Vinyl

Ataulfo Argenta/London Symphony Orchestra – Espana!

Most classical devotees know that Espana! features legendary Spanish conductor Ataulfo Argenta leading the London Symphony Orchestra in a program of so-called “Spanish” blockbusters. But, ironically, only one piece is penned by a Spanish composer (Granados, Danza Espanola) while the others are by a Russian (Rimsky Korsakov, Capriccio Espagnol), German (Moszkowski, 5 Spanish Dances), and Frenchman (Chabrier, España). The LP was initially issued in the United States as one of the index recordings of London Records’ vaunted “blueback” series, known for its demonstration-quality sound. Original bluebacks often sell for hundreds of dollars but, truthfully, many are overly bright or have serious groove noise that’s readily audible on high-end turntables.

This ORG reissue has ­dead-quiet surfaces that would not be very meaningful if the sound quality was not up to that of the original issue. It is. And because ORG spread the program over three sides (the fourth repeats Capriccio Espagnol and Danza Espanola) and issued the set at 45 rather than 331/3RPM, the sonic benefits are immediately apparent. Beginning my listening with Capriccio Espagnol, the most popular selection, was a real thrill. From the opening brass chords and the subsequent massive pulse, the selection represents orchestral playing at its best. And while you have to get up and change the LP sides twice more, you will do so eagerly in anticipation of hearing the other works. If the original blueback is a classic, this limited-edition, Bernie Grundman-mastered set is a classic-beater in every sense of the term. —Lawrence Devoe

London/Original Recordings Group, 2 180g 45RPM LPs

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