Labels We Love – Decca/London/Argo

Bartok / Concerto for Orchestra / Solti

More of the music of Bela Bartok (1881-1945)

More Must Own Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • Huge hall, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard
  • The sound here is glorious, full of all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving
  • There are many great recordings of the work, and we had plenty to choose from, but for sonics and performance combined, Solti’s Decca recording from 1965 could not be beat
  • “Solti’s Concerto for Orchestra with the LSO was one of the finest of its day and remains so. Highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of Bartok’s orchestral masterpiece, this London from 1965 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • Watch out for Solti’s later recordings for Decca – they usually have an obvious shortcoming which we cannot abide when playing classical records

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

“Solti was regarded as, above all, a superb Wagnerian. His performances and countless recordings of other nineteenth century German and Austrian music were also well-regarded, as were his Verdi and his frequent forays into such twentieth century repertory as Bartók, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky.”

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Schubert / Symphony No. 9 / Krips – Hot Stampers Revealed!

Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper on your own? Easy — all the best Decca copies in our shootout had the stampers 5G/7G.

I suppose it’s only fair to point out that all the worst copies had those same stampers.

There were a few others as well — it was quite a big shootout — but most of those ended up in the middle of the pack.

And here you thought I was actually being helpful. But we are being helpful. We’re sharing with you an important truth.

Stamper numbers only tell a part of the story, and they can be very misleading, in the sense that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. To know what a record sounds like you have to play it.

This is a subject near and dear to us here at Better Records, and has been for many decades.

We discuss it at length in a commentary you may have seen on the site called The Book of Hot Stampers.

FROM OUR ORIGINAL COMMENTARY

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca is brought to life on a fairly quiet and certainly quite wonderful World of the Great Classics pressing from 1976. This copy was clearly the best we played, showing us a huge hall, with layered depth that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are remarkably rich and sweet. This pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago.

What was most striking about this shootout, our first for the Krips / LSO performance of the work, was how poorly the original London Bluebacks fared when going head to head with the best vintage reissues. In fact, they were so obviously inferior I doubt we would have even needed another pressing to know that they could not possibly be competitive.

The two we had were crude, flat, full of harmonic distortion, and both had clearly restricted frequency extremes. I remember liking the Blueback pressings I played ten or twenty years ago. Did I have better copies, or was my system not capable of showing me the shortcomings I so clearly heard this time around? Since this is a question that cannot be answered with any certainty, we’ll have to leave it there.

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Franz Schubert


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More Albums Engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson

More Stamper and Pressing Information

The Moody Blues – Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

More of The Moody Blues

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • With a wonderful combination of Tubey Magical richness and clarity, this Threshold pressing will be very hard to beat
  • Full-bodied and lush, yet not veiled or distant, this is the sound that brings the Moodies magic to life
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The best-realized of their classic albums, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was also the last of the group’s albums for almost a decade to be done under reasonably happy and satisfying circumstances — for the last time with this lineup, they went into the studio with a reasonably full song bag and a lot of ambition and brought both as far as time would allow…”

This copy had the BIG, RICH, LUSH British sound that can only be heard on the very best Moody Blues pressings.

Great-sounding Moody Blues albums don’t show up on our site too often — they’re just not that easy to come by.

Dull, veiled, boring sound is the rule, and big, rich, CLEAR sound like this the exception.

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Albeniz / Turina – Iberia / Danzas Fantasticas

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find
  • Listen to the plucked basses – clear, not smeary, with no sacrifice in richness. Take it from us, the guys that play classical recordings by the score, this is hard for a record to do!
  • Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

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Sibelius – Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjelstad

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • This Sibelius Violin Concerto has top sonics and a performance to match
  • It’s some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, right up there with our longtime favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2435)
  • One of the truly great 1958 All Tube recordings from Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty by Alan Reeve & Gordon Parry on this very disc
  • “In the easier and looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann I have not met a more original, a more masterly, and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ricci’s (as are we), this is a Must Own from 1958 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The best Shaded Dog pressings of the Heifetz performance on RCA (LSC 2435) are the equal of this London. RCA presents the violin more immediately in the soundfield. Decca’s engineers integrated the violinist into the orchestra, which of course is the way it would be heard in the concert hall. To our ears, both approaches work exceptionally well — when you have at your disposal exceptional pressings of each. We had copies of both that were Hard to Fault, which made for a very enjoyable shootout.

Note that it has been close to ten years since our last big shootout for the work. That’s how long it takes to find enough clean London, Decca and RCA pressings for recordings such as these. Noisy, second-rate copies are everywhere. Top quality early pressings in clean condition come our way less than once a year. There are literally thousands of clean, vintage classical pressing sitting in our stockroom, waiting for a few more copies to come our way so that we can finally do a shootout.

With engineering in the legendary Kingsway Hall, there is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

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 practically 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 being 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 any 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 other vintage 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 in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their unforgiveable mediocrity.)

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Schubert / Symphony No. 9 “The Great” / Krips / LSO

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More Albums Engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson

  • We guarantee you’ve never heard this powerful orchestral masterpiece sound remotely as good as it does here
  • One of the truly great All Tube Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • The 1950s master tape has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1976, 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
  • Don’t expect to ever see an original on this site – the two we had were crude, flat, full of harmonic distortion, and had clearly restricted frequency extremes
  • If you’re a fan of large symphonic works from the Romantic period, this is a Top Title from 1958 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca is brought to life on a fairly quiet and certainly quite wonderful World of the Great Classics pressing from 1976. This copy was clearly the best we played, showing us a huge hall, with layered depth that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are remarkably rich and sweet. This pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. (more…)

Smetana and Dvorak – Bohemian Rhapsody

More of the Music of Smetana

More Orchestral Spectaculars

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  • We can honestly say we have never heard these wonderfully melodic works played with more verve and skill
  • Nor have we heard any performances with better sound – this may be a budget Decca reissue, but as some of you Hot Stamper fans have discovered, it is not unusual for these later Deccas to beat the originals
  • And note that this pressing is no spring chicken — it’s almost 50 years old
  • This copy has many condition issues — if it didn’t sound as amazing as it does we wouldn’t bother listing it, but it does!
  • The original Decca and London pressings are rare and expensive, but if you one, you really owe it to yourself to hear just how good this pressing sounds
  • “The performances of The Bartered Bride extracts have all of the necessary sparkle and verve, while Kertesz’s credentials as a Dvorák conductor are second to none.”
  • Another Must Own Title from 1962. Other recommended titles from 1962 can be found here.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best-sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Grateful Dead music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This record shows off vintage Decca sound at its best. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy.

If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are so consistently unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

The richness of the strings, a signature sound for Decca in the Fifties and Sixties, is on display here for fans of the classical Golden Age. 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 practically 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. 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 clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records. (more…)

Bach – Musical Offering / Münchinger

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • An incredible London pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and fairly quiet vinyl for a pressing from its era
  • Engineered by the brilliant Roy Wallace at one of our favorite recording venues, Victoria Hall, this is the glorious sound that has not been heard on vinyl (or any other medium) for more than fifty years
  • A spectacular Demo Disc recording that is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic
  • The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this copy – if you want to know what kind of sound wins shootouts around these parts, this pressing will show you
  • It knocked us out and it is guaranteed to do the same for you

We used to sell the Speakers Corner Decca pressing back in the late ’90s. It was one of the better offerings from that reissue label, and today would probably earn a sonic grade of B or so.

There is a world of difference between a reissue — even a good one such as the Speakers Corner — and the real thing, on either Decca or London press.

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Ted Heath – Swings In High Stereo

More Ted Heath

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ted Heath

  • Kingsway Hall, Wilkinson and the Decca Tree add up to Audiophile Quality Big Band sound, on this copy anyway
  • Heath and his group play with all the energy and verve essential to this joyful Big Band music – he really does swing in high stereo
  • We consider Ted Heath’s early London recordings to be some of the best sounding big band albums ever recorded

This album has DEMO DISC SOUND like you will not believe. Just listen to Heath’s arrangement of Big Ben, the second track on side two, for Audiophile Quality Big Band sound the likes of which you may have never heard. (more…)

Bach – Brandenburg Concertos (3 LP Box Set) / Munchinger

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • A wonderful 3 LP Box Set that you will have a very hard time beating for sound or performance — all six sides earned sonic grades of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER and play about as quietly as any UK pressings from this era ever do
  • There are only two complete Brandenburgs that we like for music and sound, this Munchinger on Decca/London from 1959 and the Britten from 1969
  • When you have enough of both for a shootout, and can play them side by side, you hear the differences between 1959 and 1969, but choosing one over the other when they can both be so good is a lot harder than it sounds

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