Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
Stokowski's LSO recording is my favorite. It's such a sensual
performance. I also find the sound on Cala very good. It's also out as
part of the Stoki Decca boxed set, but I haven't heard that, so I can't
make a sound comparison.
You're right about the performance. It was my first exposure to the work,
which I just happened to hear as I was scanning up and down the radio dial
in New York in the mid 60s. WQXR had their 8:PM "Symphony Hall" program,
and that was the featured work that evening. I still remember the feeling
of being smitten by Stoki's conducting.
I've bought several other versions, but they all seemed thinned-out and
lacked the conviction of the Phase 4 recording, so I finally went out and
bought the "real thing." I was in my early teens, didn't have much cash and
didn't know much about music. I certainly had no preferences when it came
to conductors or performances yet. I think the Stokowski performances of
Scherazade and "Pictures At An Exhibition" were my first ones where I began
expressing a preference for particular versions.
I never did feel completely at home with the London Phase 4 LP. It was LOUD
and it had a wide dynamic range, that was painful to listen to, because the
volume seemed either too high or too low. Later on I bough a DBX Model 119
expander/compressor and I was able to compress the dynamic range when I
played the LP. I believe that this was the only LP I ever owned where I
compressed, rather than expanded, the dynamic range.
I just recently bought the CD on Cala, after having given up on ever finding
the performance on CD (someone in this NG mentioned that performance and I
ordered it that same day). I must say I am very disappointed in the
The only good thing is that the clicks, pops and crackle that have developed
in the LP version over the decades are gone. (We had a cheap GE "console
stereo" with a ceramic cartridge when I first bought the LP, and it wasn't
long before distortion set in.)
Now the frustrating factors:
1: The CD was LOUD, again with a wide dynamic range. If I set the volume so
I could hear the quiet parts, I'd get BLASTED at the loud passages. I found
myself sitting with remote control in hand, constantly adjusting the sound
volume. I still have my DBX unit, and I'll just have to compress the
playback, just as I did with the LP. Bummer.
2: There is a lot of clipping in the loud passages. I notice it more on the
CD than I did on the LP, and this is the most disturbing part of all. Why
did those Phase 4 engineers have to record at volume levels that drove the
meters beyond maximum? That clipping is God-awful!
So I have this love-hate thing with this performance. The syrupy violin
playing of Erich Gruenberg is seductive, but the recording is brash, the
audio seems brittle, the clipping is unforgivable. The CD claims to have
been remastered at 24 bit / 96 kHz, but this is by far the worst-sounding of
any high-definition CD that I own (compare to the RCS high-definition
remasters of Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, where the sound is
clean and "open," and the noise is gone without adversely affecting the high
frequencies of the performance). The Cala CD lists the SPARS information as
"AAD." I don't understand how a 24/96 remastering could be AAD and not ADD.
I've been rediscovering the Stokowski version on RCA Victrola 7743-2-RV,
with the RPO and also with Gruenberg's violin playing. This was produced by
Richard Mohr, and I seem to associate his name with "Living Stereo" LP
pressings. If anyone knows any details about this particular recording I'd
appreciate finding out more.
I try not to be too critical of technical issues, especially on older
recordings that had to work with whatever the state of the art was at the
time of the recording, but this particular CD really bothers me, because the
performance was magnificent, and the engineering just ruined it. I'd gladly
take the LSO performance along with the RCA Victrola CD sound, if it were
My recommendation is to get the CD, because the performance is a must-have,
but try to set aside the deficiencies associated with loud volume and
clipping if you can.