Acoustic Sounds
By: Mark Ward

January 30th, 2024



Deutsche Grammophon announces Four New Titles in its Original Source Vinyl Series, plus a Major Bruckner Vinyl Release

Classic Recordings from Karl Bohm, Claudio Abbado, Rafael Kubelik, Daniel Barenboim and Carlo Maria Giulini receive Deluxe Audiophile Vinyl Releases

Deutsche Grammophon's extraordinary Original Source Series of AAA deluxe vinyl reissues continues apace with another four releases just announced for May.  Joining them is the announcement of a newly remixed and remastered for vinyl set of three seminal Bruckner recordings by the great Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, to be released in June.  Although these Giulini classics are digital recordings, no doubt Rainer Maillard and Sidney C. Meyer at Emil Berliner Studios will have worked their customary magic to improve what were already very decent sonics for digital of this period.

Bruckner is also featured on one of the new OSS releases: Bruckner’s 4th Symphony, conducted early in his conducting career by Daniel Barenboim with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  So why don’t we start there….

It's Here - The Bruckner Bicentenary - and, Like his Symphonies, It's Going to be Massive!

Anton BrucknerAnton Bruckner

It’s the Year of the Big B: Anton Bruckner, celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth in Ansfelden, Austria, near Linz.  Bruckner, a devout Catholic, expressed his faith in huge symphonies which seemed to embrace the entirety of existence. No kidding. They are musical epics, calling upon large orchestral forces along the lines of Mahler (though no choirs) and, as with Mahler, in recent years recordings of these works have proliferated.  Two composers who were barely known some 50 years ago are now amongst the most reliable best-sellers in the classical market.

Bruckner Symphony 4 Barenboim Chicago Symphony Dg Original SourceBarenboim has to-date recorded, I believe, three cycles of the complete symphonies.  The recording featured here dates from 1974, and became part of his first cycle with the Chicago Symphony, an orchestra with which the conductor has enjoyed a close association over many decades.

In 1974 the only two mainstream complete cycles available on record - to my knowledge - were by Eugen Jochum for DG (with the Berlin Philharmonic and Bavarian State Radio orchestras), and by Bernard Haitink with the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam for Philips.

The 4th Symphony at that time was considered one of the more approachable of the cycle, and was probably the most recorded, along with the 9th.  In the same year as this Barenboim version was recorded, the great Austrian conductor Karl Böhm set down his benchmark version with the Vienna Philharmonic for Decca, long considered an audiophile classic.  It will be very interesting to see how the Barenboim version with updated OSS sonics compares to the Böhm.

I am not overly familiar with Barenboim’s Bruckner, though it is generally well regarded. This earliest of his three cycles has, over the years, seen a steady rise in its critical approval.  I am very excited to hear this.

Staying with Bruckner, a sidestep to the Giulini box of what are considered the composer’s greatest symphonies: Nos. 7, 8 and 9. 

Giulini VPO Bruckner symphonies 7, 8, 9 Deutsche GrammophonMy own introduction to these works as a teenager was via the celebrated Karajan analogue DG versions of the 1960s (Symphony No. 9) and mid-1970s (Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8).  (Karajan re-recorded the 9th for DG in 1976, and that is the version that has been included in the various  subsequent DG box sets of the complete Bruckner symphonies, although I prefer his earlier 9th - recorded in the Jesus-Christus-Kirche - both interpretatively and sonically to the later version recorded in the Berlin Philharmonie).  So the Karajan recordings retain a very special place in my affections.

However, the Giulini renderings, set down in Vienna between 1985 and 1989, are essential for anyone who loves this music.  Yes, they are digitally recorded, but that has never gotten in the way of many holding these versions in high regard, myself included.

Giulini at the time was entering what became a glorious Indian summer in his career.  Always noted for his patrician elegance both in his podium manner and in his interpretations, he parted ways with his long-time record company, EMI, in the mid-1970s to sign with DG. The first fruits of the relationship were two instant benchmark recordings with the Chicago Symphony: of Mussorgsky’s orchestral showstopper Pictures at an Exhibition, coupled with an electric “Classical” Symphony by Prokofiev; plus a version of Mahler’s 9th Symphony which for me is still unparalleled for its emotional depth and glorious playing.  (Both sets are well worth seeking out, boasting better-than-usual sonics for DG in this period; for the Mahler, try and track down the superior Speaker’s Corner reissue).

DG also travelled to Los Angeles with Giulini when the legendary impresario Ernest Fleischmann achieved quite the coup by signing him in the late 1970s to the LA Philharmonic as Music Director.  No one saw that coming: persuading one of the doyen of European maestros to up stakes for La-La Land.  Their first release together was a still-controversial Beethoven Eroica, whose slow tempo in the opening movement sharply divided critics and listeners. (It may not be the Eroica you thought you knew, but it is well worth listening to, and a fascinating counterpoint to the ever-increasing speeds of the various period instrument performances that were to detonate on the market in the years ahead).  Other recordings from the partnership were less controversial, and thoroughly engaging, marred only by the often glassy digital sonics of DG during this period.  Some years ago I got to know one of the long-time violinists in the LA Phil, and he always enthused mightily about the experience of playing under Giulini’s baton.

Giulini conducting LA PhilAround this time (the early 1980s) I got to hear Giulini conduct Verdi’s final masterpiece Falstaff at Covent Garden, and it was quite unlike anything I have heard in the opera house before or since.  There was just a sense of the music being illuminated from within, with textures and musical lines emerging with an extraordinary clarity and sense of purpose.  You felt like Verdi himself would have loved it.

These same qualities inform Giulini’s Bruckner with the Vienna Philharmonic.  There is just a sense of rightness to the performances, with him allowing the long musical strands to emerge effortlessly.  The 9th in particular is a recording I listen to often, with a sprightly, perfectly paced Scherzo which gets me out of my seat and air-conducting every time!  This 9th was never issued on LP at the time; there is a superb Esoteric CD/SACD which will be hard to beat.

But my money is on Emil Berliner Studios coming up with that certain je ne sais quoi to enhance these classic Bruckner recordings for this new vinyl box set.  Can’t wait!

The Original Source Series Strikes Again!

Original Source sticker

As if that wasn’t all exciting enough, the remaining three OSS releases (after Barenboim's Bruckner 4 mentioned earlier) are all special.  But the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony is very special indeed. 

Karl Bohm VPO Beethoven symphony 6Karl Böhm’s recording, again with the Vienna Philharmonic, captured in their own Musikverein concert hall, has long been acknowledged as a benchmark version for its perfect pacing and glowing orchestral playing. This is music tailor-made for the distinctive sonorities of these Viennese musicians.  But in terms of audiophile sonics it always had to give way to Bruno Walter’s equally resplendent version for CBS/Sony (currently available in a glorious AAA reissue by Analogue Productions).

Well, that may change with this OSS makeover.  This recording was part of a complete cycle of all the Beethoven symphonies by Böhm and the VPO that was released a decade after Karajan’s justly celebrated 1963 cycle with the BPO. Böhm’s cycle - slightly more reserved than Karajan, but maybe more echt Viennese - has somewhat languished in the long shadow cast by the Big K.  Well, a few years ago, Emil Berliner Studios remixed and remastered the Böhm cycle on single-layer SACD, and it sounded incredible.  Especially that Pastoral.  With ravishing sound, perfect pacing, the warm instrumental timbres of the VPO transport you into an almost prelapsarian garden of delights.

So, yes, I am really looking forward to taking this one for a spin!

Claudio Abbado Brahms Symphony 1 VPO DG Original SourceAnd that’s not all.  Amongst the remaining OSS releases we have another example of early Claudio Abbado conducting the VPO in one of the great warhorses of the classical repertoire, and imbibing it with the customary freshness typical of many of his records from this stage in his career.  Abbado’s later full digital cycle of the Brahms symphonies with the BPO is justly celebrated, but as anyone who bought the recent Abbado/VPO Tchaikovsky 4th in the last batch of OSS releases will know, there’s just something about these earlier Abbado recordings that commands attention.

And last, but far from least, we have one of the absolute masterpieces of the 20th century: Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.  Can we expect another sonic marvel from the Boston Symphony Orchestra recorded in Boston Symphony Hall, this time performing a work the orchestra itself gave the first performance of, conducted by one of the acknowledged Bartok experts, Rafael Kubelik?

Rafael Kubelik Bartok Concerto for Orchestra BSO DG Original SourceI have made no secret of my opinion that the very best of the OSS reissues, sonically, have been those recorded under the watchful eye (and ears) of Thomas Mowrey in Boston.  I think Mowrey’s belief and commitment to the surround sound process, at a time when many thought it was more of a gimmick that anything else, shines through in how these records have come up shining like the brightest pennies in Rainer Maillard and Sidney C. Meyer’s restorations.  I am guessing this has something to do not only with the acknowledged excellence of the Hall’s acoustics, but also the engineering team’s thoughtful placement of their microphones.  Whatever it is, if pressed, I would have to place Ozawa’s Symphonie Fantastique, and Steinberg’s Hindemith record - both done with the BSO - at the very top of the list for sonic excellence in the OSS series so far - and the competition is not inconsiderable.

Kubelik’s Concerto for Orchestra was always one of my better-sounding DG LPs of the period, and I am very keen to hear what sonic improvements the EBS team have wrought with this record.  The performance is excellent.  Naturally, audiophiles the world over will be waiting with tonearms at the ready, ready to drop, to hear whether Kubelik and the BSO are a match for Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on one of the greatest-sounding RCA Living Stereos ever made, and therefore one of the greatest classical records ever made, period. (It’s currently available in another superb Analogue Productions AAA reissue - if you don’t have this already, you need to buy it now).

So there you have it.  A feast of fine classical music headed your way in just a few months.  Yes, I know the steady increases in price remain questionable (Tone Poets - the model for this series - don’t keep on going up), and supply-chain problems have gone from frustrating to exasperating, but in the end you know these are going to be must-have records for lovers of classical music.

A hell of a way to kick off the year for record lovers everywhere!    

Giulini Bruckner Symphonies 7 - 9 DG box set vinyl reissueYou can pre-order the 4th Batch of Original Source Reissues from the DG Shop here, and the Giulini Bruckner Box Set here.  As before, all these releases will be numbered, limited editions pressed at Optimal.

Release dates in the US are typically a few weeks later than in Europe; pre-orders will be available at Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc. However I do not see them listed yet.

Unnumbered re-presses of the first four Original Source Series releases are currently available at the DG shop in Europe, DG’s American store - Center Stage - and Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc.


  • 2024-01-30 03:13:14 PM

    NLak wrote:

    First order of business, and forgive me for commenting on this post; I got my Karajan/Four Last Songs yesterday, and it is utterly fantastic. Whereas my original is dark and recessed, this one is open and more forward. I could hear Janowitz's words clearly, as well as her breathing. The Death and Transfiguration is just as good. I also got my second copy from DG, so now I have two, just as well. It is a terrific performance and worthy of a backup. I have the Bruckner 8th on vinyl from Giulini, and I think it is a monumental work; so good is the performance that it is one of my favorite Bruckner 8ths. The Böhm I have on vinyl and on an Esoteric SACD. It's been a while, but I think I prefer the hyper-detail offered by the SACD, but don't quote me on that. In any event, I think these releases, including the Abbado, are all worthy of purchase. I am never retiring.

    • 2024-01-30 03:14:04 PM

      NLak wrote:

      I should add I have the other two Bruckners on CD and do love those as well. That box set will sell out fast.

    • 2024-01-30 07:22:30 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      So glad you like the Strauss Four Last Songs - and that you finally got your copy. It is revelatory both musically and sonically. Yup, these Giulini recordings are essential.

      • 2024-01-31 07:50:17 PM

        Ed Casey wrote:

        Great titles and an essential purchase. I can only hope that the von Karajan/Vienna Phil Bruckner 8th will receive the same treatment. One of my desert island discs! And I was fortunate enough to hear it live at Carnegie on The maestro’s last visit to NYC!

        • 2024-02-04 09:29:53 PM

          Mark Ward wrote:

          I can only imagine....!!

        • 2024-02-08 09:32:27 AM

          NLak wrote:

          Not sure, just saw a DG Facebook ad that they will be releasing the 70s Karajan Bruckner symphonies in a box set. Coming this summer.

  • 2024-01-30 03:24:03 PM

    NLak wrote:

    I should pull out the Kubelik/Bartok recording and listen, has been a while since I last heard it. I do prefer the Solti from the 60s, but I think the Kubelik wasn't far behind.

    • 2024-01-30 07:23:32 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      All those Solti 60s Bartok records with the LSO on Decca are superb.

  • 2024-01-30 04:31:33 PM

    Josquin des Prez wrote:

    I have both the Haitink/Concertgebouw and Karajan/Berliner Bruckner cycles, but I'd like to throw my hat in the ring and point out that the late 70s cycle by Eugen Jochum and Staatskapelle Dresden on EMI is well worth seeking out. It's been one of my favorites, although the Haitink is a more recent acquisition that I need to spend more time with. I'm in for the Giulini 7-9.

    I look forward to the Bartok with Kubelik, but Reiner/CSO is quite a hard act to follow. It's about as perfect a classical recording as they get. And I agree that the AP 33 reissue is a must have (add the RCA Reiner/CSO Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta to your cart while you're at it).

    • 2024-01-30 05:06:10 PM

      NLak wrote:

      You're so right on the Jochum/Bruckner EMI set. I've got it on CD and think it is very good.

    • 2024-01-30 07:30:49 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I had the later Jochum/Bruckner cycle with Dresden on CD for years - finally picked up the vinyl last year. It's a terrific cycle, but I also love the old DG (on big tulip pressings, naturally). The Reiner Bartok records are perfection.

  • 2024-01-31 02:35:01 PM

    Fred Morris wrote:

    Pro-Ject issued a remaster of the Bohm Beethoven 6 a few years back. Sounds great to these ears. Have you heard it Mark?

    • 2024-02-01 04:09:11 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yes. My vinyl was VERY noisy, even after cleaning. I prefer my EBS remixed/remastered SACD. Will be very interesting to compare the two pressings.

  • 2024-01-31 04:26:12 PM

    PeterPani wrote:

    Boehm‘s 6th is the best 6th around. A pity that one of the best 7th - Abbado with the BPO 1999 - was recorded digital only.

    • 2024-01-31 05:09:32 PM

      Come on wrote:

      I'm not particularly keen on this vinyl drop. Quite every release for me has preferable versions available (in sound and interpretation, often both at the same time), Beethoven (for me Walter and Jarvi), Bruckner (for me Schuricht and Celibidache) and Bartok (for me Reiner).

      • 2024-02-01 04:11:23 PM

        Mark Ward wrote:

        All great choices. I love the Schuricht Bruckners on EMI, all reissued on Testament beautifully.

    • 2024-02-01 04:09:54 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I've long meant to give this a listen. Thanks for reminding me!

      • 2024-02-02 07:44:55 AM

        PeterPani wrote:

        only the 7th of the 2000 released box is outstanding. Abbado searches for the truth between the notes and is quite emotionally hunting forward in the quick passages. Wo all know the Furtwängler's and Karajan's and Kleiber's and so on. To me the best - of the 7th - is from Abbado. Quite strange that Abbado wanted the whole cycle to be replaced 2001 (and so it was done by DG). He should have rescued the 7th out of this earlier cycle. I wish DG would go back to the 96/24-recording and try again to reissue this warm-hearted reading in the center of special edition.

  • 2024-01-31 04:26:13 PM

    PeterPani wrote:

    Boehm‘s 6th is the best 6th around. A pity that one of the best 7th - Abbado with the BPO 1999 - was recorded digital only.

  • 2024-01-31 08:11:26 PM

    Robert Moon wrote:

    Thank you, Mark, for infusing life into the often dry world of classical music audiophilia. If I may offer a humble suggestion, please consider listing all the records you are reviewing at the top. This would make it much easier to scan the review quickly before delving into the details into the intricacies of what appears to be a series of individual reviews.

    • 2024-02-01 04:13:35 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Ah, but the whole point is to get you reading the whole piece.....!!! This is just a quick press-release-style article - the reviews should be more clearly laid out. But point taken!

      • 2024-02-01 10:50:24 PM

        Robert Moon wrote:

        I have limited experience with classical music. Although I have a decent grasp of the various genres and schools, I often find myself confused when it comes to conductors, orchestras, and performance venues. Discussions about the stylistic differences between conductors or soloists feel as foreign to me as Mandarin. But, I am trying.

  • 2024-01-31 11:31:55 PM

    Thomas Ream wrote:

    Mark, as always, very enlightening and even inspirational. I placed my order for the new set of OSS as soon as I received the email from DG. BTW, I am still working through my first listen of the last set...Whoa, these sound great. I have owned Steinberg's Planets since release, and THOUGHT I knew that recording well - the opening of Mars has, for example, incredible presence that I have never heard before. For this latest set....I am looking forward to them. I own the Barenboim Bruckner - great brass, recorded when the CSO was at its considerable height, and the Abbado Brahms, which was part of a complete set that Abbado did with 4 different orchestras. I actually love this set of Brahms and if I had to pare my collection to two sets, I would keep this one and Walter's stereo set. I look forward to Kubelik's Bartok as well. The one release where I might disagree with the consensus expressed here is Böhm's Pastorale - but rather than make negative comments I will wait to hear this release.

    On another note, has DG any plans to re-release any of the others? I am still waiting for an order I placed in August with Acoustic Sounds for the Brahms piano concertos and the Missa da Requiem....while Acoustic Sounds has counseled patience, I just don't see this happening unless there is a second release. I was unable to acquire the Kleiber Beethoven in the first release, but now have it (also waiting a first listen).

    Last, do we think we will see any opera? Kleiber recorded several around this time and I am sure there must be others. I'd also like to see if they have MTT's Tchaikovsky First. I bought that at release, too!

    • 2024-02-01 04:19:35 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      So glad you are enjoying the last batch. Re. the titles you still have on pre-order, I think your only option at this point is to wait, unless you want to buy from a re-seller. I have no idea why those titles never materialized at AS and ED - but they are supposed to get there eventually. It's a bit of a mess, frankly. I think opera is unlikely - there simply is no market. But always the possibility of a digital remix/remaster. EBS did Abbado's Carmen on SACD and it's marvelous. I yearn for them to do his Simon Boccanegra, simply one of the greatest opera recordings ever. I love that MTT Tchaikovsky 1 too - but no hint yet that it might be reissued.

      • 2024-02-01 08:27:43 PM

        Thomas Ream wrote:

        You depress me when you say there is no market for opera! I see that Warner is reissuing many Callas titles on would be good to know how these sound. I have the (again) minority opinion that everyone should at least hear Callas' Turandot, if only for Callas and Serafin. Callas makes her a passionate woman, not an icy princess, and thus the Act III transformation is more believable, and Serafin's conducting is particularly juicy. Fernandi wasn't terrible as Calaf, just not Pavarotti or Bjoerling (I am not really a fan of Corelli). Agree with you on Simon Boccanegra - that might be Abbado's single best recording, and possibly the best recording of a Verdi opera ever.

      • 2024-03-29 08:03:34 AM

        Patrick Dunn wrote:

        I would pay double for that Boccanegra. How about a 4 disc Ozawa/ Ravel / BSO set.

  • 2024-02-01 12:52:08 PM

    Jack Pot wrote:

    A lot of comments about superdiscs! The Original Source series impresses me most for the magnificent interpretations. And excellent analogue sound. I suspect it has little to do with the fact if the performance was recorded analogue or digital (up to a point) and more to do with the cutting skills when creating the lacquer master. I have a few vinyls produced by Pentatone and TRPTK which sound glorious (much better than the SACDs!). Therefore, digital or analogue recording does not seem to be the issue. So why are Esoteric's recent vinyls some of the most schockingly beautiful LPs I ever played (Dvorak/Kertesz, Tchaikovski/Fistoulari: yes, they overshadow Maillard/Meyer)?

    • 2024-02-01 04:24:01 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Ah, the Esoteric LPs..... My colleague here, Michael Johnson, is planning to do a review/comparison as soon as his equipment is set up in his new place. I can't wait to hear what he has to say. Digital vs. Analogue is not only an issue of what the source is, but the skill and equipment of the mastering engineer. I have several EBS vinyl sets which were done half-speed (ie. from digital) which sound amazing. I have no idealogical bias either way - I just want the best-sounding version.

  • 2024-02-01 12:56:34 PM

    Jack Pot wrote:

    A lot of comments about superdiscs! The Original Source series impresses me most for the magnificent interpretations. The excellent analogue sound is noteworthy. I suspect sound quality has little to do with the fact if the performance was recorded analogue or digital (up to a point) and more to do with the cutting skills when creating the lacquer master. I have a few vinyls produced by Pentatone and TRPTK which sound glorious (much better than the SACDs!). Therefore, digital or analogue recording does not seem to be the issue. So why are Esoteric's recent vinyls some of the most schockingly beautiful LPs I ever played (Dvorak/Kertesz, Tchaikovski/Fistoulari: yes, they overshadow Maillard/Meyer)? The secret must be in the cutting.

  • 2024-02-03 02:09:43 AM

    Jennnifer Martin wrote:

    I'll look forward to these very much. Mark, I had season tickets to the L.A. Phil when Maestro Giulini was there. His work was revelatory. A real poet. I have many friends in the orchestra from back in those days (mostly brass and woodwinds), and to a person, they state that he is their favorite conductor of all. His wife's health was starting to fail during this time, so he made frequent trips to Italy to be with her. Fortunately, the assistants were MTT and a very young Simon Rattle! Cheers!

    • 2024-02-04 09:29:14 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I am so jealous! To hear those concerts live - wow! Thanks so much for sharing this.....

  • 2024-04-18 10:43:48 AM

    Matthew Conroy wrote:

    Has DG given any indication of how long the Original Source Series will run or other titles that may be on the horizon? Would love to see Pollini's Stravinsky/Prokofiev disc from 1971 included, as well as his Chopin Etudes. Michelangeli's Debussy Images is another that would be great to have. Gilels' Grieg Lyric Pieces too. Seems like the focus so far has largely been on orchestral recordings.

  • 2024-05-07 10:11:18 AM

    TJH wrote:

    Although it is comparing apples with pears, the Kubelik/BSO Bartok OSS (not) surprisingly disappointed me in both breadth and depth of sound, hall sound overall, and as to energy and punch, and pressing quality. (In comparison to the legendary Reiner/CSO RCA Living Stereo remastered reissue of Analogue Productions.) Miles apart acc. to my personal taste, listening experience with my equipment and in my room.

  • 2024-05-09 01:36:22 PM

    Diogo wrote:

    Just received the Böhm/Pastorale LP.

    This is one of my desert island recordings. When I think of the Pastorale symphony I can't imagine it played in any other way.

    But the recording quality has always frustrated me. This is a 1971 recording, it could and should have been brilliantly recorded. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound very good, I have no idea why. Their best engineers must have had their hands full with all the Karajan recordings going on at the time, or they used the backup equipment, or the recording team simply wasn't very good. Timbre is average at best, and the ff passages sound dry, bright and kind of distorted, in an early-transistors-at-the-red-line kind of way. It all sounds like the master tape was played to death (or by a cheese grater) before they committed to making any records from it.

    I had high hopes for this release. The Original Source series has been making stellar work so far. Every record I've heard has had greater detail and better timbre than any CD or LP version ever made.

    But the end result is only going to be just as good as the source allows it to be, and here it seems like all the flaws I've always complained about are present in the original 4-track tapes. This reissue gives us more insight into the original recording, particularly in the strings sections (where even the SACD doesn't fare as well), with more detail and excellent separation and soundstage. But it doesn't fix the problems.

    In short, I'm very disappointed, but not because the reissue is bad, only because I love this recording so much and had high hopes for this release.

    As Mick once said, you can't always get what you want...