Label : Decca
Format : Flac track
Cover : No
Decca’s legendary Phase 4 series started off in 1961 with a number of gimmicky titles designed to showcase their bold new approach to stereo. The company had already set new sonic standards with their Ernest Ansermet/Orchestre de la Suisse Romande recordings from the 1950s and early 1960s; those pioneering efforts, reissued countless times, sound wonderful in their most recent re-masters. In contrast to that emphasis on high seriousness – both musical and technical – Phase 4 was aimed at a broader, less demanding audience in search of aural excitement and adventure. Indeed, the word ‘Spectacular’ appeared in both the Phase 4 logo and in several album titles.
In 1964 Decca launched their Phase 4 Concert Series with a string of safe bets. These included Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite with Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra (PFS 4036) and an all-Tchaikovsky disc from the same ensemble conducted by Robert ‘Bob’ Sharples (PFS 4044). The LFO, a mainstay of the Phase 4 project, was set up in the 1950s as Decca’s ‘house orchestra’. Meanwhile, as composers, arrangers and band leaders both Sharples and Black had an established reputation that made them an ideal ‘bridge’ between the light catalogue and the more serious one. Black is particularly well represented in this new Decca box; Sharples leads the charge in the bonus disc, Battle Stereo (PFS 4034).
Once the Concert Series had gained traction Decca introduced some heavyweight conductors, among them Antal Doráti, Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler and Bernard Herrmann; they hired high-profile orchestras too, notably the Royal Philharmonic, the New Philharmonia and the London Symphony. Even their roster of soloists improved, with mezzo Marilyn Horne singing excerpts from Bizet’s Carmen, violinist Ruggiero Ricci in Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn concertos, and pianist Ilana Vered in Mozart, Stravinsky and the faddish Yellow River Concerto.