Phase 4 Stereo (Limited Edition) Box-Set, Limited Edition
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Phase 4 Stereo wurde 1961 als Decca Sublabel gegründet, mit dem Ziel einen besonders guten Klang durch Einsatz von 10-Kanal und später 20-Kanal Aufnahmekonsolen zu erreichen. Derart entstanden über 200 Aufnahmen, darunter ab 1964, vor 50 Jahren, die “Concert Series“ mit Klassik und leichter Klassik.
Die Unmittelbarkeit des Klanges und das weite Klang-Panorama der Phase 4 Einspielungen war einzigartig und ist weder mit anderen Aufnahme-Verfahren noch mit der Hörerfahrung im Konzertsaal zu vergleichen. Kein Geringerer als Leopold Stokowski sagte: “Es war schon immer eine Herausforderung Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheherazade aufzunehmen. Ich glaube Phase 4 Stereo hat diese aufregende Musik in der höchsten künstlerischen wie technischen Qualität eingefangen."
Eine Original Jackets-Limited-Edition, die auf 41 CDs Aufnahmen von Stokowski, Dorati, Munch und Maazel präsentiert. Carmen-Highlights mit Marilyn Horne sind ebenso enthalten wie Musik aus Hitchcock-Filmen, Rózsas Filmmusik zu Ben Hur und Bernard Herrmanns Journey to the Centre of the Earth. 11 Alben erscheinen erstmalig auf CD.
Grade große klassische Orchester- und Konzertwerke und Filmmusik eigneten sich für die spektakulären Arbeit der Tonmeister, die brilliante Durchhörbarkeit und überwältigende Direktheit zum Ziel hatten.
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"Phase 4 Stereo" was the brainchild of Decca Records (London Records in America).
Starting in 1961, the label produced over 300 LPs of "Easy Listening" music.
Lots of percussion and gimmicky stereo imaging, designed to show off your new home entertainment center.
There was also a "Concert Series" of 190 LPs devoted to light classical music - Once again, Lots of percussion and gimmicky stereo imaging.
At first, Camarata and Stanley Black were borrowed from the "Easy Listening" Division.
But in 1964, classical music heavyweight Leopold Stokowski was recruited to record Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherezade" in Phase 4 Stereo with the London Symphony.
Not as gimmicky as the early Phase 4 recordings, but more gimmicky than what the classical record buyer was accustomed to.
Stokowski went on to record a total of 22 LPs (+ 6 greatest hits anthologies) for Phase 4.
Precisely half of them are in this new box, which is cause for complaint.
Stokowski deserves an entire box to himself, gathering together all his Decca and Philips recordings from the '60s and '70s.
For this Phase 4 box, a token Stokowski CD would have been sufficient
- thereby freeing up space for some Phase 4 recordings not yet on CD (see the next five paragraphs).
Other heavyweight conductors who recorded for Phase 4:
- Antal Dorati: 6 LPs, 5 are in this box (missing Johann Strauss Waltzes),
- Charles Munch: 3 LPs, all are here
- Arthur Fiedler : 4 LPs, all are here
- Anatole Fistoulari: 2 LPs + a 3 LP set (Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is here - missing Tchaikovsky Symphony 4 + Brahms Piano Concerto 2 with Ilana Vered)
- Erich Leinsdorf: 4 LPs (Mahler and Wagner are here - missing R.Strauss Rosenkavalier Suite + Stravinsky Petrushka & Rite of Spring)
- Lorin Maazel: 3 LPs (R.Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev are here - missing Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures + Chopin Piano Concerto 1 with Israela Margalit)
Lesser-known house conductors Stanley Black, Henry Lewis, Eric Rogers and Robert Sharples are represented, but Phase 4 stalwarts Camarata (14 LPs) and Carlos Paita (6 LPs) were snubbed completely.
Stanley Black is represented by 5 CDs, one third of his classical total.
House pianists were Ivan Davis and Ilana Vered.
Inexplicably absent is the great pianist Rudolph Firkusny who recorded two Beethoven LPs for Phase 4.
There was a series devoted to film scores.
Conducted by Stanley Black ("Film Spectaculars" Vol. 1-5 - not in this box)
and composer Miklos Rozsa ("Ben Hur" - in this box, but "Quo Vadis" is missing).
But the most important film recordings were conducted by composer Bernard Herrmann.
His own scores and those of others, plus a concert series (Holst's "Planets" was a best-seller).
Fourteen LPs, but only two are in this box.
This is the biggest disappointment.
Included: "Music for Alfred Hitchcock Thrillers", plus Science Fiction Film Scores.
There were a number of Phase 4 audio documentaries on LP.
Not high-brow BBC documentaries.
"Battle Stereo", conducted by Robert Sharples was typical: Actors accompanied by military music and EXPLOSIONS!
Modified original jacket format: 4 Fiedler LPs = 3 CDs, 3 Munch LPs = 2 CDs, etc.
See the detailed list of performers at the end of this review.
I haven't bought this box. Yet.
I have all the Dorati, Fiedler, Munch and Stokowski recordings in their previous CD incarnations.
More than half the contents of this rather expensive new box.
The Fistoulari complete `Swan Lake" is tempting - this is its first CD release,
But everything else is of marginal appeal.
The Leinsdorf and Maazel look interesting, but I'm not sure if I want all those Stanley Black recordings.
Who knows? Maybe I do.
If the price comes down I will certainly buy it.
The five star rating is for people new to "Phase 4" and for rich people who don't mind the duplications.
I am extremely annoyed by all the missing stuff - Especially the twelve LPs of Bernard Herrmann and the two Rudolph Firkusny LPs.
Eleven LPs of Leopold Stokowski are missing, but I already have them on earlier CDs.
It seems like this could have been better planned.
I can't comment on the sound.
Normal standards for "Concert Hall Realism" do not apply anyway.
The Phase 4 Concert Series was not marketed to serious classical music lovers with audiophile equipment.
Their intended target was the popular music listener with a healthy curiosity, and a modest home stereo.
I was the intended target.
I was a fifteen year old Beatles fan in 1964, with no background in classical music.
Stokowski's "Scheherazade" was one of my first classical LP purchases.
"Phase 4" should not be confused with the four channel recording fad of the 1970s.
These are two channel recordings.
The original recording sessions involved 20 microphones, which were recorded directly to a four channel master tape (one channel reserved for percussion), which was then mixed down to a two channel master tape.
I wonder if the four channel master tapes still even exist?
Universal seems to have given up on surround sound SACD in favor of Blu-Ray Audio - with new boxed sets of Beethoven and Strauss conducted by Karajan, Wagner's Ring by Solti, and a tribute to Carlos Kleiber.
The first three are two-channel audio, but the Carlos Kleiber box features 2 hours, 38 minutes of hi-def surround sound: Carlos Kleiber: Complete Orchestral Recordings on Deutsche Gramophone
IF THE FOUR CHANNEL MASTER TAPE STILL EXISTS,
We might some day be treated to a very interesting Blu-Ray Audio collection of "Phase 4 in Surround Sound".
Gimmicky, but true to the spirit of Phase 4.
But the box at hand is composed of standard two channel CDs.
P.S. For a complete Phase 4 discography, check out
--------------------------------- ALPHABETICAL LIST OF CONDUCTORS IN THIS BOX:
Rodney Bashford: Sousa Marches (Band of the Grenadier Guards)
- Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris / Variations on "I got rhythm" (David Parkhouse/Bernard Herrmann)
- Khachaturian Gayaneh, Masquerade, Spartacus Ballet Suites
- Ravel Boléro / Borodin Polovtsian Dances / Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol / Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italien
- "Spectacular Dances"
- "Americana" (Robert Merrill baritone)
- Dvorák Symphony No.9 "From the New World" / Kodály Háry János Suite
- Orff Carmina Burana
- Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf, Lieutenant Kijé / Britten Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Sean Connery narrator)
- Rossini-Respighi La Boutique fantasque, Rossiniana
- Gershwin Overtures etc.
- J. Strauss Waltzes / Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite
- "Fiedler Encores" / Grieg Peer Gynt Suite
Anatole Fistoulari: Tchaikovsky Swan Lake (complete on 2 CDs)
- "Music from the Great Hitchcock Movie Thrillers"
- "Journey to the Centre of the Earth"
- Mahler Symphony No.1 "Titan" / Wagner Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg Music
- Beethoven: Symphony No.6 "Pastoral" / R. Strauss Till Eulenspiegel
- Bizet "Carmen" excerpts (Marilyn Horne) / Tchaikovsky Symphony No.6 "Pathétique"
- R.Strauss Tod und Verklärung / Tchaikovsky Francesca da Rimini / Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.3 (Israela Margalit)
- Bizet Carmen and L'Arlésienne Suites
- Offenbach Gaîté parisienne / Respighi Pines and Fountains of Rome
- "Immortal Works of Albert Ketèlbey" / Violin Encores (Josef Safonov)
Miklos Rózsa: Music from "Ben Hur"
Robert Sharples: "Battle Stereo" (Bloated Spectacle) / "Magnificent Voice of Eileen Farrell"
- Beethoven Symphony No.9, Egmont Overture
- Berlioz Symphonie fantastique, Damnation de Faust Ballet des Sylphes / Ravel Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2, Fanfare pour "L'Eventail de Jeanne"
- Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, Boris Godunov Symphonic Synthesis, Night on Bare Mountain (all orch. Stokowski) / Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture
- Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade, Capriccio espagnol / Borodin Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
- Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5 / Glazunov Violin Concerto in A minor (Sylvia Marcovici)
- Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty selections, Romeo and Juliet, Marche slave
- Vivaldi The Four Seasons, Op.8 (Hugh Bean violin)
- Wagner Orchestral Masterpieces from the Ring of the Nibelung
- Orchestral Transcriptions: JS Bach / Byrd / Clarke / Schubert / Chopin / Tchaikovsky / Duparc / Rachmaninov
-------------------------------------------- INSTRUMENTALISTS, VOCALISTS:
Ivan Davis, piano:
- Liszt Piano Concerti (Edward Downes conductor) / Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 (Henry Lewis)
Eileen Farrell, soprano: "The Magnificent Voice of Eileen Farrell" (Robert Sharples)
Marilyn Horne, mezzo: Bizet "Carmen" highlights (Henry Lewis)
Robert Merrill, baritone: "Americana" (Stanley Black)
Paco Peña, guitar: "Flamenco Live" with lots of castanets and dancing feet. Arriba!
Ruggerio Ricci, violin:
- Mendelssohn / Tchaikovsky Violin Concerti (Jean Fournet)
Ilana Vered, piano:
- Yellow River Concerto / Mozart Piano Concerto No.21 (Lawrence Foster)
- Beethoven Piano Sonata No.21 "Waldstein" / Schubert Fantasy in C major "Wanderer" / Stravinsky Three Movements from Petrouchka
Phase 4 recordings tended toward orchestral spectaculars and light classics, although there were exceptions. As for this 41CD set, the performances are highly variable. I frankly doubt if some of them would have been released if the Phase 4 technology was not a consideration. For example, Rhapsody in Blue and American in Paris, as performed by Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra, are easily the worst performances of these staples I’ve ever heard. Likewise Israela Margalit’s bumbling, stumbling (and audibly edited) rendition of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto would never have been released had not her husband, Lorin Maazel, been the conductor on the recording. On the other hand, Ivan Davis’ renditions of Liszt’s Piano Concertos are superb, with an almost Horowitzian frisson. Antal Dorati was always reliable and the performances here, from Dvořák’s New World Symphony to Orff’s Carmina Burana, are well worth hearing. Dorati also helms Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, featuring sly narrations by Sean Connery. Arthur Fiedler’s Strauss Waltzes and excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker are surprisingly idiomatic. Charles Munch offers rollicking performances of the suites from Bizet’s Carmen and L’Arlésienne, and Offenbach’s Gaîté-Parisienne, alongside relatively sober renditions of Respighi’s Pines and Fountains of Rome
Of all the conductors in this set, Leopold Stokowski seems to have made the most effective use of the Phase 4 technology. He’d become expert at seating the orchestra for recordings during the 78rpm era, and his early recordings were some of the best sounding of their era. His interest in recording technology continued to pay dividends during the stereo years. The performances captured here include a riveting but sectionalized rendition of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, a Scheherazade which is a bit more precise yet not as lascivious as his RCA version, and his own gorgeously gaudy orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Ilana Vered is featured in a lovely rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto, K. 467, along with the Yellow River Concerto, which was apparently composed by a committee of Chinese composers. It sounds like the background music in a cheap Chinese buffet restaurant. There’s also a solo disc of Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, and Stravinsky’s Three Scenes from Petrouchka. I don’t know why one would apply a Phase 4 approach to a piano solo recording, but the sound is quite fine. Her Beethoven and Schubert playing remind me of Kempff, while her Stravinsky sounds is a mite labored – no match for the fiery Rubinstein or the icy hot Pollini.
There are also several discs of music which is decidedly off the beaten track for a classical label. Flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco Peña is featured in a live concert, which is quite simply the greatest and most staggering Cante Jondo recording I’ve ever heard.
Especially appreciated are three discs of film music. Bernard Herrmann’s own performances of music from his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock – North by NorthWest, Marnie, Psycho, and Vertigo – are included here, as well as music from Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, The Day the Earth Stood Still (which, sadly, does not include the Theremin used in the film), and Fahrenheit 451. Herrmann conducts the music in a very different manner that when it was tailored to accompany the films, with relatively expansive tempos, and it’s wonderful to have these works conducted by the composer in stereo.
Miklós Rósza’s rousing score for Ben-Hur is featured here – and it’s one of the best sounding discs in the collection. I only wish his recording of Quo Vadis had also been included.
The final disc is devoted to “Battle Stereo” - essentially sounds of gunfire and explosions accompanied by famous anthems and overlaid with orations. Worth listening to once, but I had to use headphones after the cacophony scared the heck out of my dog.
The series is presented in the Original Jacket format. In most cases, additional material has been included, but some discs are the original LP programs with playing times as short at 35 minutes. Most of the jackets have the original liner notes on the back which can be read with a magnifying glass.