I used to think Ansermet’s reading was ponderous, but this copy from 2013 is making me want to change my mind.
Is it more lively than others? Is the stereo that much improved since I last heard one of these Londons?
We have no way of knowing. All we do know is that we were enjoying Ansermet’s performance more than we ever had before.
The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.
The brass on this record has a power like practically no other recording of the work we know.
It’s also tonally correct. It’s not aggressive. It’s not irritating. It’s just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That’s what really caught my ear when I first played the recording.
There is a blast of brass at the end of Catacombs that is so big and real, it makes you forget you’re listening to a recording. You hear every brass instrument, full size, full weight. I still remember the night I was playing the album, good and loud of course, when that part of the work played through. It was truly startling in its power.
Some of Ansermet’s recordings with the Suisse Romande are absolutely the best I’ve ever heard. It was a magical combination of the right hall, the right engineers, the right orchestra and the right technology — the pure tube ANALOG technology of the ’50s and ’60s!