Just received the new 45 rpm reissue of Witches’ Brew by Classic Records. Can’t wait to get it cleaned and listen!
This record has been a audiophile favorite since it’s first release on the RCA Shaded Dog label. The music is dramatic, making full use of a large orchestra’s color, dynamics and impact. You know these pieces: Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Gnomes from Pictures; Saint-Saen’s Danse Macabre; Arnolds’ Tam O’Shanter; Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz… All BIG, colorful pieces.
And the sonics on this 45rpm reissue certainly do justice to the recording. Tremendous instrumental color and impact, big dynamics, huge impact.
The only downside is that everything is recorded very up-close with the microphones sitting right in the throats of the instruments. So, it sounds highly multi-miked (like a Decca Phase-4, and it was the Decca team making the recording on contract to RCA) and it fails to recreate a natural orchestra soundstage with tremendous depth, width and height.
So, as good as this highly valued record may be, does it move to the top of my list of treasured records? No, unfortunately. It is spectacular, and it does some things no other record in my collection can do, but it is not my ideal recording of an orchestra. For that, turn to The Power of the Orchestra also originally issued on RCA and also recorded by the Decca team on contract to RCA.
The difference? In the Power of the Orchestra, Kenneth Wilkinson as the recording engineer was able to fully apply his aesthetic in creating a natural sounding orchestral image on tape with more minimal miking. The result is less “in your face” drama, but a more realistic recording of an orchestra in full tilt action. The recent 45rpm reissue by Analogue Productions of The Power of the Orchestra continues to reign at the top of my pile of great orchestral LPs.