This is another of the highly attractive, abundantly classy and sonically spectacular Polydor / Deutsche Grammophon CrO2 pre-records of the 1980s. It’s part of the 3D Classics series, which was released around the cusp of the ‘80s and ‘90s decades, with this particular instalment hitting the shops in 1989.
However, the recordings themselves – digital recordings, stresses the blurb as a proud headline – come from earlier in the decade. Side 1’s Schumann Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor (op. 54) was recorded in February 1984, whilst Side 2’s Schumann Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in A minor (op. 129) was recorded in November 1985. The lead instruments were entrusted to Justus Frantz (piano) and Mischa Maisky (cello), with a Leonard Bernstein-led Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra providing the rich and explosive backdrop.
The recording is truly stunning – breathtaking in its power and dynamics. With Dolby B-type noise reduction engaged as advised, and high quality speakers articulating the nuances, one can in no way regard the “3D” designation as a gimmick. The recording is full of life, sparkle and depth, and the stereo imaging sounds amazing. There are no intrusions of the technical variety – the tape’s performance is flawless, and I’d say the overall experience is about as near to hearing a live performance as could be possible within an audio cassette. Indeed, it’s quite easy to forget you’re listening to a compact tape, and lapse into a sense that the speakers are reproducing a live radio broadcast. Technically, it’s that good.
The cassette sports the typical bright yellow Deutsche Grammophon label with added Polydor recognition, and the expected chromium dioxide seal of assurance. There’s also a PolyGram branding moulded into the transparent case.
The inlay incorporates a booklet which offers background on the two concertos, in multiple languages. On the front cover, the 3D Series logo is highlighted with a holographic effect which produces multi-coloured ‘rainbowing’ as it moves in the light. Photographing audio cassettes in a way that makes the pictures eyecatching can be a challenge, but this one was a natural ‘looker’.
The product is denoted as having been manufactured and printed in West Germany, which provides additional evidence that its release came before the autumn of 1990, when East and West Germany became one. And interestingly, despite the different brands and countries of origin, the English language translation of the tape formulation advice is exactly the same as the one I transcribed in the Philips Für Elise post.
What a fine demonstration of the performance capability of the humble musicassette, and what a nice gift this would have made a little over a quarter of a century ago, when it was fresh off the retailer’s shelf.