SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

HOLST: The Planets – The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orch./Zubin Mehta – London (1971)/Original Recordings Group 45rpm vinyl (2 discs)

A super audiophile re-release of this orchestral warhorse.

Published on August 30, 2013

HOLST: The Planets – The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orch./Zubin Mehta – London (1971)/Original Recordings Group 45rpm vinyl (2 discs)

GUSTAV HOLST: The Planets – The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orch./Zubin Mehta – London (1971)/ Original Recordings Group ORG 122 45rpm audiophile vinyl (2 discs) (6/11/13); [Distr. by Elusive Disc] 60:17 ****:

The Original Recordings Group has taken on the fascinating task of finding important, unique and renowned vinyl recordings from a number of diverse genres and remastering them and re-releasing them in a super-high-end 45rpm audiophile format. From their website, “ORG was launched in winter of 2006 with a clear mission: to produce and market the highest quality vinyl records and packaging for the music industry. The principles of ORG bring decades of music industry experience to this venture, including expertise in A&R, marketing and production….Only then can we produce beautiful products at still attainable prices.”  More on the attainable prices to follow.

I have the original London LP and it is still very good condition (because I am so OCD and protective of my stuff). This recording was renowned at the time because it was one of the first from LA under Zubin Mehta, who – arguably – turned the Philharmonic into a world class orchestra with a clear recording and marketing vision.

The performance is very good, indeed. There have been so many recordings of “The Planets” that trying to decide which is the best or where in the copious mix is this particular one is a little bit of a pointless semantic. Mehta did have a few unique takes on tempo and dynamic but never really conducted anything with so much eccentricity as to become known for his “eccentricity”. His performances are almost always solid interpretations that are true to the score. The reason, then, to get this high-end audiophile vinyl is, ostensibly, the enhancement in sound from the careful remastering and the higher 45 rpm speed and spreading out of the grooves.

This is where it gets tricky; at least to my ears. This remastering is quite good. It is pressed on a very high quality heavier-gauge vinyl and the sound certainly has all the “warmth” that some say vinyl has over compact disc technology with its occasional “glassy” or “metallic” timbre (which, actually, is not nearly as pronounced now as it was, say, thirty years ago.) The dynamics are spread quite a bit; the softs of the “Venus” or “Neptune” movements are quite distinct from the fortes of the key moments in “Mars” or “Jupiter”, by contrast.

I do not own what I consider a “high end” turntable and, yet, I was impressed. This album sounds cleaner and more impressive than my 1970’s LP original and better than many – but not most – of the first generation of the digitally- mastered Telarcs that I still love. This ORG recording is quite good, but …. Here’s the thing.

That “attainable” price which is more than $60 retail is still steep in today’s home listening market. Is it four times better than your favorite CD version of this – or any identical – recording? I can’t honestly say so. I think this, as well as the other remasterings on this label, are a work of engineering art best appreciated by true hard core audiophiles who would pay top dollar for even the most subtle improvements in sound. I also think that is ORG’s target audience.

The well-informed and experienced classical listener may or may not want to buy something so esoteric when the choices are so many. I would welcome the chance to test pilot another ORG vinyl audiophile classical behemoth, though. Maybe, something that was recorded even longer ago and well worth bringing back in this new, cleaned up, “juiced” format; how about some of the Ormandy Philadelphias or Szell Cleveland?  In the meantime, I did enjoy this but someone may think I have totally missed the point.

—Daniel Coombs




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