Decca SXL 6025
Leonore 1, 2, & 3
Lorin Maazel, conductor
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Price range: $25-94, mean $53 on popsike
Comments: This 1962 recording by the Israel Philharmonic conducted by the young Lorin Maazel presents us with the set of all four overtures Beethoven wrote for the opera Fidelio. Beethoven apparently struggled to come up with a satisfactory version of this overture, producing four different iterations over a span of nine years: Leonore No. 2 (1805), Leonore No. 3 (1806), Leonore No. 1 (1808), and Fidelio for the revival of the opera (1814). Frankly, these have never topped my list of favorite Beethoven overtures -- Egmont, Coriolan, and Creatures of Prometheus are my preferences -- but I picked up this record while trying to collect some of Maazel's earliest stereo recordings on Decca, EMI/Columbia, and Deutsche Grammophon. The performances of the IPO are fine.
The sound stage is pretty wide on this album, and overall presentation is a little more laid back. You feel like you are sitting some rows back in the concert hall. Unfortunately, this record suffers from the characteristics of some of the early Decca FFSS pressings. The frequency range, in spite of being "full frequency stereophonic sound", sounded a bit constricted on my system. Treble was bright, even a bit shrill, and lacked smoothness. In the more dynamic, climactic passages of music, I sensed a lack of clarity and picked up some distortion, particularly in the sound of the brass instruments. On the other end, bass felt shallow and lacked fullness. As you can see from the label, this is a first pressing ("Original Recording By" at the 10 o'clock position). I wonder if later pressings or any reissues solved this issue with the treble. A nice Decca, but not one of the essential ones, at least in its ED1 FFSS pressing.