Monday, 23 September 2013

Decca, Walter, Ferrier, Mahler

The British publication The Gramophone published this month its annual awards for “the best” in various categories (excluding the all-important category of historical transfers). Improbable Artist of the Year was a blond, female trumpeter (British, of course). What raised my eyebrows was the accolade of Record Label of the Year going to ... Decca (British, in origin, of course).

There are myriad record labels out there, some doing great things in rare repertoire and with first-class artists. I was reflecting on this when, this evening, I made another small step in eliminating duplications in my collection: I have two transfers of the classic 1952 recording of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with Bruno Walter, Katheen Ferrier, Julius Patzak and the Vienna Philharmonic. One transfer is Naxos (Mark Obert-Thorn). The other is from the original company Decca (96KHz 24-bit Super Digital Transfer). I listened to a one minute sample of each. One minute was enough.

The Decca sounded like a hi-tech machine transfer; the Naxos sounded like an audio craftman's transfer. Naxos won hands down -- so much so that I had to stay and listen to every note of the final Abschied as rendered by Ferrier, Walter and the VPO. Very moving, and in quite acceptable (Naxos) sound. Record Label of the Year. My foot.

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