Among the first recordings I ever owned of Franz Schubert's Ninth Symphony "The Great" was this 1958 version by maestro Josef Krips and the LSO. I came to it a little late, sometime around 1970, and found it on a London Stereo Treasury LP. Unfortunately, the vinyl was rather scratchy and noisy, and while I enjoyed the performance enormously, I couldn't enjoy the sound. Then, years later, Decca issued it several times on CD, and with these releases the problem was that the sound was more than little bright and edgy. Again, wonderful performance, but questionable sonics.
Enter HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), who have transferred the recording to CD and download twice now. It's with enthusiasm that I can tell you how much of a relief it is to hear the recording in the best versions I've yet to find them from the little company that gives us the best possible sound from older tapes. More about the HDTT sound in a moment.
First, a few notes about the music and the performance. Schubert wrote his Symphony No. 9 in C major in 1828, the year he died, and it premiered after his death. Consequently, he never heard it performed in his lifetime. He would have liked Krips's rendering, though, I'm sure. Under Krips, the opening movement may not be as weighty as, say, Klemperer's or as zippy as any of Mackerras's recordings, but it strikes a happy balance. More so than either of those conductors, good as they are, Krips is more playful and more lilting, his rhythms always bringing delight to the spirit, if not a downright smile to the face.
Although the second-movement Andante, with its faintly gypsy overtones, can in some other interpretations tend to drag, it's not so with Krips, who keeps the beat moving forward at a commendable pace. Yet he also maintains the movement's staccato-like cadences in good humor.
Decca recorded the music in May 1958, and HDTT remastered the present transfer in 2017 for, as I said, the second time. With this one they used DSD256 (Direct Stream Digital) and transferred the music from a 15ips 2-track tape (their previous transfer having used the LP).
One hears very little background noise, but even then it's only noticeable in select, quietest passages. There is also a very wide dynamic range involved and a reasonably strong impact. Needless to say, it is not quite as bright or edgy as the several Decca CD's I've owned, even if it is still a bit forward and tizzy in the upper midrange. Nevertheless, the HDTT sound is exceptionally clear.
The question, though, may be how the newer HDTT transfer stacks up against the company's earlier mastering. For one thing, the slight added clarity of the present recording brings out some of the minor distortions of the original source material. This is especially evident at the very beginning with a small degree of resonant shimmer noticeable, and then again during a few louder passages. In addition, I heard a more balanced left-to-right stereo spread from the newer mastering, the older one appearing to place a bit more gain in the left channel.
Overall, there is no doubt in my mind that Maestro Krips provides one the best renditions on record of Schubert's Ninth Symphony, if not the best. And whether or not its sound is up to every audiophile's standards, there is also no doubt in my mind that this HDTT transfer is the best you'll find of it.
For further information on the various formats, configurations, and prices of HDTT products, you can visit their Web site at https://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: