Top Engineers – James Lock

Perhaps This Explains Why This Decca Reissue Sounds So Good

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Music of Claude Debussy

This Decca reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. James Lock was the engineer for these sessions from 1955 to 1962 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall, and his work here is superb in all respects.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s, 1972 to be exact.

We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the mediocre-at-best modern mastering of today.

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these superb sides.

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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Bach – The Musical Offering / Münchinger

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

  • A superb Decca stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This recording is from 1976, more than a decade later than the one we recently offered on London from this conductor — the sound holds up though
  • Engineered by the brilliant James Lock at Schloss Ludwigsburg palace in Germany, you can feel the cool air of the recording venue
  • Karl Münchinger understands this music and makes it come alive – the Decca engineers are of course a big help too

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Strauss et al. / Dances of Old Vienna / Boskovsky

More Johann Strauss

Wow, what a find! This is a WONDERFUL sounding record with vintage Decca / London sound. Even as late as 1968 Decca was still able to produce recordings that are tonally correct from top to bottom and full of tubey magic. There is not a trace of hyped-up sound to be found on this record. It’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional, with depth to rival any recording you may own.

One reason the recording is as spacious as it is is that this is a fairly small ensemble, not a huge orchestra, playing in a lively hall, exactly the kind of hall in which this music was meant to be heard. The reason everything disc sounds right is that both the sound and the music are authentic to these works in practically every detail.

And the performances are vivid and lively as well, with Boskovsky himself playing the violin as well as directing the other players. It should be noted that the solo violin parts are especially lovely sounding. There is a transparency and ease to the sound that is not often heard in vintage recordings, and that, coupled with the tubey magic, richness and sweetness found throughout, make this a very special record indeed. (more…)

Prokofiev / Scythian Suite & The Prodigal Son – Ansermet – Reviewed in 2006

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

This is a London Whiteback LP with SUPERB SOUND on both sides. It’s immediate, dynamic, very low distortion, spacious, and relatively sweet.

The bass deserves special mention here. You rarely hear recordings from the ’50s and early ’60s, the kind of LPs that were mastered with tubes of course, having this kind of truly deep punchy bass. As this album was recorded in ’67 and mastered relatively soon thereafter, the cutting equipment capable of inscribing deep bass onto a slab of vinyl was widely available. For this piece of music it’s almost mandatory to get good solid low end.  (more…)

Stravinsky / Le Sacre du Printemps – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Stravinsky

Sonic Grade: ?

We used to think this was one of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

Having recently played the London pressing of the same performance, cut by Decca of course, we think we almost certainly wrong about the quality of the sound, but who knows? Maybe Speakers Corner remastered the record properly and fixed its shortcomings?

Hah, just joking. In our experience that has never happened and we think it is very unlikely that it ever will.

Years ago we wrote the following:

Wow! What a performance! What dynamic full bodied sound! To be fair, I pulled out my original London, one of those awful mid-’70s English pressings that are never quiet, and yes, some of the ambience on the original is missing here on the new version, but everything else seems right: dynamics, tonality, the frequency extremes (including some pretty awesome deep bass).

Some of the above could be right, the parts about the tonality and such. Speakers Corner could have added some bass and lower midrange to make the sound less thin, and taken out some of the upper midrange to make the loud passages less blary, but it certainly doesn’t solve the most serious issues we had with the recording, which is the fact that it is opaque and flat, two qualities that are the death of orchestral music on vinyl.

Here are the notes we made for the London.

The two paragraphs you see reproduced below are also full of bad advice we had given out in the past:

1. Can’t be sure we would still feel that way but I’m guessing this is a good record if you can pick one up at a cheap price. 

2. If you have a quiet original, great, consider yourself lucky. As few of you have any copy at all, I recommend this one. The alternative is to miss Solti’s energetic performance and the precision of the Chicago Symphony, one of the few orchestras capable of making sense out of this complex and infuriating work. (At least it used to infuriate audiences. Now our modern ears can take a difficult work like this and appreciate the complex rhythms and atonality as the expression of a truly original mind.

This paragraph we would still agree with wholeheartedly:

This is not music to play while you are having dinner. This is music to engage the mind fully. It belongs in any collection. Yours in fact. Unless you have small speakers, in which case you would be wasting your money, as small speakers cannot begin to reproduce the power of this work in the hands of Solti and the CSO [or anybody else for that matter].


FURTHER READING

More music conducted by Georg Solti

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Glazounov / The Seasons / Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

This London Whiteback LP (CS 6509) has a Super Hot Side Two, flowing with Decca / London richness and sweetness. As we’ve said on the site many times, the London pressings with catalog numbers that start with 6400 and 6500 are some of the best recordings we’ve ever played. 

Side two gives you that sound. There are two lovely Concert Waltzes that complete the program and they are just wonderful here, with quiet vinyl to boot. (more…)