Acoustic Sounds
By: Tracking Angle

October 20th, 2023



Deutsche Grammophon Announces Next "The Original Source" Releases Available January 12th, 2024

pre-order now via DG shop, available in December at other retailers

October 20th, 2023—Deutsche Grammophon today announced the next releases in its highly regarded and well reviewed "The Original Source" series. The titles are "Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4" with Claudio Abbado & The Vienna Philharmonic, Richard Strauss "Tod und Verkärung/Vier letzte Lieder", Gundula Janowitz, soprano, Herbert von Karajan & The Berlin Philharmonic and a three LP set of recordings by William Steinberg and the Boston Symphony Orchestra: Holst, "The Planets", Richard Strauss, "Also sprach Zarathustra" and Hindemith "Mathis der Maler Symphony".

As with the previous releases Emil Berliner Studios remasters the 4-track '70s era 4 track recordings, mixing (by Rainer Maillard) and cutting lacquers (by Sidney C. Meyer) "live" to two channel AAA to create versions of the highest possible audio quality.

Optimal presses these limited and numbered deluxe gatefold editions featuring the original artwork and liner notes on 180g virgin vinyl. Also included are additional photos and facsimiles of the recording documentation on the inner sleeve. Each release includes a note by Rainer Maillard/EBS detailing the technical background and procedure of the Original Source Series, and an additional insert with a photo of the original tape box. Each LP comes in a protective cellophane jacket with a sticker highlighting the USPs of the series.

Here are additional thoughts on these releases from our own Mark Ward:

This may be the most exciting series of titles so far in DG’s ongoing vinyl reissue campaign - and that is saying something.

Hardcore classical vinyl collectors will be salivating at the prospect of these upcoming titles getting the deluxe AAA treatment courtesy of Emil Berliner Studios and Optimal. Why? Because what we have here are both acknowledged benchmark performances along with titles that are less well-known, but highly regarded by collectors. More casual classical listeners and newcomers to the scene should be excited too: these titles represent some of the most thrilling and also beautiful music classical has to offer, all in superb performances. One thing those of us already familiar with these records in previous incarnations will agree on - that they could all seriously benefit from a sonic upgrade. If these remasterings maintain the high sonic standards of the best of the OSS releases so far, then we are in for a serious audiophile treat.

Let’s start with an acknowledged classic of both the DG catalogue and the classical catalogue in general: Herbert von Karajan’s 1974 record of Richard Strauss, coupling the symphonic poem Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration)with the Four Last Songs, featuring soprano Gundula Janowitz. Those of you inclined to avoid any kind of classical vocal music and skip this record - think again. This recording of the Four Last Songs - one of the most hauntingly poignant, even beatific, works ever written - is in a class of its own. Janowitz’s impossibly beautiful voice registers almost as an instrument in its own right, floating effortlessly above the ravishing sonorities of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. There’s a reason this made the list of David Bowie’s 25 favorite records - it is unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. Karajan was one of the great Strauss conductors, but here he surpasses himself, recording each song pretty much in one take.

However, all previous incarnations of this recording suffered from that typical DG sound of the period, where you felt the voice, in particular, was somewhat compressed, the record grooves and the CD digits unable to fully accommodate the range and power of Janowitz’s instrument. For all its faults, many of which were beyond the restorative powers of EBS, the earlier OSS release of Verdi’s Requiem did one thing spectacularly: it liberated those vocal soloists from any constraints, and their voices soared in a manner I’ve never heard on any record before.

So the prospect of hearing this recording of the Four Last Songs released from its sonic shackles is drool-worthy at the very least. Oh, and by the way, the performance of Death and Transfiguration is spectacular too.

Next up, a real surprise: Claudio Abbado’s 1976 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, one of the warhorses of the classical repertoire. I certainly did not see this one coming, but I am excited at the choice. It’s a very fine performance, but the sound of the original LP was definitely compromised.

The DG catalog (and indeed the entire catalogue) is dominated by the benchmark recordings of the last three Tchaikovsky symphonies by Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting his Leningrad Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s. Karajan recorded the same works five times - three times for DG and twice for EMI. All his were with with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, except for the earlier Philharmonia versions for EMI, and a final digital rendering with the VPO. Given the distinctive sonority of the Vienna Philharmonic, I can’t wait to hear how this version with Abbado sounds in the OSS upgrade. I think one of the great discoveries afforded to us by the OSS releases has been - via the radically increased fidelity to the master tapes - hearing more clearly than ever before the distinct sonorities of different orchestras, and the differing recording approaches of different engineers and producers..

Last but by no means least we have the box set gathering together all of William Steinberg’s DG recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I certainly did not see this one coming, but it makes perfect sense if you are looking to represent the lesser-known gems along with the acknowledged classics of the DG catalogue. This is the release that’s going to have classical collectors reaching for their wallets to get their pre-orders in promptly.

Why is that? Many reasons.

Also Sprach Zarathustra and The Planets are two of the evergreen orchestral spectaculars that every audiophile wants to take for a spin on their turntables to see just how good their system can sound. In the case of The Planets, every audiophile will already have his or her favorites: Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Decca/London (and various reissue labels), Karajan and the VPO also on Decca/London, André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra on EMI, to name a few. With Also Sprach Zarathustra again you’ve got established benchmarks like Karajan with the VPO for Decca/London (the recording used for 2001: A Space Odyssey), Mehta and the LAPO also for Decca/London, Karajan again on DG in the 1970s with the BPO (my personal favorite), and Solti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Decca/London (though only in its King Super Analogue incarnation; the original Decca was unforgivably squeezed onto one side of the record - what were they thinking!!).

But the Steinberg versions of both works with the BSO were always serious contenders for anyone that knew them, and that was before they get the sonic upgrade they will receive for their OSS reissue. Anyone who has been reading the coverage of the OSS series so far on this site (and/or bought all the OSS records so far), will know that the BSO recordings have been particularly successful. Both myself and my colleague here at TA, Michael Johnson, have really, really enjoyed the BSO releases, and I myself was reduced to a quivering mass of superlatives when reviewing Ozawa’s Symphonie Fantastique. (Yes, it really is that good!)

I think the reason why the BSO recordings are responding so well to the OSS sonic upgrade has to do with the approach of their supervising producer, Thomas Mowrey, who was an early proponent of true quadrophonic/surround sound technology. If you haven’t done so already, watch the extensive discussion of the OSS series that took place as the reissues were launched, and note what Thomas has to say. He had his own methodology, and it’s clear he found the sweet spot to record in Boston’s Symphony Hall (which maybe also had less challenging acoustics than some of the other venues featured in the OSS releases thus far).

Anyway, I can’t wait to hear what EBS’s magicians come up with for their remastering and remixing of the Steinberg recordings, which brings me to the wild card in the box: Steinberg’s album of music by Hindemith. Hindemith is one of those 20th century composers whose reputation continues to languish unfairly in the shade of the giants: Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Bartok - to name a few. He writes in a modernist, neo-classical style which certainly isn’t Mozart, but nor is it atonal or 12-tonal. There are tunes! If you haven’t explored Hindemith yet, you have a treat in store for you. Steinberg’s record brings together two works - the Mathis der Maler Symphony, and the Concert Music for Strings and Brass. Mathis der Maler is the one Hindemith work (along with the Symphonic Metamorphoses on a Theme of Weber) you might occasionally encounter in the wild (or on record), but it’s hardly a regular on concert programs. I am not familiar with Steinberg’s versions, but I know that my colleague Michael Johnson rates this record highly. So I simply cannot wait to hear this.

I know DG is going a bit out on a limb here asking punters to fork out the extra cash to get all three Steinberg records in a box, but for me it’s a no-brainer purchase. If the folks at EBS and Optimal have nailed the remasters (hopefully without the few tracking issues that dogged the Gilels/Brahms release), then this Steinberg box is going to become a true collector’s item, very quickly.

As always Tracking Angle will bring you in-depth reviews of this major series of releases once they hit the streets. Stay tuned…..


  • 2023-10-20 06:51:54 PM

    Jim Shue wrote:

    Mark - thanks for your insights on these forthcoming DG OSS releases! As a huge fan of Steinberg's Planets super looking forward to the Steinberg box for sure. At the moment these are not yet up at Acoustic Sounds (my preferred online vendor) or Elusive Disc and Music Direct for pre-order.

    Given the massive success of OSS for DG one wonders if other Classical labels will pursue similar programs.

    • 2023-10-21 12:31:51 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      To my knowledge these releases are only available for pre-order on the DG Shop site. I suspect this is because they are selling so well. If you want to get a guaranteed copy I would order directly from DG. I made the mistake of waiting for copies to appear at domestic (US) retailers like AS, MD and ED and they sold out so quickly I missed out on a couple of titles.

  • 2023-10-20 10:32:41 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Thanks Mark, preordered them and hope for the best. A Zarathustra recommendation of Bowie is a bit like a death metal recommendation of the pope, right?

    • 2023-10-21 12:33:36 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I LOVE the analogy!! RE. Bowie's fave - it was the Four Last Songs/Janowitz/Karajan record, not the Zarathustra - same composer though!

  • 2023-10-20 11:03:15 PM

    Fred Morris wrote:

    Looking forward to your always insightful reviews. In the meantime, here’s an idea for an article: state of the vinyl revival in Britain. E.g., vinyl is reasonably well covered in Hi Fi News, but nearly invisible in Gramophone, which of course is hugely ironic. Very active and helpful dealers on Discogs. Would be great to get your take.

    • 2023-10-21 12:35:03 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yes the lack of coverage in Gramophone (and on Radio 3's Record Review) is a mystery to me. Love your idea - have filed it away......

  • 2023-10-21 06:06:48 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    The Janowitz / Karajan is one of the most emphatic classical records ever made. To me in the top three of Karajan. This is a must for every music lover. Believe me! The sound on my originals is perfect to me. I will buy this reissue. If it betters the original… wow!

    • 2023-10-21 12:37:07 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      I am sure the new version will blow away any other incarnation of this recording. When I first heard they were going to do this record you had to pick me up off the floor......

  • 2023-10-21 06:06:49 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    The Janowitz / Karajan is one of the most emphatic classical records ever made. To me in the top three of Karajan. This is a must for every music lover. Believe me! The sound on my originals is perfect to me. I will buy this reissue. If it betters the original… wow!

  • 2023-10-21 07:17:16 PM

    NLak wrote:

    The Karajan/Janowitz Four Last Songs is so iconic and will definitely be getting it. Although, not from the DG site, close to 40 Euros for shipping is way too high. Strangely even liked his last recording of the Strauss classic with Sintow as well.

    • 2023-10-22 01:58:15 AM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Yes, I only heard that later Karajan/Sintow version recently, and being such a huge fan of the Janowitz I was surprised by how much I liked the redo.

      • 2023-10-23 09:14:19 AM

        NLak wrote:

        Strange as it sounds, I reach more for the Sintow version over the Janowitz; I prefer the tempi of the 80s release over the 70s version.

  • 2023-11-19 08:02:33 PM

    Bryan M. wrote:

    Thanks for the in depth review Mark. I am really looking forward to the Strauss. The Steinberg Planets has long been a favorite of mine. I've never heard the Hindemith record, so that will be interesting. But as for Also Sprach, I have never been a fan of that recording at all. The playing and interpretation are fine, but EBS will have to work a miracle to make it sound like anything. That recording sounds like it was made with a single mic 100 yards away. I can't even focus on the music or the performance because the recording quality is so distracting. Maybe the inclusion of the extra "surround" tracks will fix it. I will definitely be watching for your review before I shell out the money for it though. Thanks again!