(Decca SXL 2263)
Ernest Ansermet, conductor
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Pressing: ED1, Blueback
Price range: $26-116, mean $44 on popsike
Comments: This is one fun London/Decca*! Here we have a collection of some of the most popular French overtures of the 19th century, including Lalo's Le Roi D'Ys, Auber's Le Domino Noir and Fra Diavolo, Herold's Zampa, Offenbach's La Belle Helene and Orpheus in the Underworld. The music is light, lively and spirited, and overall quite uplifting. Ansermet and his L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande deliver here, providing the right amount of lyricism (with a few nice string and wind solos) in the slower passages and plenty of gusto and energy in the more dynamic ones.
The sound here is quite excellent, though not quite tops. The sound stage is very wide and deep, one of the widest I've heard on a London/Decca, and the hall acoustics provide some nice reverberation, which adds to the effect of all the cymbal crashes, drum rolls, and brass lines that punctuate the overtures. Listening on my Beyerdynamic T1's powered by a PS Audio GCHA headphone amp -- a combo which tends to really expose any deficiency with a recording -- I sensed a bit of murkiness and harshness in the strings during loud passages. This could be an equipment issue rather a recording or pressing issue, which I will have to confirm on loudspeakers tomorrow. Nevertheless, dynamic range was wide, and this is definitely an album for which you want to turn up the volume when your neighbors aren't home. Recommended for both the sound and the fun factor.
*Moon & Gray in the book FFSS rated this album an 8 for performance and 8 for sound for a total of 16 out of 20 points.
08/29/2013 8:32 AM Addendum: This album sounds more natural on my loudspeakers. While that lack of clarity and harshness in the strings that I heard on my headphones is still present, it is less noticeable, and one is more drawn by the smoother, more open sound. This record still remains in my top 10 list of favorite London/Deccas.