Acoustic Sounds
By: Mark Ward

November 30th, 2023



2023: The Year in Classical - What's Ahead for 2024 - plus a Holiday Gift Guide

Breaking News concerning the popular Deutsche Grammophon Original Source Series caps a big year for fans of classical music

’Tis the season - and the perfect opportunity to look back over the year in classical and film music releases, and make some gift recommendations for the classical and film music audiophile (including some ideas you may have missed).

To say it’s been a banner year for the classical music-loving audiophile is an understatement.  The Original Source Series of vinyl reissues from Deutsche Grammophon has charted new ground in every way possible, and points the way forward for other classical companies to do proper audiophile vinyl editions of their back-catalogue (no more sub-par pressings from unspecified digital sources, please).  It has been a triumph for the engineering team of Rainer Maillard and Sidney Meyer at Emil Berliner Studios (long the standard-bearer for audiophile vinyl and SACD reissues).  It has been a marketing dream for DG itself, and a huge commercial success.  At this point all titles from the first three batches are sold out, but titles from batch #4 are still available. Currently one more batch of titles is coming out in the new year.

However, a couple of issues related to these reissues have been percolating in the audiophile community which I wanted to address here.

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS! (and a Tracking Angle Exclusive!):

For this year-end summary I had already written something about the need for represses of this series, and repeated my plea for DG to do something about this, when I and MF got an email from Johannes Gleim at DG.  (Johannes is the Director of the Heritage division at DG).  He told us the wonderful news that DG will be repressing the first batch of the series (reviewed here).  These records will be identical to the original releases, except they will not be numbered copies.

As far as these represses of batch #1 are concerned, I quote from Herr Gleim’s email:

“The official release date is 16th February for all retailers, but it will have a pre-release in our D2C-Shop on 21st December here, and the pre-order for that will start on Friday 1st December when the product will be made available again.”

I am so glad that DG listened to the fans of this series!

Less happily, there remains a second issue of price.  It has not gone unnoticed that with the latest batch of releases, the retail price has crept up.  In my original review of the first batch I mentioned that I thought the OSS titles were priced fairly in comparison to other AAA reissues, like the Tone Poet Jazz series (which was a model for the OSS releases).  Now while I acknowledge that this is a time of volatile manufacturing costs, this price increase looks a little unseemly.  I am not here to second guess DG’s economic strategy, but this is generating a little negativity amongst the fans, who are otherwise fully onboard with what DG is doing.

I doubt very much anything will change with regard to pricing, but I hope DG holds back on any further increases.

So if you haven’t dived into these OSS titles yet, you now have the opportunity to do so with the represses, batch #4, and the next batch currently available for pre-order (primarily on the DG site; other retailers are not offering them yet, but they will be). 

As to the future of the series, without giving anything away, I will just say I have reason to be optimistic.  I also have reason to say: You ain’t heard nothing yet!

Beyond that, my lips are sealed.

(And not surprisingly MF has listed the OSS releases on his list of Xmas gift recommendations).

If, in the meantime, you are having withdrawal symptoms from not having any new OSS releases to listen to, there are still some fine vinyl and SACD reissues produced by members of the Emil Berliner Studios out there, and they are amongst my Xmas gift suggestions later in this article.

Decca Solti Ring remastered vinyl


The other big news in new audiophile reissues in 2023 has been the reappearance of two iconic titles from the Decca back catalogue: of Solti’s ground-breaking Wagner Ring cycle from the late 1950s/early 1960s with the Vienna Philharmonic, and of Benjamin Britten’s classic recording of his own War Requiem.  The Britten has only just been released, and a review of both the vinyl and CD/SACD version is in the works.

I have discussed the newly remastered Solti Ring extensively on this site.  While I was somewhat disappointed by the vinyl version (a half-speed cut by Miles Showell from the same digital master used to generate the excellent - and, I think, superior - dual-layer SACD), this may still be a good option for newcomers to this recording who must have vinyl and are willing to sacrifice the last smidgen of bloom and detail for dead quiet pressings.  But if you are willing to put up with some surface noise, I still think original Decca wide-band pressings are the way to go, and for the first two operas - Das Rheingold and Die Walküre - you can go to the next level with the King Super Analogue Disc versions - at a price!

For those SACD purchasers who must have the original cover art-work, there is a gorgeous limited edition of these SACDs out of Japan, each opera sold separately. More expensive though.

Das Rheingold Japanese SACD

Britten war requiem vinyl remastered 2023

The Britten War Requiem has, like the Ring, again been remastered from digital.  Both the CD/SACD and vinyl versions include a substantial extra - a recording of rehearsals for the recording.  Producer John Culshaw secretly taped Britten directing his huge forces for a unique pressing which was presented to the composer as a birthday present.

The work itself was that rare thing - an instantly acknowledged masterpiece - and like the Solti/Culshaw Ring, it is considered to be one of THE classic recordings in the catalogue.  It is also a sonic blockbuster, so I am very much looking forward to hearing the new versions - and I will pass on my findings asap.

Britten, along with his compatriot Michael Tippett, was a fervent pacifist and conscientious objector (Tippett actually spent time in jail for refusing to join up).  The War Requiem is, quite simply, the greatest anti-war statement in music and, alas, is once again very timely.  My review will naturally go into the history of this work and recording, which in the minds of many (including myself), is still unsurpassed and fully worthy of its status as a classic.


Two big developments happened in the world of classical streaming last year.

The first was that Presto Music - far and away the best online retailer for classical music, based in the UK - launched its own dedicated streaming service.  With a deep catalogue, this must be considered a primary recommendation for the classical music lover wanting to dip their toes into this technology.  I myself will stick with Tidal (not least because of my already existing, huge playlist), which I’ve used very happily for years, but the Presto service is a viable alternative.

The other huge news was the arrival of the Hyperion catalogue on streaming services (titles are slowly being phased in).  This was the result of the label being acquired by UMG.  The Hyperion label has long been considered one of the finest and most adventurous of all the independent classical labels, with a stunning back catalogue, and its absence from streaming services was definitely frustrating for many.  But now you can easily sample its many fine recordings, and a future article will be delving into its back catalogue (and talking about some its early vinyl releases).

There’s no doubt that streaming is giving artists - especially classical ones - short-shrift financially, but like many I find it an invaluable tool for sampling a recording before buying physical media.  We classical music lovers are reluctant to give up our records, SACDs and, yes, even CDs!  But until someone comes up with an alternative, streaming is here to stay, and it is pretty darn amazing how much incredible music you can access in decent sound at the click of a mouse!


To paraphrase the Ancient Mariner:

Vinyl, Vinyl, Everywhere……

There are some pretty amazing vinyl titles out there right now.  I’ve mentioned the DG OSS releases above, but if you want to sample some more of the superb mastering and cutting from Emil Berliner Studios, there are some earlier reissues still available.

As always, start your hunt for all the titles I am mentioning at Elusive Disc and Acoustic Sounds.  For convenience, I have only picked titles that are in print at one or both of these retailers (although you can undoubtedly track them down elsewhere too).

Furtwangler Complete DG Studio albums 1951-53 vinylA great place to start is this superb reissue of classic mono recordings from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue by legendary conductor Wilhem Furtwängler.  I didn’t even know this vinyl reissue existed until I was alerted to it by fellow TA scribe Michael Johnson.  Cut by Sidney C. Meyer from the unprocessed 192kHz/24b transfer from the original master tape in the DG archives, the sonics on this reissue are superb - no allowances need be made for the mono sound.  Yes, two of the LPs are taken up by Furtwängler’s own Second Symphony, which you only need to listen to once, but the other two LPs contain iconic recordings of symphonies by Haydn, Schumann and Schubert.

Back in the days of LP these recordings were reissued in various celebratory box sets, and again later on CD. So they turn up in various combinations with other of Furtwängler's DG recordings. I've not heard earlier vinyl iterations, but I do have CD versions. These new cuts smoke the CDs.

Before the OSS reissues, you could find the work of Emil Berliner Studios on a number of excellent vinyl reissues from the DG catalogue, with some issued on the Analogphonic imprint.  Some are definitely cut AAA, some are cut from digital (half-speed) - but the sound is just as excellent on the latter as on the former.  All sound better than their original vinyl (or later CD) incarnations.  Most of these are long OOP, but a few still linger on at their original price points.

Bach solo violin sonatas Szeryng

Bach solo violin sonatas MilsteinThese are two iconic sets of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin from DG, one performed by Henryk Szeryng, one by Nathan Milstein.  These are two different approaches to this extraordinary music, with Milstein maybe the somewhat more dramatic and emphatic.  I love both, and you will too, especially on these dead quiet pressings with vivid sound.

Bruckner symphony 8 Sinopoli

Another release that I was surprised to see still around is the vinyl reissue of Giuseppe Sinopoli’s account of Bruckner’s massive 8th Symphony, coupled with R.Strauss’s Metamorphosen for strings.  Sinopoli can sometimes be a little bit of a wayward conductor, but not so here.  These are massive, gorgeous performances, made all the more attractive by being performed by the Dresden Staatskapelle.  This is one of my favorite orchestras.  It has a unique sonority, and one of my most memorable live concerts was hearing the orchestra perform Bruckner live with Bernard Haitink at the BBC Proms.  The Dresden Staatskapelle is a perfect match to this music (the orchestra recorded a complete cycle for EMI back in the day with that other great Brucknerian, Eugen Jochum).

For many years Speaker’s Corner has issued terrific AAA mastered and cut reissues of mainly the Decca catalogue, but also some key titles from Philips, DG, and Columbia/CBS.  Alas, in recent years the amount of these in print and in stock has dwindled dramatically.  However, I went on a scavenger hunt and I found several excellent titles still readily available (I’m not including used records available in the Vinyl Vault section of Acoustic Sounds).

First up, some personal favorites from the massive Ernest Ansermet and Suisse Romande Orchestra catalogues.  This whole discography is touched by magic, both musically and sonically, and I am currently working on a survey of these records which you will be able to read on this site in the not-too-distant future.

Ansermet Faure Pelleas et Melisande DeccaUnlike Ansermet’s Debussy and Ravel, this is a less well-known record of unfamiliar music by Gabriel Fauré, but no less attractive.  I have an original wide-band Decca of this, and it is glorious. Based on my comparisons of other OGs and SC reissues, there's no reason to suppose this Speaker's Corner is significantly less impressive than an original.  This is gentle music, tinged with melancholy.  The Sicilienne movement features one of the most memorable tunes which many of you will recognize without knowing where it was from.

Ansermet Rimsky Korsakov Decca

Another favorite Ansermet record is of assorted works by Rimsky-Korsakov, less well-known than Scheherazade, but no less compelling.  This has long been considered a jewel in Ansermet’s catalogue (as are all his Russian music albums, frankly).   Back when this was recorded in 1959 in typically luminous Decca sound, this was rare repertoire on record and in the concert hall - and it still is. The one work here which will be familiar to everyone is The Flight of the Bumblebee, but the rest is typically full of great tunes and fabulous orchestration.  It includes the Christmas Eve Suite, drawn from the composer’s opera of the same name, based on a short story by Gogol.  The music is so redolent of the season that you’ll wonder why we don’t hear it more often this time of year.

Both these records are available at Elusive Disc.

The site also still has some of the incredible sounding reissues of classic early Decca/London and Mercury Living Presence on the Original Recordings Group.  Cut by Bernie Grundman at 45rpm, the titles include music by Britten, Ansermet’s iconic versions of Borodin symphonies, Peter Maag’s definitive version of Mendelssohn’s “Scotch” Symphony, Dorati’s fierce Prokofiev, Zubin Mehta’s classic Holst “Planets” - and more.  If you don’t mind getting up to flip the sides, these are all amongst the very best sounding versions of these records.

THE bargain to be had right now on these ORG titles is the superb Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo album, The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann.

Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann

I reviewed this version earlier this year, and it is stupendous! Mastered by Bernie Grundman to two 45rpm platters, this will really put your system through its paces. Elusive Disc is currently offering it at the knockdown price of $20. I have no idea how long this price will last, so do not hesitate!

Ansermet Swan LakeAll of Ansermet’s records of Tchaikovsky’s three ballets are mandatory purchases.  Alas, the Nutcracker is out of stock, but Acoustic Sounds does have Swan Lake.  Ansermet was a seasoned ballet conductor, and it shows.  Certainly there are other great recordings of this repertoire, but this is still one of the benchmark versions, with that vivid Decca sound from the Victoria Hall in Geneva adding its characteristic bloom.

Royal Ballet Gala Analogue ProductionsSpeaking of Ansermet and ballet, if you do not own the superb Analogue Productions reissue of The Royal Ballet Gala on RCA Living Stereo, now is the perfect time to pick it up (and it’s got some choice music from The Nutcracker).  This remains maybe the best sounding classical recording ever made, and the performances by Ansermet of extracts from a range of the great ballet scores, conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, are the non-pareil.  The regular 2LP, 33rpm version will suffice, but if you want to get the full audiophile glory of engineer Kenneth Wilkinson’s Kingsway Hall masterpiece, then plump for the 45rpm edition.  There is also an SACD.  This is the perfect present for someone who wants to dip their toes into the waters of classical music.

Milstein MasterpiecesSticking with Analogue Productions, another record which vies for the title of best sounding classical recording ever, is Masterpieces for Violin and Orchestra, featuring Nathan Milstein.  Milstein is my favorite violinist, and my original Columbia SAX pressings of him playing Mozart violin concertos and the Beethoven Violin Concerto are amongst my most prized records.

Masterpieces is exquisite, a recital of shorter, very appealing works.  Milstein is right there, standing in front of you, with the orchestra just behind him.  Another record that is as perfect for the classical novice as it is for the seasoned collector.

The Analogue Productions’ extensive catalogue of beautifully AAA remastered and cut titles from the RCA Living Stereo catalogue have all been steadily repressed in the last year, and are pretty much all in stock.  I certainly do not need to repeat the plaudits for these records, but I thought I would mention a couple of favorites that might be slightly less well-known.

Julian Bream guitar concertosFirst the record by Julian Bream of guitar concertos by Baroque composer Mauro Giuliani, and 20th century British composer Malcolm Arnold.  In recent years we have been getting more and more of Arnold’s fine music issued by various British labels, but when this record came out in 1961 this must have been a pretty early excursion for his music on record, let alone on a major record label.  This is very accessible music, and makes for a delightful contrast with the Giuliani.  I heard Julian Bream play live in my teens, and he remains the supreme guitarist in my mind.  Alas, Bream was a lifelong RCA artist, so most of his recordings are only out there on sub-standard vinyl or CD, which makes me especially grateful to Chad for reissuing this less obvious title from the RCA LS catalogue.

Stokowski Wagner RCA Analogue Productions

Another RCA LS album I was unfamiliar with until AP reissued it is the Stokowski Wagner “bleeding chunks” record.  There is certainly no shortage of such records in the catalogue, not least from Stokowski himself.  Klemperer’s trio of EMI Columbia albums from the early 1960s are essential.  I have a number of the Stokowski Wagner programs already, but dropping the needle on this record was akin to entering my own personal musical Valhalla (and yes, the record includes the Entrance of the Gods into that same lofty establishment from Das Rheingold).  Simply put, this is Wagner on steroids, in Technicolor, and irresistible.

There are, of course, a number of RCA LS titles which Analogue Productions has not reissued, but which Classic Records did back in the day.  One of these I wish Chad would turn his attention to is Clair de Lune, a collection of shorter orchestral pieces, including Debussy’s ever-popular musical portrait of a moonlit night.  Again, this rivals the Royal Ballet Gala in the sonic glory stakes.  I treasure my Classic Records copy (a regular 33 cut; the 45rpm is pictured below) but remain hopeful that, maybe, one day this will reappear on the AP imprint.

Clair de Lune Classic Records 45rpm

Testament/EMI Reissues

This is a reissue label that sometimes gets overlooked, maybe in part because its catalogue can be notoriously unreliable in terms of being in stock.  But right now there’s a nice selection of titles in stock at Acoustic Sounds, and there are several I absolutely have to bring to your attention.

Bruckner symphony 8 Schuricht Testament EMITop of the list are two benchmark recordings of Bruckner symphonies by Carl Schuricht with one of the quintessential Bruckner orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in archetypal EMI sound of the late 1950s/early 60s.  Schuricht presents this music unadorned by radical conductor interventions which can really spoil the flow of Bruckner’s gothic arch lines.  The cover of the 9th is a perfect visual expression of his music, inhabiting as it does vast, cavernous cathedral spaces.

Bruckner symphony 9 Schuricht EMI TestamentThese are legendary records, and always in demand, so I recommend you snap them up while you can. (Forget about ever owning clean originals for less than mega-bucks).  This 9th is among my top 3 recordings (along with Giulini and Bernstein on DG), and the 8th is near the top (along with both Karajans on DG, the second live, plus Giulini again on DG, but also Solti on Decca…..).

Elgar 'cello concerto du PreAnother essential purchase would be Jacqueline du Pré’s legendary account of the Elgar ‘cello concerto, coupled with the Sea Pictures sung by Janet Baker.  I treasure my early pressing, but this reissue is meant to be excellent (i've not heard it), and will be quieter, so it’s a no-brainer.

Direct-to-Disc from the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and Emil Berliner Studios

Bamberg Symphony Dvorak New World d2d

Only last week, MF gave a rave review for the latest collaboration between the Bamberg Symphony and Emil Berliner Studios. This Direct-to-Disc 3LP set follows in the footsteps of their earlier Ma Vlast. My copy is in the mail - if you are interested you need to act quickly. This will sell out. Links to various sites where you can buy it are here.

Yarlung Records Vinyl

This is one of the audiophile labels making matchless new recordings.  Incredible attention paid to capturing excellent sound is matched by top-tier performances.  Do not imagine that because there are not big name artists on the cover that these performances aren’t anything other than first-rate.

My first pick will be a record you might have missed, a 45rpm cut of varied Renaissance and Baroque music performed on period instruments.

Ciaramella On Movable GroundI love this record, and it is rarely far from my turntable.  Instruments like these, especially the harpsichord, really benefit from careful recording that brings out their sometimes rough-and-ready character without coarsening their sound.

On his previous endeavour, MF gave this a rave review: "As much pleasure as the melodic compositions and spirited playing bring, an additional highlight is the superb, minimally miked recording (a single AKG C24 tubed 'stereo' unit), produced to analog recording tape at USC's Alfred Newman Hall. ... The short signal path wired with five foot long custom, stranded silver interconnects, features custom Elliot Midwood-designed vacuum tube preamplifiers and no mixer. The cut from the original tape at 45rpm by Bernie Grundman uses no compression or limiting. ... The sonics are astonishing and the Pallas pressing dead quiet." — Music = 9/11; Sound = 11/11.

‘Nuff said!

Janaki String trioThe other record I will mention is this one of modern music by Penderecki and Jason Barabba for string trios, again cut at 45rpm.  If you’ve tended to veer away from modern music, this might be a record to win you over.  The playing is casually virtuosic, the music challenging but not forbidding.  Give it a try!

Classical Gold (Much of it on Vinyl) from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Whenever anyone conducts a poll asking which are the greatest orchestras in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic regularly either tops the list or is in the top 5, and deservedly so.

As the traditional classical recording industry began to implode in the 2000s, and major orchestras lost the guarantee of regular (well-paid) recording gigs, several of them decided to set up their own in-house record labels, based around recordings of live concerts, keeping costs to a minimum.  One of the first orchestras to do this - very successfully - was the London Symphony Orchestra.  In 2014, the Berlin Philharmonic followed the lead of the LSO and other orchestras and established its own label.  Unhampered by the challenging acoustics of its home concert hall (as the LSO and LPO have always been), the BPO label immediately put an emphasis on presenting top tier sonics, and luxurious packaging.  Releases initially came out on CD and Blu-Ray (using the concert footage captured for the orchestra’s pioneering Digital Concert Hall, established in 2008).  Represses in smaller boxes featured dual layer CD/SACDs.

But from the beginning there was a strong commitment to vinyl, and not surprisingly management turned to Emil Berliner Studios (with whom they had worked at DG) to effect the realization of their performances on vinyl.

At this time, Rainer Maillard at EBS was determined to explore the virtues of direct-to-disc recording, so one of the first ventures was to record all four Brahms symphonies direct-to-disc.

Brahms 4 symphonies Rattle Berlin PhilharmonicThis was quite the challenging, if not risky, enterprise, requiring the orchestra and music director Simon Rattle to perform near perfectly since no edits would be possible.  The resulting expensive LP set is now a serious collector’s item, as is the subsequent D2D recording of Bernard Haitink’s final concert with the orchestra, of Bruckner’s mighty 7th Symphony.

Bruckner symphony 7 Haitink BPO D2DAlong the way the BPO has upped its commitment to vinyl, and if you go to the website you are going to find a bunch of the orchestra’s releases still available on vinyl (as well as CD/Blu-Ray and CD/SACD).  I am going to highlight two here, both of which I will be reviewing in greater depth in the months ahead.

Furtwangler radio recordings Berlin vinyl

First up, Furtwängler again.  Back in 2019 the BPO issued a massive, gorgeously presented and annotated set of his wartime recordings with the orchestra on 22 dual-layer CD/SACDs.  The story behind the existence and retrieval of these “lost” tapes is an epic in its own right, too long to go into here.  When the pandemic hit I decided the time was right for me to do a deep-dive into the Furtwangler catalogue, and this was one of my jumping off points.  I was not disappointed.

Furtwangler radio recordings CDThen, earlier this year, a limited edition vinyl set of this box was released, with a selection of the recordings featured on beautifully pressed vinyl. 

Furtwangler radio recordings vinylI will be covering this in more detail in the near future, but for the moment I wanted to alert Tracking Angle readers to the existence of this set.  Preliminary auditions of the vinyl confirm that if you are a classical vinyl collector, are into Furtwangler, and even if you already have the earlier digital set - you need to get this while it’s still available.

Petrenko BPO beginning of a partnership vinylThe other vinyl set I have in for review is of the collection of recordings by the orchestra’s new Musical Director, Kirill Petrenko, who has been a huge hit with players and audiences alike.  These performances are magnetic, and sound glorious.  Yes, the price tag is high, but these editions are gorgeously packaged, with excellent annotation.  Self-recommending.

One more thing…. the BPO have announced they are going to do a vinyl version of their magnificent Mahler Symphony cycle which came out in 2021, featuring different conductors in each symphony.  I can hardly wait!

Mahler symphonies 1-10Like I said, the regular CD/Blu Ray and CD/SACD versions of all these sets are no less desirable.  A particular favorite of mine is the John Adams set.  How I wish this would get the vinyl treatment.

John Adams Berlin Philharmonic

All the sets mentioned above are available to order directly from the Berlin Philharmonic store, as well as showing up on a few other sites like Presto.

For those of you who might be interested, another fantastic gift option for yourself or the classical music lover in your orbit, is an annual subscription to the Digital Concert Hall.  This is an absolute treasure-trove of current and past concerts, documentaries and interviews.  During the pandemic I had a wonderful time diving into this.  The presentation of orchestral music on video here is straightforward but effective, and there is some unusual repertoire to be discovered, let alone incredible performances by the biggest stars in classical music.  You will start to feel like you know the members of the orchestra, and there are some real surprises along the way.

Digital Done Right: SACDs To Die For!

If you are an SACD fan, then do check out the Emil Berliner remixed and remastered series of DG titles, many of which are still readily available at Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc.  N.B. These are all dedicated single layer SACDs, so no CD playback.  Be sure to look for the blue stripe on the OBI which designates the disc as an EBS remaster (there are other versions out there).  The success of these - which sound massively superior to any previous versions of these recordings - paved the way for the OSS vinyl.

There are many great titles out there.  Some particular recommendations would be Karajan's partial Sibelius symphony cycle, and his Beethoven symphony cycle from the 1970s, almost unrecognizable in this improved sound. I also love the Karl Böhm VPO Beethoven cycle, with its unmatched Pastoral Symphony. Kubelik's Dvorak Symphony cycle complete with sonic upgrade now begins to rival Decca's Kertesz classic LSO set. Pollini's iconic set of the Chopin Etudes benefits from massively improved piano sound. Abbado's Mahler 4th Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic and Frederica von Stade is my desert island version of this work.

Mahler symphony 4 abbado VPO

Alas, the amazing set of the Second Viennese School conducted by Karajan you will have to hunt down on ebay, discogs etc.  But it’s worth every penny.

I should also mention the ongoing series of Esoteric dual layer CD/SACDs.  These consistently breathe new life into later digital recordings, and though expensive, will astonish you with their sonics.

Classical Mega-Boxes Done Right!

While many classical companies, especially the majors, seem to have given up keeping their back catalogues in stock as single releases, they have also decided that the road to the consumer’s wallet is paved with an endless series of mega-boxes gathering together a particular artist or genre in one place.

I am as susceptible to these reissues as the next classical obsessive, and while some of these sets are clearly cash grabs, with little attention paid to revitalizing what can be dodgy CD sound, some are really putting the time and effort in to do their back catalogues proud.

Here are a handful worthy of mention.

Leading the field in terms of gorgeous packaging and state-of-the-art remastering is Sony.  In recent years the label has revivified its back catalogue with one essential box after another.

But the real gift to the audiophile here is that these recordings have never sounded better.  CBS classical vinyl never sounded great, even on early 6 and 2-eye tube-mastered vinyl.  These records never came close sonically to their rivals at Decca and EMI.  So what was an audiophile to do?

Well, we hunted down early pressings in the hope that they would get us some way towards the sound on the master tapes, but it was largely a fool’s errand (except that the vinyl still mostly sounded better than any of the CD reissues).  A handful of genuinely AAA vinyl reissues on Classic Records back in the day, and more recently Speaker’s Corner, gave a strong indication of just how good the master tapes could sound.

Now, finally, these CD boxes with new remasterings are rewriting CBS’s sonic history.  Growing up in England I had to put up with even worse UK pressings (quieter vinyl, but losing a generation or two in the mastering), and I quickly gave up apart from the occasional mandatory Leondard Bernstein purchase.  So I simply did not have much familiarity with the catalogue of George Szell, Eugene Ormandy and their ilk.

Well that has all changed in the last few years.  I waited, like many others, less than patiently for a repressing of the George Szell/Cleveland Orchestra box that sold out very quickly.  Boy was it worth the wait.  The majority of these performances can be considered benchmark, and the sound is every bit as vivid as Decca of the same period.

George Szell box set

Another revelation was the Eugene Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra box of early mono recordings.  No allowances need be made for the sound whatsoever, and the performances are thrilling. This is mono at its very best.

Eugene Ormandy Mono box

The first of two boxes gathering together Ormandy’s stereo recordings has just been released, and is every bit as desirable, but if you haven’t got the Mono box yet, that should be your priority.  It is astonishing.

I haven’t heard it yet, but by all accounts the Robert Craft Sony box is excellent, and it is top of my personal shopping list.  Craft worked closely with Stravinsky, and I am fascinated by the combination of his championing of contemporary music and early music in his catalogue.

Robert Crafty box set

Moving over to Europe, I have been immersed in endless delight as I have worked my way through the Decca box covering Ernest Ansermet’s stereo recordings with his L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.  As I mentioned earlier, I will be writing a deep dive into his catalogue, highly prized on vinyl by audiophiles the world over.

Ansermet The Stereo Years

But here’s the thing: this CD set, featuring all new remasters, sounds superb, and frankly it is only when I put on good original vinyl or AAA remasters that I feel I am maybe lacking that extra dose of magic.  Yes, the sound on this thing is that good, and it’s a wonderful way to introduce yourself to this unique recorded legacy of much important 20th century music, rarer corners of the French and Russian repertoire, and even the mainstream repertoire.  A lot of these records are impossibly hard to find, and very expensive when you do find them.  With this set you can listen to everything, and marvel anew at this Aladdin’s Cave of musical goodies.  (Just be aware that Decca screwed up a couple of discs in early runs of this box - the Brahms German Requiem and Debussy’s La Mer - but replacement CDs are now readily available).

To the classical music novice I’d say: buy the Szell box for the core Germanic repertoire, Ansermet for all that wonderful French, Russian and other 19th and 20th century music, and you’ve got an entrance pass to the classical catalogue second to none in both performance and sound.  Supplement with the Ormandy mono set for extra spice!

By way of complete contrast, Deutsche Grammophon just released one of the most challenging box sets out there, titled “Avant Garde".

DG Avant Garde box setThis gathers together the label’s recordings of some of the most iconoclastic, challenging music of the mid-20th century that emerged in the wake of the collapse of tonality and pretty much every other quality associated with classical music for the previous 900 odd years.

This is, to say the least, difficult music, and remains so to this day.  Many listeners will find themselves questioning whether you can even call it music.

But hats off to DG for finally properly reissuing these recordings in one place, and handsomely recreating the iconic graphic design of the original LPs.  I will be reviewing this in greater detail, but I wanted to draw attention to its existence for those of you out there who are feeling adventurous.  These recordings will challenge, reward, and turn off listeners in equal measure, but this music is an essential stepping stone towards understanding today’s currents in not just classical music, but all music.

Ferenc Fricsay complete recordings

Staying with DG - a set that has just been reissued: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon of Ferenc Fricsay. This masterful conductor died at a very early age, and many's the music lover or critic who has speculated how different the history of the recording industry in the second half of the 20th century might have been had he lived. He was in line to take over the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, but because he died in 1963 (at the age of 48), that position fell to Herbert von Karajan who, for better or worse, exerted a massive influence over the course of classical music performance and recording during his lifetime. Fricsay is a marvelous conductor and musician, and in particular his recordings of fellow countrymen Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály are essential library picks. I own this set in its earlier incarnation as two separate boxes. I believe the remasterings and accompanying documentation in the new box are identical to that release. They are excellent. One disc I will mention that was a complete surprise to me is a selection of music by Johann Strauss I and II.

Johann Strauss Fricsay

This rivals the Vienna Philharmonic's many famed recordings on Decca for the authentic Viennese style of performance, beautifully recorded. Incidentally, Speaker's Corner has issued several essential Fricsay recordings on vinyl: the three Bartók piano concertos with Geza Anda, and Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, all worth seeking out, as are any original large tulip pressings of Fricsay's DG catalogue.

I will wrap this up with a nod to the company that still sets the gold standard for the intelligent boxing-up of the classical industry’s illustrious past, and that is Australian Eloquence, which concentrates mainly on labels within the UMG family of labels.  Eloquence has had another banner year.  I have been slowly making my way through the two boxes of Antal Dorati’s Mercury recordings.

Dorati the Mercury Masters MonoAntal Dorati The Mercury Masters StereoThese make excellent companions to the earlier release of Dorati's Haydn and Mozart recordings, which is a revelation, with performances of the Haydn works that are in many ways much fresher than his later Argo cycle of the complete symphonies.

Antal Dorati Mozart and HaydnLikewise the two boxes of Paul Paray’s Mercury recordings have been endlessly refreshing and revelatory. Paray approached the standard (and not so standard) repertoire with an appealing directness and generally swifter speeds, and a gift for illuminating orchestral textures (aided by that vivid Mercury engineering) that made the old warhorses shine like new. Remasterings on all of these are very good, occasionally a little bright. Vinyl reissues of select titles on Classic Records and Speaker's Corner are worth hunting down. Clean originals can be hard to find.

Paul Paray Mercury Masters vol. 1Paul Paray Mercury Masters vol. 2

As I listened to all these Mercury sets, I did ruefully reflect upon the fact that of all the acknowledged great audiophile labels from the dawn of the stereo era, Mercury Living Presence has had the least attention from the reissue labels.  Classic Records gave us exemplary AAA pressings of several essential titles, as did Speaker’s Corner.  Analogue Productions has given us the Janos Starker Bach ‘cello suites on luxury 45rpm pressings, plus his classic account of the Dvorak ‘cello concerto, but there is so much more in the catalogue.  Several EBS remastered vinyl box sets trickled out a few years ago, featuring rarer titles, but I’ve not heard them, and I know they were mastered from digital (not that that necessarily disqualifies them as desirable reissues).

This is my biggest wish for the future, that someone will give us more from the Mercury catalogue on genuine, AAA mastered vinyl.

In Conclusion.....

While I am endlessly grateful for all the amazing new classical records (and CDs and SACDs) we are getting, increasingly remastered with love and care, it is still a drop in the ocean compared to what jazz and rock lovers are seeing in the record racks these days.  Yes, I know classical is a small market, and the economics of doing a quality vinyl reissue campaign of classical titles are challenging, but then I look at the overwhelming and ongoing success of the DG Original Source Series and I think: it can be done.  You just have to do it right from the get-go: respect both the intention and the achievement of the music, the musicians, and the recording team; respect listeners’ ability to hear the difference between good and best (and recognize their willingness to pay more to get the best); and finally make smart choices in the manufacturing and marketing of your product - don’t cut corners.

Those companies doing all of the above may be surprised to discover that Christmas can come early this year, next year, and every year thereafter.





  • 2023-11-30 08:16:04 PM

    JACK L wrote:


    " I know they were mastered from digital " qtd M Ward.

    You can keep on selling your mile-long new LPs gift list, but I would not pay a penny on such digitally remastered vinyl as I am yet to be impressed by any of them.

    FYI, I got 40+ digitally mastered LPs (NOT remastered), I am still not that impressed at all when compared with my AAA old timer LPs sonically.

    Why? All those remastered masters available nowadays are cut with conventional lacquer coated aluminum master disc. Noo good sonically as per my skeptical ears.

    I am so lucky to have picked up so expectedly a pre-owned digital- remastered AAA-origin LP only last month from my favourite thrift store for ony a buck. This vinyl master was cut employing the exclusive Teldec DMM (Direct-Metal-Cut) technology in 1985. It sounds so much better than all my 40+ digital-mastered LPs let alone digital-remasters !

    So remastered from digital source, thanks but no thanks.

    Listening is believing

    JACK L

    • 2023-12-01 02:09:21 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I think you may have misunderstood. Nearly all the records I mention are AAA mastered with no digital step. A handful are sourced from originally digital recordings. A few are sourced from digital remasters, often for reasons of the tape needing some degree of restoration (as with the Decca Ring and War Requiem). The fact is that digital technology has progressed so far that it can sound really good! Where I can, I have indicated the source for all these pressings. Personally I am not obsessive about whether something is sourced from tape or digital - I am primarily interested in how good the end result is compared to other versions. Having said that, a true AAA reissue done right can be breathtaking. Ultimately it all comes down to personal preference, but I try to offer something of a guide to the relative merits of different versions of a recording.

      • 2023-12-01 02:54:55 PM

        JACK L wrote:


        "Nearly all the records I mention are AAA mastered with no digital step." qtd M Ward

        I am afraid you have misunderstood too!

        If you read again my post above to you, I stated very clearly even AAA master tapes would not deliver the quality sound that really impresses me.

        Why? "All those remastered masters available nowadays are cut with conventional lacquer coated aluminum master disc.".

        It is the conventional master disc cutting technology that fails to provide really analogue musical sound. My sonic experience tells me only Teldec (a joint work of Telefunken/Decca with Neumann) DMM (Direct Metal Master) master disc cutting technology on high-purity copper coated non-magnetic steel disc that produces superb musically sound that impresses me bigtime.

        Listening is believing

        JACK L

        • 2023-12-01 04:46:52 PM

          Mark Ward wrote:

          My experience with those Teldec etc. DMM LPs has been variable. In my article about Hogwood's Messiah from a year ago I did a direct comparison of a regular Decca set and a DMM pressing. I found the latter more detailed for sure, but in the long run somewhat brighter and more fatiguing to listen to. However I have a Teldec DMM pressing of Hogwood's Fireworks music that sounds terrific. - so there you go. I am not sure I would reject all the fabulous AAA reissues from the likes of AP, Speaker's Corner, Classic Records and the DG OSS in favor of these older pressings. But I am glad you are so happily enjoying your LPs - that's the most important thing.

          • 2023-12-02 05:42:10 PM

            JACK L wrote:


            "I did a direct comparison of a regular Decca set and a DMM pressing. I found the latter more detailed for sure, but in the long run somewhat brighter and more fatiguing to listen to." qtd M Ward

            BINGO! That's exactly what I have found since day one & hence quoted above. Digital mastered/reamastered LPs, however sound good sonically, "are still not there yet" when compared with those historic old timer LPs.

            " I have a Teldec DMM pressing of Hogwood's Fireworks music that sounds terrific. " qtd M Ward

            My only Teldec DMM LP I got: "Wagner" indeed sounds "terrific" as well like your Hogwood's. So I believe they were cut into the copper hard surface utilizing the same high frequency carrier system and specialized diamond styli, vibrating at 60 kHz to facilitate the cutting.

            That's said, even such advanced DMM cutting technology is still yet to match the musicality of old analogue timer LPs. My skeptical ears can tell !

            Like it or not, nothing digital can yet match the musicality of 100% AAA analogue LPs in the past, IMO.

            JACK L

            JACK L

        • 2023-12-01 05:47:58 PM

          Michael Fremer wrote:

          Jack, you really are not making much sense here. Lacquer cuts have been the standard for most of the vinyl era until DMM. Early DMM was awful sounding until mastering engineers learned to work with it. In any case both lacquer cuts and copper disc cuts are AAA and completely provide "really analogue musical sound". If all you like are the DMM cuts, you have a very limited library. Why are you so doctrinaire and stubborn?

          • 2023-12-01 08:50:11 PM

            Anton wrote:

            He also has 1,000+ mint records he got for a dollar each at the thrift store. You gotta keep up! Although he mentions the 40+ so often, I can see how you failed to notice his other templated reply.

            • 2023-12-02 07:26:46 PM

              JACK L wrote:

              Who needs an echo box here ?

              • 2023-12-04 01:45:27 PM

                bwb wrote:


                yet you echo your own comments over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over

                • 2023-12-04 01:50:31 PM

                  bwb wrote:

                  and make multiple replies to your own replies

                  over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over

                • 2023-12-04 03:22:18 PM

                  JACK L wrote:


                  yet you echo your own comments over, and over, and over" bwb bwb bwb bwb bwb bwb......... Sooooo whaaaaat !

                  This audio journal is open to all worldwide. I repeat my experience to whoever new just joins in browing this thread.

                  It is not intended for YOU you you you you you all. Take a hike bwb bwb bwbbbbbbb

                  JACK L

                  • 2023-12-04 05:03:57 PM

                    NLak wrote:

                    I swear it’s like reading “Diary of a Madman” by Gogol all over again. Rambling nothingness. This has to be a parody account.

                    • 2023-12-04 09:02:50 PM

                      JACK L wrote:


                      "Gogol" qtd NLak

                      What's "“Diary of a Madman” by Gogol " to do with here ?

                      Obviously only a Madman like YOU would be "reading “Diary of a Madman” by Gogol all over again. Keep the Dairy to yourself.

                      Stop yr Madman rambling here for nothing !

                      JACK L

                      • 2023-12-04 09:20:55 PM

                        NLak wrote:

                        LOL!! Thank you for making my point.

                        • 2023-12-11 05:04:54 PM

                          Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

                          No! UR The Madman! I am the Madman... Beqwaearumfistinpops! LMAO.

                          • 2023-12-12 06:48:31 AM

                            NLak wrote:

                            😂 nailed it Glotz!

          • 2023-12-02 07:24:52 PM

            JACK L wrote:


            "both lacquer cuts and copper disc cuts are AAA and completely provide "really analogue musical sound"" qtd M.F.

            How "really" ?

            How come my only DMM LP blows away sonically blow away my 40+ digital-mastered (no remasters) LPs cut on the conventional lacquered coated aluminum master disc ???

            "Stubborn" or not, my ears hear such distinctive difference in the music. Do I need to bother whoever tells me whatever? Sorry, nope !

            Listening with own ears is believing

            JACK L

            Listening is believing

            JACK L

  • 2023-12-01 03:44:10 AM

    Michael Stöber wrote:

    Thank you for the great article Mark Ward! It was a pleasure reading.

    • 2023-12-01 04:47:13 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  • 2023-12-01 11:04:46 AM

    Thomas Ream wrote:

    I went to the DG online ship this am (Dec 1) and I do not find anything that allows for a pre-order of the first batch of the OSS releases. I have everything in the first batch except the Kleiber Beethoven. I have the entire third batch, but an order I placed for the Brahms piano concertos and the Verdi Requiem back in August at Acoustic Sounds has yet to be fulfilled. They tell me they have an allocation but each month the shipping date for these moves out a month. I hope these will be repressed as well, since I have doubts about my original order. For me, the biggest positive surprises thus far has been the Gilels Beethoven sonata disc and Ozawa's Berlioz.

    • 2023-12-01 02:01:04 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I checked myself, and yes, nothing there yet. I am sure the represses will appear eventually. Seize the Kleiber - it is incredible on every level.

      • 2023-12-04 01:56:32 PM

        Mark Ward wrote:

        The represses are now up on the website.

  • 2023-12-01 01:08:27 PM

    NLak wrote:

    What an expansive and well written summary of goodies for us to ponder. Thank you for taking the time Mr. Ward. I will add that the Esoteric SACDs are sometimes revelatory, I own quite a few, but sometimes even the Esoteric engineers cannot create magic out of bad recordings. I am thinking of the Karajan/Tchaikovsky late symphonies they released a few years back, an improvement over the original vinyl pressings, but not enough in my modest opinion to justify the extra cost. On the other hand the Walter/Ferrier/Patzak Das Lied von dear Erde recording is well done and although doesn’t rival my original mono pressing, is still a good alternative. So for that matter is the late 80s CD release. Also, their first foray into vinyl with the Dvorak “New World” symphony conducted by Istvan Kertesz edges the Speakers Corner version I also own. They definitely know what they are doing at Esoteric.

    Here is a question for you Mr. Ward that no one seems able to answer for me. The Furtwangler SACD set released by the BPO a few years ago seems to be the same release that DG released of Furtwangler’s war recordings in the 80s. Am I wrong?

    • 2023-12-01 01:59:31 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I'm afraid I can give you no more definitive answer re. those Furtwangler radio broadcasts than anyone else - I am very far from being a Furtwangler expert. What I do know is that the tapes upon which these recordings reside were in the possession of the Soviets after the War, and only started to trickle back to Berlin after the Union fell. Now some of these same performances existed on other secondary sources, from which I believe some of them were issued back in the day. But of course the BPO finally having access to the original reel-to-reel tapes is what makes this box so special. Listening to the finale of the Brahms 1st symphony with the allied forces' artillery pummeling Berlin clearly audible in the background is like stepping into history. The performance itself, forged in white heat out of defiance and despair in equal measure, is extraordinary. Furtwangler fled to Switzerland shortly thereafter. I would love to know which earlier release(s) you are referring to - do you have a discogs link? Yes, the Esoteric SACDs are often sonic miracles. If you are talking about the Karajan/BPO Tchaikovsky 4-6, then the EBS remixed/remastered is the version to have. But maybe you are talking about the later VPO redos.....

      • 2023-12-01 02:27:24 PM

        NLak wrote:

        Forgive me Mark, I wasn’t clear on my topics. Regarding the Karajan Tchaikovsky symphonies, I was referring to his 80s recordings with the VPO. I find those digital recordings from that era dreadful, even though some performances may have been good. Esoteric engineers still couldn’t turn a silk purse out of…. As for the Furtwangler recordings, I am referring to this 1988 release of 10 CDs from tapes that the Soviets returned to the Germans during the Glasnost era. I am not 100% sure, but I believe some of those CDs in my box set match exactly those 22 CDs released by the BPO store, so I have hesitated to take the plunge and buy them. If the sonics are improved over the 80s CDs, I may reconsider, but no one has steered me in the right direction. The BPO has been noncommittal or doesn’t answer my questions satisfactorily. Decisions, decisions.

        • 2023-12-01 03:12:31 PM

          Mark Ward wrote:

          So I did a bit of digging around on the net to see if I could find anything that addresses the sound quality differences between the two sets (which I am sure you have done too). Couldn't find anything. So what to do? First thing I'd say is that if you have SACD playback capability it's a no-brainer to pick up the new set. But if you only have CD playback it's still worth seriously considering for a number of reasons: there's more music in the BPO box, and the accompanying documentation is gorgeous and massively informative. This set is a work of art on every level. As to potential differences in sound, I would never automatically assume that an older transfer is inferior, especially when the source is those same tapes. However, the fact is that technology for cleaning up historic tapes has vastly improved, so in all likelihood the new set will sound better. I know this probably doesn't help you in your decision! If it were me I would buy the new set. Hell, I'm even thinking of buying the vinyl version to add to the CD/SACD it is so utterly gorgeous (and I have promo copies of the LPs!!!) and will eventually become a collector's piece! Sheer madness!!!

          • 2023-12-01 03:21:39 PM

            NLak wrote:

            Done! Will order the SACDs. I know, been debating the vinyl as well, but I am running out of room and the wife is starting to ask me pointed questions about specific records and SACDs she claims she’s never seen before. Thanks for doing a bit of research I too have never been able to find any direct comparisons either.

            • 2023-12-04 07:00:02 PM

              Silk Dome Mid wrote:

              I'm familiar with those "pointed questions" as well...

              • 2023-12-11 05:07:05 PM

                Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

                LOL.. I love how both of your partners are investigating your music purchases. I can only imagine the nervous responses! Too funny. Have a wonderful, blessed Holiday season and Merry Christmas!

  • 2023-12-01 05:44:56 PM

    It’s a trap wrote:

    I have all of the BPO LPs, and they are glorious. That Mahler is going to be stellar, I had no idea they were going to pop that on vinyl, could be THE release of 2024. Now I’ll be on the site every day checking to see if there an ‘add to cart’ button

    • 2023-12-02 01:59:48 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yup - that Mahler is going to be stellar indeed. Do you have that Brahms symphony set I mentioned? If so, I am very jealous! (Michael Johnson, aka poetryonplastic, has it, lucky guy). Do you have a favorite? Since you are clearly a Mahler guy, do you have the Tilson Thomas/SFSO cycle mastered by Kevin Gray? I'd kill to get my hands on that - for a reasonable price (not going to happen)....

      • 2023-12-02 05:39:59 PM

        Come on wrote:

        Yes the SFS box is fantastic. You probably won’t get it cheaper any time from now than the current 900$ Discogs offer.

        Regarding the D2D, I have the Bruckner and Ma Vlast, soon the Berlioz. I just passed on the Brahms at the time because I’m really no Brahms fan. After I read the reviews, I was even confirmed, as the sound quality of the Brahms seemed to be clearly worse than the Bruckner and especially Ma Vlast.

        In the context of all these box sets, two other fantastic ones should be mentioned. The Beethoven and the Schumann set of Järvi, released by Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Those two and the Mahler SFS show, how much better vinyl releases can be than their digital counterparts, just by e.g. analog mixing and otherwise more care for sound quality than in typical digital media productions. But I wouldn’t generalize this.

        • 2023-12-02 05:45:19 PM

          Come on wrote:

          With the tree I mentioned at the end I meant LP sets made from orginally digital hires recordings, but which due to the improved mixing/mastering sound much better.

        • 2023-12-03 01:29:02 PM

          Mark Ward wrote:

          Interesting re. the Brahms - will ask Michael Johnson what he thinks (he owns a copy). I bought the Jarvi set on SACD after watching MF's marvelous video on the Beethoven 9 on his previous endeavour. I hadn't heard about the Schumann - maybe the vinyl is still kicking around... You know, the SFS should really repress that Mahler set. I heard them and MTT do Mahler 5th at Disney Hall a few years ago and it was stellar. May be the last opportunity I have to hear him conduct live, alas.

          • 2023-12-04 03:18:49 AM

            Come on wrote:

            I don’t think a repress will ever happen. If it would, the price would be higher than the current better used prices. I paid 650 at the time of release, which was 100 less than the usual cheapest market price on release date. So 900 today is not that exaggerated. All who want it cheaper now, will have to say goodbye I guess.

      • 2023-12-02 09:21:50 PM

        It’s a trap wrote:

        I did get the Brahms set, albeit on secondary market, but well before prices went north of 1k. i debated for about a year if I should crack it open, and I finally said screw it, what the hell and open that up. It’s got that swing. funny thing is it sounds so-so via a clearaudio strat v2, but gorgeous through a Koetsu rosewood signature platinum. I do NOT have the Tilson set…. It’s on my list for ‘24 now so k can do a head-to-head with the BPO one when that comes out. I’ll be sure to post up.

        • 2023-12-03 10:56:13 AM

          Come on wrote:

          Doesn’t everything too bright or too flat sounding strongly benefit from a Koetsu? I just don’t think that speaks for those cartridges. But I‘m sure they can do well with the right synergy. Long time ago when I shortly had an Urushi Vermillion, I just recognized it isn’t for me.

        • 2023-12-03 01:32:28 PM

          Mark Ward wrote:

          I had a Koetsu (bought used but almost new) for many years and it was glorious. I tried to have it re-tipped and they destroyed it. I love my current cart - a Benz Ruby 2 - but there was something about that Koetsu....

          • 2023-12-03 05:46:52 PM

            Come on wrote:

            Yes, by any means it has glorious midrange and makes every mediocre sounding disc pleasant. I may not be completely fair with that ;-)

  • 2023-12-02 05:57:51 AM

    Come on wrote:

    It seems there’s hardly any Abbey Road half speed vinyl reissue that’s not worse than not only the original, but most anything previously and subsequently released, including pure digital versions. A shame. I avoid them completely meanwhile and I'm annoyed about where I didn't notice it before having a chance to send back the record.

    I’m sure Showell has good remastering skill, but his chain and process seems to do more harm than good.

    • 2023-12-02 01:55:54 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Honestly I do not know where the problem lies - the equipment, his ears etc. - but clearly there is a problem. The SACD of the Ring is fantastic, created from the same master as the one used for the LPs (I haven't tried any of his rock etc. cuts because of the poor reviews). We shall see how the Britten sounds..... re. half-speed mastering: a number of the DG EBS remastered vinyl sets were done half-speed by Sidney Meyer (who cuts the OSS records). Her set of the Beethoven 'cello sonatas (Fournier and Gulda) sounds gorgeous, and is now my go-to version. I have a handful of the CBS half-speed Mastersound classical reissues from the 80s that likewise sound amazing (one Ormandy LP that doesn't). Go figure.

      • 2023-12-02 03:35:22 PM

        Come on wrote:

        Yes, I think it’s not mainly about mastering choices. His releases seem to lack certain information/resolution, air, 3D imaging, present on originals and other releases, they also sound flatter in colors. And I experienced this from several of mixed genres. As you say, something’s wrong, not only when comparing AAA releases to his, but even when comparing digital sources he used to his cuts of them.

  • 2023-12-02 06:58:09 PM

    Jennnifer Martin wrote:

    It HAS been a banner year for Classical, and I'm thankful for it!

    • 2023-12-03 01:22:53 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yes indeed!!

  • 2023-12-02 11:54:45 PM

    Josquin des Prez wrote:

    Mark. I'm glad you mentioned the Milstein Bach Sonatas. It's one of six complete sets on LP (some OG, some reissue) I love and enjoy. However, did you happen to hear the Analogphonic reissue of the earlier (50s) Milstein mono version on Capital? That was mastered AAA by RM at EBS. I suppose it's long OOP by now, but I think I bought mine about the time I got the later DG reissue you mentioned. I'm playing it now and – as I'm sure MF will appreciate – it sounds just delicious with my Lyra Atlas Lambda Mono (Clearaudio Innovation/Universal).

    • 2023-12-03 01:22:19 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Long out of print, but I remember when it was in print and of course I hesitated and have regretted it. Maybe I will hunt it down..... I would love to have a dedicated mono set-up. I bet that sounds delicious indeed! Curious as to which other complete sets you enjoy....

      • 2023-12-03 04:14:49 PM

        Josquin des Prez wrote:

        I have the two you mentioned (Szeryng and Milstein). I also have the early 70s repress of Grumiaux on Philips, Sigiswald Kuijken on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, and Sergio Luca on Nonesuch. like the Kuijken for its emphasis on early performance practices, and I haven't delved much into the Luca. I don't really have a favorite. I listen to different ones at different times to keep it interesting. I;m like that with the Cello Suites too (5 complete vinyl sets).

        • 2023-12-05 01:59:43 AM

          Come on wrote:

          I also have a few of the well regarded cello suites at least digitally, but there was nothing alike after the Starker, which I certainly hear as best AP 45 vinyl or the Speakers Corner if 33 is needed.. What’s similarly essential for you as Starker?

          • 2023-12-05 07:24:38 PM

            Josquin des Prez wrote:

            I love the Starker, and it's the one my wife asks for when she wants to hear the music. I have the Speakers Corner (I don't collect any classical at 45 RPM). I'll bet that AP cut and plated a 33 version and set them aside when they did the 45s, in case they ever get a license to release them. Just my speculation.

            Otherwise, on vinyl: Fournier (Archive, DG Classics reissue), Daniil Shafran (Melodiya, Analogphonic) Anner Bijlsma (German RCA/SEON) Harnoncourt (Harmonia Mundi France)

            I love the Fournier and Starker. The Harnoncourt is really well recorded (no surpise for the label), and performed in period style, and with great hall ambience. I enjoy it. It also includes a wonderful facsimile score. I haven't listened to the Biljsma in ages. The Shafran is quite good, but spread across 4 discs, so the suites don't fit neatly each to a side like the others, which is sort of annoying. As with the solo violin works I like them all at different times for different reasons. Given that, the Fournier and Starker get the nod for mostly standing above the rest.

            • 2023-12-07 09:47:41 AM

              Come on wrote:

              Thanks much! Yes, I also have the Fournier digitally, but couldn’t decide for the LP version yet, as I love the Starker so much more and it also sounds best. The AP 45 is really unbelievable, the Speakers Corner a bit too fat sounding but generally also extremely satisfying, even if not on the AP level. All digital versions of the Starker for what ever reason sound ridiculously worse than both.

              Would be interested in the Analogphonic Shafran, the only problem is, the Starker interpretation is so superior, it simply doesn’t need an alternative for me.

            • 2023-12-07 02:24:57 PM

              Mark Ward wrote:

              I wish AP would/could do a 33 version of the Starker - I just can't bring myself to buy the 45 - this is music that has to be listened to without a break in the middle of each suite. Another version I love (CD/Digital only) is the David Watkin on Resonus. When I was around 11 or 12 I got to hear Tortelier play all six suites by memory in one go at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. I was only a few rows back, dead centre - incredible.

    • 2023-12-05 08:41:16 PM

      NLak wrote:

      I can’t believe I didn’t think of picking that name, how brilliant of you Josquin. Yes, that Milstein mono capital has been out of print for some time and it is fantastic. Analogphonic told me years ago that they were going to reprint it and the Karajan Mahler 9 live that I covet, I am still waiting. I did get the DG Esoteric SACD of Milstein performing the Bach Partitas and do love what the engineers at Esoteric did with the recording.

      • 2023-12-05 11:06:20 PM

        Josquin des Prez wrote:

        I love that you appreciate my nom de plume. I hope you appreciate the avatar as well. :)

        Yeah, I want the Karajan 9 reprinted as well. I had a copy I got from Elusive Disc and the non-fill defects were just too much and I returned it for a refund (why can't Pallas and Optimal solve that problem, once and for all?). I can deal with clicks and pops here and there, but non-fill is just the devil. Why is that thousands of my LPs from the 60/70/80s rarely have such issues, while with records I get from Pallas or Optimal and other plants I worry there's a 1/3 chance it has that defect. I can't even crack open a new Speakers Corner anymore without hyperventilating (and they're in denial about it).

        Mastering has gotten so much better, and pressing has gotten so much worse (although RTI and QRP don't give me so much grief).

        • 2023-12-06 11:33:22 AM

          NLak wrote:

          I do indeed love the avatar. Good work on that, I love him as a composer. Yes, I have had some spotty records from Analogphonic and Speaker’s Corner. The last one was the Chung/Lupu-Franck and Debussy Sonatas, which also had non-fill issues. It went back, and the replacement was fine, but I’ve had spotty results, and I only buy if it is something I really, really want.

  • 2023-12-17 08:25:31 PM

    Johnny wrote:

    Marc, thx so much for all this classical music. I am grateful to have more classical music being reviewed. Your comments on Bruckner 9 have got me wondering; what’s your favorite vinyl version of that piece and why? Thx again!