, the orchestral power on display here is positively breathtaking
  • 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.”
  • More of our Favorite Performances with Top Quality sound

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…)

Mendelssohn – Adjusting the VTA to Achieve Rich, Textured String Tone

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

More VTA Advice

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 / Symphony Nos. 32 & 38 / Maag

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 caliber. 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.

Mozart’s Wonderful Clarinet Concerto on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca reissue, probably.

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.

Chopin and Delibes / Les Sylphides / Maag – Reviewed in 2005

A dynamic and excellent pressing. This record has lovely string tone. Lots of tubey magic. Not one of the rarest Londons, but certainly one of the most enjoyable.

[This is a very old commentary so take it for what it’s worth.]