J. Gordon Holt

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J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 19, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1963  |  3 comments
Music of Edgar Varèse, Vol.2
Arcana, Déserts, Offrandes, Chanson De Là-Haut (Song From High)
Dona Precht, soprano, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Robert Craft, conductor.
Columbia Masterworks MS-6362 (LP). John McClure, Thomas Frost, prods. TT: 24:45.

In electronic music, the sounds of musical instruments, natural noise-makers and electronic signal generators are recorded on tape, modified by running them at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds and manipulating their tonal content, and then combined in rhythmic and tonal patterns to create entirely new forms of music.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 13, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1964  |  1 comments
Joan Baez In Concert, Part 2
Joan Baez, vocals, guitar
Vanguard VTC-1679 (tape), VSD-2123 (LP). Maynard Solomon, prod., Reice Hamel, eng. TT: 48:00.

Well, we finally got ourselves equipped to review 4-track open-reel tapes, via a slightly modified Ampex F-44. All the tapes we have auditioned had noticeably higher hiss than the average stereo disc, but this was not loud enough to be distracting except when the tapes were reproduced at very high levels. Even then, we found the smooth, even hiss to be less objectionable than the ticks and pops from some discs played at the same level.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1964  |  5 comments
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No.2 (A London Symphony)
Hallé Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli, conductor.
Vanguard Everyman, SRV-134-SD (1963 LP). Reissued in 1982 as PRT Collector GSGC 2035 (LP). Recorded by Pye (UK) in 1957.

This is undoubtedly the best London Symphony that's been committed to stereo to date, and I wouldn't be surprised if it held top place for years to come. I can find nothing to criticize about the performance, and the recording is awe-inspiring—rich, warm and natural, with some phenomenally low bass and very wide dynamic range, yet without the slightest audible trace of breakup during crescendos.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 02, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1964  |  0 comments
Trio Flauto Dolce: Music at the Court of King Henry VII
Jacobean Fantasias; Kleine Geistliche Konzerte (Schutz): Elizabethan Ayres; Sonata in e (Boismortier); Domine, Dominus Noster (Campra).
Martha Bixler (recorders), Eric Leber (recorders, harpsichord), Morris Newman (recorders, bassoon), Robert White (tenor).
Posthorn Recordings (footnote) TFD-1 (LP). Jerry Bruck, eng.

This is another disc that was submitted for review on the basis of our bitter complaints in the August 1964 issue about unmusical gimmickry in commercial recordings. Like the Phoenix disc reviewed elsewhere in this issue, this is a first release. It carries a technical note to the effect that it was made with "a minimum of technical fuss and electronic gadgetry," and like the Phoenix, it sounds that way.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 04, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1965  |  14 comments
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
London Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, cond., Erich Gruenberg , solo violin.
London Phase 4 SPC-21005 (LP). Recorded September 22, 1964. Kingsway Hall, London. Marty Wargo, prod., Tony D'Amato, recording dir., Arthur Lilley, eng.

This is infuriating. Along comes the performance of Scheherazade that we've been waiting for, and the powers that be at London Records decide, God knows why, to bestow upon it the dubious blessing of Phase 4 recording. The sound is positively vast and cavernous, the bass booms, the highs scream, the harp sounds like it's 10' tall, and instruments wander back and forth across the stereo stage as if nobody had thought to tell the musicians where to sit.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 07, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1966  |  9 comments
Music to Listen to KLH By
Excerpts from recordings by Everest and Concert-Disc.
KLH VSR-101 (LP).

Don't be misled by the title of this. It's fine for listening to KLH by, and it is also fine for listening to any other top-notch reproducer by. It is, in fact, the best, and most musical, stereo demonstration disc that's come along to date.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 02, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1987  |  4 comments
The unsung sage who first observed that high-end audio is a solitary vice was probably not implying that audiophiles are antisocial; he was merely acknowledging the fact that a decent stereo stage is usually only audible from one place in the entire listening room—the so-called sweet spot. Stray from that spot, and the whole soundstage shifts to one side, spaciousness collapses, and images become vague and unstable. This is the antisocial aspect: only one member of a group can hear good stereo at any one time. (The gracious host at a listenfest will take a secondary seat, allowing his guests to take turns sitting in the sweet spot.)
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 31, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1966  |  6 comments
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos.4 & 5, The Swan of Tuonela, Tapiola
Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan
Deutsche-Grammophon 138 974 (LP, Symphony 4). Both symphonies reissued on CD (Deutsche Grammophon 457 748 2)

Magnificent, musically natural recordings with some of the deepest, fattest bass and richest, warmest orchestral sound that's been committed to recordings for many years. The discs are a shade more lucid than the tapes, but not much. Take your pick.—J. Gordon Holt

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1966  |  0 comments
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty Selections
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Stokowsky
London Phase-4 SPC 21008 (LP); Ampex LCL-75008 (open-reel tape). Tony D'Amato, Marty Wargo, prods.; Arthur Lilley, eng. TT: 46:50.

These are exciting, lilting, concert-style (as opposed to ballet-style) performances of the best-known excerpts from Tchaikovsky's second- and third-most-popular ballets. (First, of course, is the Nutcracker.) The recording is a surprise, after the excesses we've heard on earlier Phase-4 recordings.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1967  |  34 comments
An Audio Obstacle Course: The Shure Trackability Test Record
Shure Bros. TTR-101.

Shure's new "Supertrack" V-15 Type II pickup was designed as an answer to all those high-powered discs whose excessive modulations make them shatter all over the place on lesser pickups, But just in case anyone didn't happen to own any of these difficult discs, Shure decided to issue one of these, too. The result is a collection of some of the meanest modulations ever gathered together in one place.

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