What with the purchase of CDs falling in favor of downloading, companies are releasing budget sets of previously issued CDs. Now one has done the same with those old Decca ffrr (full frequency range recordings) classical recordings in a box of 53 CDs, each in a cardboard sleeve with the original artwork on the front and the contents on the back. A far more detailed listing is found in a 186-page booklet that also gives the technical facts about each disc and a history of the Decca LPs at the back. It is called “Decca Sound, Mono Years (ffrr), 1944-1956.”
Note: These LPs were called London ffrr’s when sold over here, and that is how most of us remember them. Many of the discs have extra pieces that were not on the original vinyls.
There is also a helpful list of which composers are featured on which CD, so one can find all the Mozart (say) without having to flip sleeves to do so.
The program notes tell how the first test recording with new equipment was conducted on June 8, 1944. The philosophy of the endeavor was that “once agreement with the conductor was reached regarding proper levels of loud and soft musical passages, the session was under musical control only, and Decca engineers left their mixing controls alone.”
Some company warned its sound people “Don’t disturb the bridge players.” In short, keep everything at the same sonic level. This could not have been at Decca Records.
Some of the conductors represented in this set are Ernest Ansermet, Clemens Krauss, Adrian Boult, Anthony Collins, Josef Krips, Georg Solti, Anatole Fistoulari, Erich Kleber, Jean Martinon, and Hans Knappertsbusch.
Among the pianists are Clifford Curzon, Julius Katchen, Jean Francaix, and Friedrich Gulda. Among the violinists are Alfredo Campoli, Mischa Elman, and Christian Ferras. Among the chamber ensembles are the Amadeus Quartet, Griller Quartet, Quartetto Italiano, and Koppel Quartet.
Since several of the discs have more than one selection, I can only refer my reader to a complete listing that appears on an Amazon.com review of this set. But you can find the familiar: 14 pieces by Beethoven, 7 by Brahms, 5 by Haydn, 10 by Mozart, and 4 by Tchaikovsky.
Among the less familiar would be Arthur Bliss’ “A Color Symphony,” Paul Dukas’ “La Peri,” Andre-Ernest-Modesto Gretry’s “A Ballet Suite,” and other delights that might or might not exist on other recordings.
Just about every CD holds more than the original LP, and so “bonus” tracks are added from other Decca discs, the covers of which are shown on the back of the sleeve. So it’s in mono! It is the performances that count. And there are plenty of great ones in this legendary collection.