Saturday, August 24, 2013

Decca SXL 6025 Beethoven Overtures with Lorin Maazel

Decca SXL 6025

Beethoven Overtures:
Leonore 1, 2, & 3

Lorin Maazel, conductor
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Pressing: ED1

Condition: EX+

ZAL 5587-5W
ZAL 5588-2G

Performance: 8/10

Sound: 6/10

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.



  1. Israel Philharmonic Decca/London's can disappoint and yet Solti's Rossini-Respighi: La Boutique Fantastique London (CS 6005) can be pretty good in the right pressing.

    I challenge someone to name a great RCA or Decca of a Beethoven piece. I'd settle for an overture. If nothing comes to mind, then perhaps a Brahms piece. Nothing leaps to my mind.

    1. I do like Backhaus Beethoven Piano Concerto 1. I might even love it a little. A very subdued, sublime sound.

    2. I agree with you on the Backhaus Beethoven Piano Concertos. Those sound quite nice. I just picked up one of Backhaus' Beethoven piano sonatas albums on Blueback FFSS. Will report back on how it sounds. What do you think of Ansermet's Beethoven? Or Solti's Beethoven with the VPO, not the CSO?

    3. I'll check what I have piled up, but don't hold your breath. I've not been too impressed. I've got a lot on stereo treasury.

    4. I'll answer my own Brahms and Beethoven question based on ebay completed prices. There are some concertos. Symphonies? Zip, nada. If these are the two best labels why don't they have a decent recording? Answer: Technologically inferior to Columbia/EMI.

    5. There's also Isserstedt-Schmidt's Beethoven symphony cycle as well as Brahms symphonies conducted by Lorin Maazel and Istvan Kertesz, all on Decca. I haven't heard all of them on LP (though I've heard them on CD), but they might be competitive. I agree, though, that Columbia/EMI did a lot more of the big B's during the Golden Age. Beethoven -- Klemperer, Karajan (mono), Kempe, Kubelik, Szell. Brahms -- Klemperer, Giulini, Kempe.