We music lovers are all very lucky that DGG still has such an extensive back catalogue of their recordings available on LP.
It leads the way by some distance, and the (German) pressings are almost invariably excellent.
Its sister company Philips is pretty good too, but its catalogue of great recordings is nowhere near as good.
Are there any others out there?
In the UK; HMV (EMI and Columbia) had some amazing performances and their pressings were generally pretty good, with some of them from the '70s being quite superb.
Decca though has to be my favourite. Some great performances here and the production and recording talents of some of the all-time greats like John Culshaw, Roy Wallace, Arthur Haddy, and Ken Wilkinson whose recordings are often held up as the finest of all time and were often labelled “Wilkie wonders”.
Fair point, Richard. I recently bought a copy of John Culshaw’s book ‘Ring Resounding’, his definitive account of recording Solti’s famous version of Wagner’s 'Ring", which I’m greatly looking forward to reading.
Richard, I remember that the venue of choice in London for so much orchestral music recorded from the 1950s to the 1980s was the Kingsway Hall, a Methodist meeting place not far from Holborn Underground station. The acoustics were reckoned to be ideal in a classic ‘shoe box’ format.
I succeeded once in sneaking int the back of the Hall while Rostropovich was conducting the London Philharmonic in a recording of Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony. Obviously I have no idea whether anything recorded while I was there made it onto the LP.
Has anyone else gatecrashed a recorded session in this way?
Yes, Kingsway Hall was a favourite recording location, used by both HMV and Decca, as well as Philips, RCA, Mercury and DGG, right up to just before it was taken on by the GLC in the '80s and then fell into a state of disrepair from which it never recovered. On many Kingsway recordings you can hear a deep rumble from time to time, which was the sound of trains running along the Piccadilly line.
MPS produce very good sounding lps, still today. Don’t know if they have classical music however.
Agreed Richard. I have to say that with very occasional exceptions, Deutsche Gramophone’s analogue recordings are relatively disappointing compared with Decca (especially), EMI, RCA and just about any other label IMHO. They are tight, thin, colourless and lacking in air, body and atmosphere when compared to the best recordings of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. This is, of course, an outrageous generalisation, but accurately represents my experience.
I have a pretty large collection of classical records (2000+ LPs) including both DG (DGG) and Philips, and they both have great catalogs.However, I think my Philips LPs sound consistently better than the DG, which are often EQ’d too brightly IMHO. I think Decca (+ London, L-Oisseau-Lyre, etc), RCA Living Stereo and EMI are also great, and generally sound better too. With that said, there are some really outstanding DGs too and wonderful catalog titles.
I like them all, but I would not rate DG as best, just one of many great labels. One of the best in terms of great sound for my money is Harmonia Mundi France. It’s really hard to beat what they could accomplish with great sound, and if you like early music they are really hard to beat in terms of catalog.
I have just noticed that two LPs that I have received -Carlos Kleiber’s Beethoven Fifth and Seventh Symphonies - are marked ‘180 gram heavyweight vinyl pressing’. I have never seen this on a DGG LP before, so it must be a fairly recent development.
Well done, Deutsche Grammophon!
Full agreement from me @JosquinDesPrez. DG were never the best on SQ in the Analogue era and continued to be worse than most others in the first decade or two of digital. More recently they seem OK, but still it’s usually recordings on other labels that give me ‘wow, that’s a great recording’ type experiences.
@graham55. I’ve now received the Kleiber DGG Beethoven Symphonies. To my ears, SQ is acceptable and good enough to reveal the special qualities that Kleiber brought to these works, but that’s all. Not too impressed with the SQ really. It’s definitely a bit light in the bottom end and not expansive. I don’t think the use of 180gram vinyl is particularly advantageous either - there’s still surface noise and whoosh evident in the quieter moments.
If you’re allergic to the background noises on the LPs, you can get the CD in the Originals series, giving both symphonies on a single CD. Extraordinary value!
I thought DG’s releases took a leap in SQ when they brought in the oddly-named 4D technology in the early 90s. Their Archiv releases were, I thought, often better than the Yellow Label releases.
The (also oddly-named) Original Image-Bit Processing remastering they did on Karajan’s 80s recordings improved them hugely, though they’ll never be on anyone’s Best Ever Recordings list.
The plus point for DG had to be their silent surfaces. The downside to me being a pipe and slippers smoothness and generally distantly recorded. This goes back to the Karajan era and I wonder if he had some influence with DG management as to their “house” style. Life moves on and most recording teams are now free-lance. Current DG releases have no house style to me.
Decca were and are one of the tops for sound quality as are Chandos. Partly due to Simon Eaden and Andrew Keener as engineers.
A lot of Lyrita recordings were actually made by Decca as were, I think, some Reader’s Digest, so quality was high. I always liked the brass in Decca recordings. just that little bit forward.
Decca New Malden pressings were excellent except the staff were a bit careless in sleeving the pressings. I should know as a neighbour used to work the evening shift packing LPs. The purchase of a Lyra Etna not that long a go improved the pressing hash from a lot of Deccas. Riding in a different part of the groove?
EMI at Hayes had a quality control unit of sorts. If you returned records direct and not via a dealer they might find you a superior pressing but it wasn’t that quick!
Nimbus LP pressings in Wales were always good.
These days I buy very few LPs, new or S/H as my CD555 is no second string to the LP12.
Properly pressed vinyl done with care is just about the best you can get.
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