Mahler – 5th Symphony
Karajan, BPO – 486 3845 (2x 180g LP)
Originally released – 1973
Schubert – Trout Quintet D. 667
Gilels, Amadeus Quartet, Zepperitz – 2530 646 (180g LP)
Originally released – 1976
Beethoven – Symphony Nr. 7
Carlos Kleiber, VPO – 2530 706 (180g LP)
Originally released – 1976
By Roy Gregory and Dennis Davis
Deutsche Grammophon (DGG) have been garnering plenty of plaudits for their recent vinyl releases, covering everything from the traditional classical canon to newer classical music and film soundtracks (Arrival OST to name just one). The records are flat, beautifully pressed and equally beautifully clad in superb gate-fold sleeves, often sporting superior artwork that fully exploits the 12” square format (Vikingur Ólafsson’s Debussy-Rameau and the all black, embossed and spot UV beauty that is the Arrival cover are particularly fine examples). If the sleeve is a big part of record ownership, then it’s a part that DGG are fully engaged with.
But their latest project promises to take their record releases to a new place entirely. With THE back-catalogue to die for, DGG are finally getting into the all-analogue re-issue business. No questions over access to original master tapes here then! Possibly with a view to testing the waters, the label has gone straight for a few of its plums, great performances just waiting to be re-released on numbered, Limited Edition premium vinyl. The first tranche of releases includes the three reviewed here along with:
The Abbado/LSO – Rite of Spring
The Karajan/BPO – Verdi Requiem
Abbado and the Boston – Debussy Nocturnes and Ravel Daphnis and Chloe, Pavane
The Gilels Brahms Piano Concertos 1&2 (with Jochum and the BPO).
The total numbers in each release vary, from 2,300 for the Schubert, 2,600 in the case of the Mahler, to 3,200 for the Kleiber Beethoven.
There are two things that make these releases particularly interesting. The first is that original pressings would have been cut with Teldec EQ, meaning that unless you have that curve available on your phono-stage, you’ll not have heard these recordings as they should be replayed. The second is that DGG have been typically fastidious over the storage of their tape archive and the continuity within the company has maintained that stance across the intervening decades. As a result, DGG claim that the original (often 4-track ‘Quadraphonic’) tapes have been preserved in remarkable condition. Rather than relying on contemporary 2-channel mix-downs, they have built or adapted a special, all-analogue replay chain (tape deck and four-into-two passive mixing console) to play the 4-track masters and affect a real-time, two-channel mix specifically for these releases. Producer Rainer Maillard oversaw the process; the discs were cut by Sidney C. Meyer and pressed by Optimal.
It should also be noted that the ‘collectable status’ of original pressings varies. Current pricing on the Schubert and Mahler discs starts the right side of €10 for copies in decent condition – meaning that you are paying a premium for these DGG re-issues. When it comes to the Kleiber Beethoven 7 the situation is reversed. Second-hand copies of early pressings start at around the same €40 price as the re-issue, with those in really good condition fetching considerably more.