At the beginning of the year, I mentioned that I had the real fortune of acquiring a copy of Robert Moon's and Michael Gray's long out-of-print book, "Full Frequency Stereophonic Sound: A Discography and History of Early London/Decca Stereo Classical Instrumental and Chamber Music Recordings (1956-1963) on Records and Compact Discs". I won't go into detail as to how I got a copy, but my family and closest friends know that it was not just a stroke of good luck but attributable to the invaluable help of my younger sister. So thanks to her, I am able to periodically share with you some of the wisdom which is contained in this book.
The book was published in 1990 and has something of a cult following among classical audiophiles. It is organized into a series of chapters including:
1. About the Authors
2. Preface and Acknowledgements
3. FFSS and How It Grew
4. Stereo and the Modern Orchestra
5. Reverberation and Microphone Placing for Stereo Recording
6. The Record Ratings and Discography
8. The Best Records
9. Records vs. Compact Discs
11. Labels and Pressings
12. The Artists
The total length of the book is 83 pages. I find the beginning sections on the history of FFSS and London/Decca recordings to be very interesting, and they serve to really provide some background on the way that London/Decca recordings were recorded and produced. My favorite sections, though, have to be the Ratings as well as The Best Records. The ratings are given a grade for both Performance and Sound, with a scale from 1 (bad) to 10 (excellent). The highest combined rating is 20, and according to the authors, there are 5 such records. These are:
CS 6028/SXL 2260 -- Argenta conducting Falla El Retablo de Mases Pedro, Harpsichord Concerto
CS 6079/SXL 2136 -- Ansermet conducting Debussy's La Boite a Jou Joux and Printemps
CS 6191/SXL 2246 -- Maag conducting Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 and Hebrides Overture
CS 6252/SXL 2313 -- Lanchbery conducting Herold-Lanchbery's La Fille Mal Garde
CS 6337/SXL 6035 -- Oistrakh performing Hindemith's Violin Concerto and Bruch's Scottish Fantasy
There are several that fall within the range of 13-19. Of course, these are subjective gradings, and I can't say that I agree with all of them. There is at least one or two records which I think are great which don't get high ratings here. The authors, though, make an important statement, though, which is that every pressing of a record is different. No two are identical, so two different individuals' listening experiences may be totally different. Also, playback equipment ranges greatly, so this can also contribute to differences of opinion. The highest scoring records are described in more detail in The Best Records section, and I'll be pointing out some of these in future posts.
Next, in my From "Full Frequency Stereophonic Sound" series, I'll share with you the authors' opinions on FFSS vs. FFRR! Stay tuned!