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The three stars was to get your attention. Barbirolli's Vaughan Williams recordings are all classics, and if you don't own this performance, its as good as any other version. Does it sound demonstrably better than the almost simultaneously released Warner high resolution download? On my system and with my ears, anyway, not really. But more to the point, what is one actually hearing here? Does it come from a 4-track tape, a 2-track tape, or an LP? It's anyone's guess, as that information is not provided. It strikes me as a poor idea for HDTT to become cagey about providing such information, as the professed superiority of tape-transfers is the entire value-add being promised here. For all that, I can't imagine anyone purchasing this being disappointed by it.
This 1963 performance has been rather overshadowed since it was made by those of André Previn, Sir Adrian Boult, Vernon Handley, and a number of other conductors. Sir John Barbirolli adopts a more lyrical approach to the score than is often the case, and also one that is understated compared to some of his competitors. Nonetheless, as is always the case with Barbirolli, his deep love of the music comes through. The other notable contribution comes from the Philharmonia Orchestra. At this time, the orchestra was still under the management of Walter Legge, and had a reputation that matched those of several other great orchestras. It puts its skill and virtuosity at the service of the music, and there is much quietly expressive playing from its musicians. No apologies need be made for the recording quality. It wears its nearly 60 years very lightly indeed. It was made in Kingsway Hall, and the slightly dark acoustic of that venue is faithfully captured. The orchestral balance is faultless, from an age when fewer microphones were used. The HDTT transfer allows the high frequencies to float more freely than the 1995 CD, yet retains the warmth and depth that EMI recording team captured so well all that time ago.