The 1957 D'Oyly Carte Mikado
New Symphony Orchestra of London
Recorded at Kingsway Hall
Decca SKLM 4006/7 (New Zealand)
Belart 461 328-2
Decca Eloquence 461 328-2
In 1957, D'Oyly Carte began a new series of recordings to take advantage of the stereo technology, even though the recordings they were replacing were but eight years old. Pirates came first, followed by this Mikado the same year. For the first time in history, a D'Oyly Carte recording had outside competition, as Sir Malcom Sargent launched his own series with a Mikado that appeared the same year.
This set was originally issued simultaneously in mono and in stereo. It had a long life in the catalog, as D'Oyly Carte would not record The Mikado again until 1973, to celebrate John Reed's twenieth anniversary with the Company. Neither set was recorded with dialogue (a pity), and the choice between them is a difficult one. In his prime, I think Reed was a stronger Ko-Ko than Pratt, but neither Reed nor Kenneth Sandford was still in his prime in 1973. Thomas Round is certainly a stronger tenor than 1973's Colin Wright.
This set has not been re-issued complete on CD, Decca/London giving preference to John Reed's superior name recognition and re-issuing the 1973 recording instead. The Sullivan Society Discography says that this recording was re-issued on CD, but the statement appears to be erroneous.
As a bit of trivia, it is worth observing that the catalog number of the original stereo issue on London Records, OSA-1201, indicates that this was the first opera recording that London issued in stereo. It is a fitting tribute, when one considers that The Mikado is probably the most popular opera of all time. (The "2" in the catalog number indicated that it was a two-record set. London's second stereo opera was Pirates, OSA-1202.)
In the 1990s, Decca issued highlights of this recording on its Belart label. The disc was only 49 minutes long, over eight minutes of which were devoted to the overture. This was inexplicable, considering that the technical limits of CDs easily exceed 70 minutes. "Here's a how-de-do" was among the missing songs. There was also a very noticeable cut at the beginning of the Mikado's song, as well as an annoying fade at the end of the opening chorus, to allow a skip past Nanki-Poo's recitative. Chris Webster also noteed that early pressings of this issue featured the 1973 recording (despite packaging that said otherwise). Belart issued a fix when this was pointed out to them, but the errant discs were not withdrawn.
CD Review by Mel Moratti
For those that may remember earlier reviews I have done of other Sounds on CD recordings will know that I try and do a comparison with any other company source (be it Pearl, Naxos or whoever). So far I have always been delighted with the SOCD releases and they always seem to put any opposition to shame. I sometimes quibble a bit at the prices — especially here in New Zealand where we pay for a full price item what those in the UK would pay for a midprice — but as far as quality is concerned nothing so far has come close to the work done by Chris.
By comparisons this time I was extremely limited. Several years ago Decca issued a highlights from the 1957 Mikado — poorly edited and at 50 minutes not really the bargain it appeared to be. I did, at one stage, have LP copies of both recordings but they seem to have gone the way of go-karts and plastic table cloths! So a lot would depend on my ears.
I did a side by side comparison with the Decca CD. Surprisingly the sound on the Decca recording was pretty good — no hint of distortion but a bit compressed. The SOCD release opened it up and gave it an added bloom. This added much to some of inner wind orchestration ("Our great Mikado"). The Decca was a titch muffled, the SOCD was clean. Try as I might I could not make out the favouring of the left-hand channel (mentioned in the booklet as being on the original master tapes) on the Decca release — whether Decca corrected it when they remastered it. Anyhow the SOCD has a very even spread throughout. The ugly 'glip' between "Braid the raven" and "The sun whose rays" is no more, and the 'fart' in the wind at the end of "Beauty in the bellow" has disappeared...and not by editing in the opera's final chord as I would have thought. So I must E-mail Chris privately and ask him what he did :-)
There are some, but not many, studio noises which can't be disguised, but I think these are more of a worry to Chris than the casual listener.
I am pretty safe in saying that this recording is probably one of the best G & S recordings...ever! A cast to die for! Listen to Thomas Round's most beautiful rendering of "Wand'ring minstrel" and the horrific crazy laugh of Donald Adams in "Humane Mikado". A must for everyone's collection.
Sounds on CD VGS 237
|1958||Decca||Mono LP||LK 4251/52
|The catalog numbers containing 'A' are Australian pressings. Those containing 'M' are New Zealand pressings.|
|Stereo LP||SKL 4006/7|
|London||Mono LP||A 4231|
|Stereo LP||OSA 1201|
|1959||Decca||Mono 45rpm||DFE 6568||Highlights|
|1963||Decca||Mono 10" LP||BR 3055||Highlights|
|Late 1960s||Decca||Stereo LP||9BB 162/7||Six-LP set that also included the 1961 Gondoliers and the 1964 Yeomen|
|Late 1960s||London||Mono LP||5903||Highlights|
|Stereo LP||OS 25903|
|197-?||London Jubilee||Stereo LP||JL-42008|
|1984||Decca||Stereo LP||414 341-1||Digitally remastered|
|CD||461 328-2||Highlights. Earlier pressings under the same catalogue number presented highlights from the 1973 recording, even though the liner notes attributed them to the 1957 set. Later pressings are of the 1957 set. The Decca Eloquence label is a later NZ/Australia packaging under the same catalogue number.|
|2002||Sounds on CD||CD||VGS 237|