Next up is SDD 104: Beethoven -- Symphony No. 4, Coriolan Overture (Ernest Ansermet, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande), stampers ZAL 4236-4E/4237-6E. Ansermet is not a conductor you typically think of as being a great Beethoven interpreter, but nevertheless he released his own cycle of the nine symphonies on London/Decca. This one is CS 6070/SXL 2116. In the last few months, I've come to really like Beethoven's 4th and as soon as the tempo gets going in the first movement, you can tell that this is going to be worth the price of admission. The fourth movement is one of the more exciting ones I've heard, too, and the Coriolan packs a punch. The bass may not be quite as powerful as on some of the golden age EMI recordings, but you can certainly feel the timpani here. I once owned the Blueback but don't remember it sounding anywhere near as good as this one. There is absolutely no distortion on this one, and the treble sounds far more natural than on many of those Bluebacks. Outstanding.
From Beethoven's 4th, we move to the 5th: SDD 105: Beethoven -- Symphony No. 5; Egmont Overture (Ernest Ansermet, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande), stampers 4075-4L/4076-5L, equivalent to CS 6037/SXL 2003. I wish I could say that London/Decca was on a roll with this one, but I can't. This release is plagued by more tape hiss, boosted treble, weak bass, and muddiness all around and sounds far less natural than SDD 104. The brass in the glorious fourth movement of the 5th symphony were so shrill I had to turn down the volume to avoid irritating my ears. Probably an accurate representation of the Blueback, which I was never impressed by either. Move on, please.
This Ace of Diamonds release, SDD 124: Liszt -- Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Julius Katchen, Ataulfo Argenta, London Philharmonic Orchestra), stampers 3523-4E/3524-4E, is the equivalent of CS 6033/SXL 2097. The presentation overall is a bit more laid back on this recording and one can appreciate some of the hall acoustics. Oddly enough, though, on a number of occasions when the brass play loudly, the sound hits you square in your face. It's almost uncomfortable. As in the last album, treble sounds boosted, and an overall sense of naturalness is lacking. There is also some minor distortion in loud passages, most notably at the conclusion of the first concerto. I would say that this reissue loses little if anything to the original Blueback that I once owned, and for a few dollars, might be worth exploring.
So that's it for this weekend's roundup. Stay tuned for future posts on more budget buys of the classical LP world.