Deutsche Grammophon announces the launch of The Original Source, a new series of celebrated albums reissued on vinyl. The renowned Berlin-based Emil Berliner Studios are remastering 4-track recordings from the 1970s, using their own cutting-edge and 100% pure analogue techniques to create versions of the highest possible audio quality. Produced on 180g virgin vinyl by Optimal, the discs will be issued in deluxe gatefold editions featuring additional photos and/or recording documentation.
The Original Source is one of several new initiatives introduced by Deutsche Grammophon in 2023 as part of its 125th-anniversary celebrations. Like DG’s comprehensive new subscription service STAGE+, The Original Source draws on the technical innovation that has been part of the label’s identity ever since it was founded in 1898 by Emil Berliner, inventor of the gramophone.
“Deutsche Grammophon’s distinctive nature was forged by iconic classical artists of the past, whose recordings are of timeless quality,” notes Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “Everything we do today is embedded in the wonderful 125 years of history we’re celebrating this year and, in this new series, exceptional creative content goes hand in hand with the finest engineering techniques. We’re delighted to present great music to our listeners in a unique audio format that will invite them to engage in a conscious listening experience.”
An initial selection of 14 Original Source albums will be released over the course of 2023, starting with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (Wiener Philharmoniker/Carlos Kleiber); Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 (2 LPs – Berliner Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan); Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet (Amadeus Quartet, Emil Gilels, Rainer Zepperitz); and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (London Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado). These first four will be issued on 2 June 2023.
Rainer Maillard, recording producer and managing director of Emil Berliner Studios, explains more about the process involved in creating The Original Source series:
“Sometimes many years have to pass before old treasures are rediscovered. For its 125th anniversary in 2023, DG will be reissuing a series of legendary recordings from the 1970s, cut for the first time directly from the 4-track ½-inch masters, rather than the stereo ¼-inch tape copies. The result will be the highest possible, audiophile quality, giving listeners the chance to enjoy this repertoire as never before.
“In order to better understand the background to this extraordinary series, it is worth looking at DG’s technical developments in sound recording. It started recording for quadraphonic surround sound as early as 1970. The format was 4-track analogue tape, with left, right, front and rear channels. After the recording was finished, the 4-track tapes were edited in the studio at DG’s site in Hannover. The various takes were cut with scissors and joined together again with sticky tape.
“Back then, however, there was no consumer format ready for quadraphonic playback, so DG was producing for the future. The label did release these recordings on regular vinyl LPs in stereo, of course, which meant the engineers had to create a stereo downmix of the 4-track master tape. For international distribution, DG made copies of this copy and sent them around the world for local manufacturing.
“A tape copy can never sound as good as the original master tape, so the idea was born to make a product of the highest quality by using the original 4-track masters instead of the 2-track copies for lacquer cutting. They sound sensational, thanks to the expert team involved back in the day, and the analogue recording technology they were using.
“For the new releases, two technical aspects have to be taken into account. Firstly, 4-track tape is twice as wide as the usual 2-track tape, therefore we need a special tape machine. This has to be able to deliver a so-called preview signal, which allows the disc-cutting lathe to etch a perfect groove on the disc. Our tape machine had to be modified for this purpose and is probably the only one of its kind in the world right now. Secondly, we need to mix the front and rear channels down to stereo in real time. A completely new, custom-built mixing desk was required for this project. Emil Berliner Studios have designed a passive mixer, which renders the highest quality without introducing any additional noise to the signal.
“The Original Source Series means: no tape copies used, no unnecessary devices in the signal path and, of course, no digital sound processing. This is the shortest possible way from the original master to the cutter head.
“Compared to the original releases, the advantages in sound for the vinyl reissues are outstanding: greater clarity, more details and a better frequency response; less noise, less distortion, less compression… Enjoy!”
Other albums scheduled for release during 2023 include, among others:
- BRAHMS: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 Emil Gilels · Berliner Philharmoniker/Eugen Jochum
- MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 25 & 27 Friedrich Gulda · Wiener Philharmoniker/Claudio Abbado
- VERDI: Messa da Requiem Berliner Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan