Labels We Love – Decca/London

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)

(more…)

The Rolling Stones / Out of Our Heads – Mono or Reprocessed Stereo?

More Rolling Stones

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On this London LP, even though it says the record is electronically re-processed into stereo, the songs we heard on side one were dead mono.

So much for believing what you read on album covers. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Nutcracker Suite / Karajan – Reviewed in 2005

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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This import pressing has some astonishing qualities, qualities we are not used to hearing on vintage Golden Age recordings such as this (or or any other recordings, truth be told). This 1964 release — our pressing is the whiteback reissue, which we tend to prefer — has 3-D-like clarity and spaciousness that we could hardly believe. The stage is DEEP and you can hear all the way to the back of it. The width of the stage is dramatically wider than practically any record I can remember playing in the last year or two. I felt as though my listening room got bigger when playing this record.

And the dynamics are explosive. This pressing can really get LOUD when it wants to.

In some respects it’s hard to beat. But not, alas, hard to fault.

It lacks weight down low, whomp as we like to call it.

The details: (more…)

Rodrigo / Guitar Concerto / Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre / Argenta / de Burgos

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Rodrigo - Concierto De Aranjuez / Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre / Argenta / de Burgos - Super Hot Stamper

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful classical guitar masterpiece with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound here is glorious, brimming with the wonderful qualities that make listening to classical music in analog on top quality equipment so involving and pleasurable
  • The sound of the orchestra is as rich and sweet as would be expected from the Decca engineers, yet the guitar is clear, present and appropriately placed at the center of the ensemble surrounding it

If you were only to be allowed one Guitar Concerto recording, the Concierto De Aranjuez 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.

The second picture in this listing is the original London, CS 6046, from which the piece is taken. It is a longtime member of the TAS List, and deservedly so. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet – Not the Sound or the Performance You Want

More Recordings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

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In our experience this is not the recording of the work to buy, on either Decca or London. Of the two recordings by Ansermet, we much prefer the one made with the Suisse Romande to that of the Paris Conservatoire.

We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had shown potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet.

This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is a year later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually any area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way Ansermet’s performance is the one for me. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Swan Lake Highlights / Fistoulari

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

 Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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  • Amazing White Hot Stamper Decca sound on both sides, top performance too
  • The first copy to make it to the site, and it’s as quiet as Decca can press it
  • So transparent, sweet, open and relaxed, this copy raises the bar for the sound of ballet music
  • The most popular ballet in the world with out of this world analog sound — it’s a match!

This London UK import may be the best single disc version of the ballet we have ever played. The Ansermet is surely comparable but I find it hard to believe that it could be any better. This is the one folks, assuming you do not want a (nearly) complete performance of the work. (For that we recommend the 2 LP box set with Ansermet.)

Side One

Lovely string tone and texture, rich bass, a big hall, no smear, lovely transparency — the sound is White Hot and hard to fault.

Highlights of the recording on this side:

Huge bass.

A clear snare at the back of the hall, a good test of transparency (of the record and of your system and room).

Full horns and strings, never becoming blary or shrill.

Huge space.

How many records have all these qualities, one out of a hundred? (more…)

Finlandia – The Music of Sibelius and Grieg / Mackerras

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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  • A KILLER copy of Finlandia with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Both sides are big, rich, transparent, spacious and dynamic – no Heavy Vinyl pressing can do what this record is doing
  • Yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago
  • These spectacular works are played with feeling – we know of no better performance or better sound

Yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1961 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from the early-’70s, 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.

The brass is HUGE and POWERFUL. Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Mackerras is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)

The opening track on side two, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music. Mackerras and the London Proms make it magical.

You can be pretty sure of two things when you hear a record of this quality: one, the original won’t sound as good, having been cut on cruder equipment.

And two, no modern recutting of the tapes (by the likes of Speakers Corner for example, but you can substitute any company you fancy) could begin to capture this kind of naturalistic orchestral sound. (more…)

Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture / Marche Slave and More / Alwyn

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – this Decca recording of the 1812 from 1958 is the only one we know of that can show you the power of Live Music for this important work
  • This UK pressing is BIG, lively, clear, open and resolving of musical information like no copy of the 1812 you’ve heard
  • The two coupling pieces, Marche Slave and the Capriccio Italien, also have rich, powerful, weighty brass and lower strings
  • The most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of – we encourage you to compare this to the best orchestral recording in your collection and let the chips fall where they may

There is some noticeable low frequency rumble under the quietest passages of the music for those of you with the big woofers to hear it!

The lower strings are rich and surrounded by lovely hall space. This is not a sound one hears on record often enough and it is glorious when a pressing as good as this one can help make that sound clear to you.

The string sections from top to bottom are shockingly rich and sweet — this pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago.

The 1958 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, 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. (more…)

Beethoven – Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) – Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Classical Recordings

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  • With solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides, this is an outstanding find from our recent shootout
  • The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely
  • Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is almost nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There
  • Recorded in Geneva’s exquisite Victoria Hall in 1959, this is a top performance from Ansermet and the Suisse Romande, the best we know of

In our opinion this is the best sounding Beethoven 6th Symphony ever recorded. It is the most beautiful of them all, and has long been my personal favorite of the nine Beethoven composed.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least. It’s 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 weight and power of the brass and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat none of them, will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds. Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.

The texture on the strings is captured perfectly; this is, by the way, an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely. We have discussed this subject extensively on the site. The “rosin on the horsehair” is a sound that is apparently impossible to encode on modern vinyl. (more…)

Mendelssohn / Symphony No. 4 / Ansermet

More Mendelssohn

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Demo quality. This record has the same kind of amazing sound as the Chabrier disc on London, but it’s much more rare. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better Mendelssohn 4th.

It even beats the excellent Solti on Blueback, which of course is much more common. Hard to imagine a better sounding record than this and the music is wonderful as well.