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RCA Red Seal High Performance Series - The USA strikes back!

03-01-2019 | By Wojciech Pacuła | Issue 102

The article is about how the "High Performance" series has changed the perception of classical music reissues, as well as about an incredible combination of knowledge and technology that has led to this change.

We have got used to the fact that Japanese companies are the driving force in the field of Compact Disc/Super Audio CD remastering and production.

However, we cannot forget that manufacturers from the West, mainly from the USA, have also been contributing to these areas. The HDCD format, Mobile Fidelity remasters, Analog Productions and others are just a few examples. One of the most interesting initiatives was the one from the year 1999, when the RCA Red Seal record label decided to remaster some of its albums and release them in the form of the High Performance series. This is what the article below is about.

We suggest you brew a pot of tea or coffee, or open a bottle of wine—reading this article will take you a whole evening.

The RCA Red Seal is one of the oldest record labels, established in 1902 by Eldridge R. Johnson as the Victor Talking Machine Company. It initially specialized in turntable and vinyl record production, and then it focused on releasing classical music. In 1929, the Victor Talking Machine Company was bought by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and changed its name to RCA Victor, while in 1968 it became RCA Records. The company now belongs to SONY MUSIC.

The idea that selected, more highly priced records with especially valued performances should be marked using a red seal is not new. It originated at the beginning of the 20th century and was conceived by a representative of the Gramophone Company in St. Petersburg. The first record with such a seal was released at the end of 1901 or at the beginning of 1902. Between 1930 and 1950, records featuring the RCA logo and the red seal included such names as Serge Koussevitzky, Leopold Stokowski and Arturo Toscanini.

The RCA Victor company released its first LP records in 1950, while it started experimenting with stereophony in mid-1950s. In 1958 it launched the Living Stereo record series that has become legendary. The Red Seal is both part of the company name and a kind of confirmation of the high quality of a recording. However, another logo that the company has used (not consistently) is equally well-known: the Nipper dog listening to HIS MASTER'S VOICE. The logo was bought by the Radio Corporation of America in 1929 and it presents Francis Barraud's oil painting from the year 1898, adapted to the company's needs.

The High Performance Series

It is probably obvious—we have got used to the fact that Japanese Compact Disc editions are unique, almost always better than European or even American ones. Constant research and a special attitude to methodology and technology let engineers from Japanese laboratories achieve incredible results, while commercial applications of their research, e.g. in the form of HQCDs, Ultimate HQCDs, SHM-CDs, Platinum SHM-CDs, SHM-SACDs and Blu-spec CD2s—to mention just the most important ones—become the point of reference for the whole audio industry. They are simply the best.

As everything, this statement also has to be dealt with carefully, as it is temporary and there are many reservations about it. It is due to the fact that it is possible to point out a lot of solutions from outside the Japanese islands that have brought about a significant positive change and thanks to which records pressed in the USA and Europe have been excellent, and often not worse at all than their Japanese counterparts. However, in order for such an effect to take place, a few different elements have had to dovetail, the most important of which were people and technology.

Such a coincidence occurred in the case of album reissues within the "High Performance" series, prepared by the BMG company, the owner of the RCA Red Seal at that time. Selected titles were released on Compact Discs between 1999 and 2000, having uniform graphic design with a characteristic frame and the inscription: "High Performance". In the period of two years, a little more than twenty titles were released, selected from the record label's catalogue older than the famous "Living Stereo" series. They were all remastered using original analogue and digital (!) master tapes, by the same team and using the same equipment.



Nathaniel S. Johnson was in charge of the series production. It is a very interesting person, a man who has exhibited unique abilities both in the field of music and technology since his early childhood. Born in Concord (Massachusetts), the radio operator and music producer got his first experience in the army—in 1961 he was invited to work for military intelligence, where he specialized in communication systems. He left the army with honours in 1964 and then started working for the WBCN-FM radio with a seat in Boston, where he dealt with classical music.

Later he worked for different radio stations, playing an important role in the area of popularizing classical music and, which is important, combining this with the technical aspect of making radio programmes, often performing a few functions at the same time, like at the WGBH radio and TV station. At WGBH he spent almost 12 years, working as a sound engineer and music producer. From 1974 to 1993, Johnson collaborated with artists and producers within the frames of the New Television Workshop of the WGBH station, where he helped create and broadcast the works of experimental video artists. One of the people he cooperated with was the Japanese pianist Isao Tomita whose records with synth versions of Debussy's works were published by the RCA Red Seal record label.

At the same time, Johnson was involved in work carried out by Ray Dolby's laboratory, where he remastered some titles in Dolby Surround and released them on CDs. His earlier experience of working on quadraphonic LP albums helped him do that. In 1991 he was employed as the Head of the Remastering Department of the RCA Records in New York. He supervised the production of such reissues as the 3-album box with Bach's The English Suites for the London branch of the company, albums from the "Living Stereo" series, the "Toscanini Edition" series, as well as the whole 64-album Heifetz Collection for which he got the Grammy Award. He was nominated for another Grammy Award in 2000, in the Best Historical Album category, for the 94-album The Rubinstein Collection.

Sound Engineers

In 1999 he came up with the "High Performance" series – one of his most important achievements in the role of a music producer. He decided to collaborate with a few other music producers and sound engineers. Michael O. Drexter was appointed as the head of the team, while his collaborators were Michael Sobol, Hsi-Ling Chang, Marian M. Conaty and James Nichols.

Graphic design

The person responsible for graphic design was Gina Bello who had collaborated with the RCA before, e.g. worked on the "Gold Seal" series from the early 1980s. Gina Bello is the founder and creative director of the well-known and very successful design studio called BELLO DESIGN.

All the albums have uniform graphic design with the same cover as in the original edition, but taking up just a part of the front and without logotypes. It was surrounded with a frame that was thicker on the left and at the bottom, where the series logotype and its symbol were located. In later editions, the symbol was replaced with the RCA Red Seal. Initially, the colour of the frames was the same (black), but in reissues from the year 2000 colours inspired by the cover were also used.


The "Billboard" magazine (issue of 24th April 1999) reported that:

At top BMG studios in New York […] a collision of the past, present and future has taken on the form of CDs form the "High Performance" series produced by the RCA Victor Red Seal company. It will be a set of 13 albums remastered using 24-bit technology, with 96 kHz sampling frequency, converted to CD quality.

Paul Verna, BMG Gets the Most out of CD With 'High Performance' Series, "Billboard" 04/24/99, Vol. 111, Issue 17, p. 44

Digital remastering of the material was carried out at the BMG/RCA Studios in New York. The studio was equipped with (then) top-of-the-range equipment designed with the thought of mastering DVD Audio. As it turned out, the format did not survive, but there are CDs that have benefited from the technology.

The remaster was prepared using the DAW computer system with Sonic Solutions High Density software which was then regarded as state-of-the-art software. However, the equipment used is even more interesting. Stereophonic master tapes were played on a modified reel-to-reel Studer transport with new Cello electronics. The Cello Ltd. company belonged to Mark Levinson who set it up in 1984, when he no longer owned the company that he had given his own name to. Cello products (especially the Audio Palette equalizer) were kind of high-end in the professional audio world. What is interesting, in 1999, when work on remastering albums from the "High Performance" series started, Levinson already owned another company—Red Rose Music.

So, analogue signal from a master tape was read by a Studer tape recorder with a Cello head electronic and Audio Palette EQ frequency correction. Then it reached an analogue-to-digital converter produced by the Swiss Weiss company and was processed in this form using the above mentioned Sonic Solutions High Density software.

Remastered digital signal was archived on Exabite tapes with the thought of future editions on DVD Audio that have never been made. Exabyte was a company established by Juan Marquez (among others). It developed a system for recording digital signal on 8 mm video tapes. In 1999, the VXA-1 recorder was ready, allowing to record 33 GB of uncompressed audio signal. People responsible for equipment at BMG studios were the studio manager Robert Gordon, the Head of Technology—already mentioned Juan Marquez and Dennis Burke who was in charge of maintenance.

UV22 Super CD Encoding

In order to turn 24/96 material into a Compact Disc, one needs to convert 24-bit words to 16-bit ones and asynchronously change sampling frequency from 96 to 44.1 kHz. It was possible to do it all at one go, but a decision was made to do it better, using an additional device for the purpose. First, sampling frequency in another Weiss converter was changed and 24-bit signal was subjected to dithering, changing it to 20-bit signal. Only then the most difficult conversion was carried out, i.e. changing 20-bit words to 16-bit ones. The cover of reissues from the "High Performance" series features the following information:

Digitally remastered in Weiss 24/96 technology using a customized Studer transport with Cello electronics and universally compatible UV22 Super CD Encoding.

UV22 Super CD Encoding is an Apogee digital converter which changes 20-bit signal to 16-bit signal, i.e. for Compact Disc purposes. It was launched in 1993 and was soon used to remaster e.g. the Rolling Stones catalogue, as well as classical music from the "Living Stereo" series. In 1994, 70 such converters were installed in the USA.

Even though it seems simple, the sound of CDs still largely depends on this final stage of mastering. It is because word reduction is still a kind of art – there are not two algorithms that sound the same. A Sony invention called the Super Bit Mapping (SBM), based on a specific noise shaping system, became quite popular in the audio world. Apogee engineers established that dithering, noise-shaping or bit-mapping processes negatively affect signal fidelity. So, they chose another way.

The process called UV22 Super CD Encoding by the company involves adding inaudible "bias"—"amplification" to signal, located in the region of 22 kHz. Thanks to that, the energy of high frequency signal increases. Signal prepared using this method is smoother and more pleasant to the ear. A similar situation takes place in the case of analogue tapes where that "bias" reduces the impact of the non-linearity of magnetic tape (more HERE, date of access: 22.10.2018).


We chose six albums from the years 1999-2000 for the purpose of the review. For comparison purposes, we listened to their original LP editions, both versions from the USA and the UK. Where it was possible, we also used CD editions which had been released earlier than the "High Performance" series and in two cases we also used later Japanese versions. We applied the "High Fidelity" reference system in the listening session—the same one that we had used to listen to albums form the "Polish Jazz" series.

When we listened to CDs, we used the Ayon Audio CD-35 High Fidelity Edition player (No. 1/50). The LP editions of the albums were listened to using the TechDAS Air Force III Premium turntable with the Kuzma 4Point9 arm and My Sonic Lab Eminent Ex cartridge (the price of the whole set: ca. 150,000 PLN).

The listening session was conducted in two series. The "HP" and original vinyl versions were compared during the first one, while in the other one we compared the "HP" and earlier or later Compact Disc editions.


1. GERSHWIN, Great Scenes from Gershwin's Porgy & Bess performed by Leontyne Price and William Warfield, conducted by Skitch Henderson. Date of release: 1963.


Long Play: RCA Victor SB 6552 (1963). Compact Disc: RCA Victor Gold Seal GD85234 (1988). "High Performance": RCA Red Seal/BMG Classics  09026-63312-2 (1999) ⌋


Long Play

A monophonic and stereophonic version were released in the same year, the latter with a gatefold and a single cover. They were released again later a few more times. In the UK, the LP was pressed in the Dynagroove technology, reducing noise and improving dynamics.

Compact Disc

The first digital version on a Compact Disc was released only in the year 1988 as part of the "Gold Seal" series (5234-2-RG). The cover featured the original photo, but with different lettering than on the LP cover. The booklet includes information that attempts had been made to reduce noise, but delicately. The "High Performance" remaster was released in 1999.


Long Play vs "High Performance"

The differences between the original pressing in the Dynagroove version and the "High Performance" version on a Compact Disc are fascinating. When it comes to formats, I am an agnostic—I know their advantages and disadvantages, and I do not take part in "format wars." This type of albums only confirm my beliefs, as both the LP and the CD sound great and each of the versions has something else to offer.

Tonal balance on the CD is set lower, really low, thanks to which everything is dense, full of life and vigour. The vinyl version is much lighter, which can be heard both with string instruments and vocals. Leontyna Price's vocal is presented quite far away on the vinyl disc, without the tangibility offered by the CD. Thanks to that, compression obtained on the CD is a little higher – such is life, but it is also thanks to better exploitation of the low midrange and bass.

It is clear that the vinyl version offers smoother and more clearly multidimensional sound. The advantage of vinyl in this version is also very low travelling noise and just delicate and weak crackling sounds. The "HP" version brings events from the foreground (i.e. all vocals) closer and it also more strongly presents the cymbals. On the one hand, it is something good, as it is more credible sound. However, we cannot forget about the sound of the LP, as it is more at a distance, like during a stage performance (and that is a musical, in the end) and, therefore, it is more relaxing.

Whatever we say, anyway, the "High Performance" CD version is very good.

"High Performance" vs Compact Disc

Therefore, a comparison of the "HP" CD version with the first digital edition of the material in the "Gold Seal" series appears interesting. The latter is very soft, smooth and natural. It lacks resolution, has blunted treble and is also quite hollow. In this respect, the later remaster is unbeatable. Sometimes these two versions sound like two different recordings.

The impression is even stronger because the "HP" version is more compressed—a whole 3 dB, if not more. Thanks to this, various elements that are masked in the older version come to the foreground. However, there is also a problem—despite less information and being a little "smoky", vocals have better colours and are more pleasant in the "Gold Seal" version.

So, which of the versions is better? That is a difficult question and I cannot give you a simple answer to it. The older "Gold Seal" version is closer to the vinyl recording and both present Leontyna Price's vocal further away, a little from behind the fog. However, it is the "High Performance" version that clears everything, brings back the dynamics and energy that are subdued in the analogue and the first CD editions.

Sound quality

  • original: 7/10
  • "HP" reissue: 7/10

2. TCHAIKOVSKY & SIBELIUS, Violin Concertos • DWOŘÁK , Romance performed by Itzhak Perlman/Erich Leinsdorf, Boston Symphony, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. Date of release: 1967


Long Play: RCA Victor Red Seal LSC-3014 (1967)

"High Performance": RCA Red Seal/BMG Classics 5163344, CD (2000)


Long Play

The album was released in the UK in 1967 and a year later in the USA. The UK version was pressed in the Dynagroove technology. Another reissue was released only in the year 1975. There is "His Master's Voice" logo on the LP sticker and the thick cardboard cover. Anthony Salvatore was responsible for the recording.

Compact Disc

The "High Performance" version is the first digital edition of the album. The cover does not feature "His Master's Voice" logo. What is interesting, there is the K2 Super Coding logotype on the disc, reserved for discs pressed by JVC in Yokohama, although we read that the disc was made in the USA. Mr Hsi-Ling Chang was in charge of remastering. A re-edition of the album was released in 2015, as part of the Itzhak Perlman: The Complete Warner Recordings box (No. 19).


Long Play vs "High Performance"

It is an album whose digital reissue is exceptionally good. What one hears is the same as in the case of all albums from the series, i.e. slightly higher compression, thanks to which the main instrument—the violin—is stronger and closer to us. We lose a little bit of reverberation which accompanies the violin on the vinyl version, but get a better perspective—it really is the leading instrument. Sound on the CD is dense and rich, and it also has a strongly built up bass. In this specific case, it seems a little too strong, while the original vinyl version has lighter, but therefore more natural sound.

The CD version, on the other hand, is characterized by impressively clear sound. It is a successful transfer, made with tenderness and deep knowledge of technology. What is disadvantageous about it is that it is weighted down too much and what is different is the fact that the violin is brought closer to the listener.

Sound quality

  • original: 7-8/10
  • "HP" reissue: 7/10

3. COPLAND, Billy The Kid Suite | Appalachian Spring performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Date of release: 1970


Long Play: RCA Red Seal LSB-4018 (1970)

"High Performance": RCA Red Seal/BMG Classics 63467-2, CD (1999) ⌋


Long Play

The original vinyl edition was released in 1970 and did not feature "His Master's Voice" logotype on the cover, but only the "Red Seal" inscription. The album was released in a few countries at the same time—in the UK in a "regular" version and not the Dynagroove one. Let us add that the album had a very thin elastic cover. It was released again in a vinyl version only once, in 1983 in Canada, as part of the "Legendary Performers" series (No. 2).

Compact Disc

The first digital version of the album was released in 1990 as part of the "RCA Victor Gold Seal" series. The "High Performance" reissue was released in 1999. The rarest version is the one released by JVC on an XRCD24 from the "XRCD24 RCA Red Seal Ultimate Remastering Edition" series in 2013.


Long Play vs "High Performance"

t is a little surprising that tracks on the digital reissue are recorded in a different order—the first track is Appalachian Spring and the second one—"Billy The Kid Suite." What is also surprising is the volume level— it is the first time I have heard that both the vinyl and CD version have very similar volume. Finally, for the first time in this test, it can be heard that the vinyl version is simply better.

Not that the CD is bad—one can hear everything that we have already described, i.e. deeper sound, nice dynamics and clarity. However, the sound is also more hollow and suppressed, with less life in it. The vinyl version is fantastic—open, strong, with high resolution, incredibly lively. Travelling noise is a bit higher than on discs pressed in the Dynagroove technology, but it does not disturb the listener anyway. Its presence—and it is a distortion, let us not forget about it!—is compensated by fantastic dynamics that the CD version lacks.

Sound quality

  • original: 8/10
  • "HP" reissue: 6/10

4. Tomita, Snowflakes Are Dancing. Date of release: 1974


Long Play: RCA Red Seal ARL1-0488 (1974)

Compact Disc: RCA Red Seal/RCA Japan RD 84587 (1974)

"High Performance": RCA Red Seal/BMG Classics 63588 2, CD (2000) ⌋


Long Play

Tomita can boast about a lot of issues of its album. What is more, there have been both stereophonic and quadraphonic reissues, sometimes under a different title. For example, in Italy the album was released under the title Debussy Sound 2000. Quadraphonic versions were released as part of the "Quadradisc" series and they were encoded in the CD4 format. The best version is the one released in Germany by Teldec in the "Half Speed" technology. Another one that is as highly valued is the quadraphonic Japanese version that was released with a different cover—instead of Tomita's stylised face, there was the composer's face.

Compact Disc

The first digital version was released already in 1983. The disc was pressed in Japan and then it was sold with covers printed individually in each country. Instead of the classic RCA Red Seal logotype, there is the new "laser" RCA logo. In 1991, a CD version encoded in Dolby Surround was released, based on the original quadraphonic edition.

In 2006, a version remastered in 24 bits was released in Japan, both in a jewel box and as the so-called "paper sleeve," i.e. mini LP. It is an edition with a different cover, the same as in the original Japanese edition, and without the additional bonus track. However, the disc was pressed at a JVC pressing plant on K2 Laser Cutting machines. In 2015 it was released once again, as part of the "1000 Great Recordings" series, although the disc was made at an ordinary pressing plant.

Let us add that it is also possible to find editions on Compact Disc cassettes with Dolby Surround and on 8-track tapes.


Long Play vs "High Performance"

Tomita's album is the first in the analysed group that is very similar in both versions—the original vinyl and the "High Performance" reissue, which shows the best side of the people involved in the digital reissue. The vinyl disc has more momentum, more strongly descends towards bass, but the bass is damping more quickly. Depending on the track, sometimes it seems that the vinyl and sometimes that the CD version is more compressed—apparently, individual tracks were dealt with in slightly different ways

It is most important that the tonality of the vinyl version has been preserved, the special sound of electronic instruments, the atmosphere and some kind of a "halo" that simply represents our emotional reaction to the musical message. It is all included both on the LP and the CD. Let us add that the digital version gives us more solid and more tangible sound sources—it really sounds very good!

"High Performance" vs Compact Disc

The version from the year 1983 is really good. Its advantages include smoothness, fluidity and warmth. However, there are problems with selectivity and transparency that are no longer present on the "HP" version. The older version is also quieter by about 2 dB, which suggests that stronger compression was applied to the "HP" version. Perhaps because of that the sound of the older version is calmer and comes towards us less. The depth of the "stage" and the way it surrounds us are the elements that are much better in the "HP" version.

The latest version from the year 2015 tonally resembles the "High Performance" remaster. It is because the sound is quite expansive and "forward going". The main difference between the versions mainly lies in saturation  – the Japanese version is denser and smoother. However, it also loses a lot of definition, i.e. something that I liked so much about the "HP" version.

To sum up, the CD version from the year 1983 is smooth and soft, and it will be liked by everyone who thinks that digital technology is a mistake. The version from the year 2015 is also saturated and quite smooth, but has better defined planes, sounds, etc. and is the loudest of the three. However, it is the "HP" version that constitutes the "golden mean." It would benefit from becoming as filled as the latest version and a little smoother like the oldest one. However, the "HP" edition is the most open and brings the most information.

Sound quality

  • original: 8/10
  • "HP" reissue: 8/10

5. VLADIMIR HOROWITZ, Horowitz at the Met. Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff. Date of release: 1982


Long Play: RCA Red Seal LSC-, LP Teldec ARC1-4585 (1982)

High Performance Compact Disc: RCA Red Seal/BMG Classics 63314 2 (1999)


Long Play

The original American edition was released with an embossed cover and golden letters. In some countries, instead of being placed on the first page, Horovitz's photograph was put at the back. In Germany, the disc was pressed on thick vinyl in the "Half Speed" technology by the Teldec company. On the foil there was a sticker providing the information that it is an "Audiophile Pressing". In this version, a small photograph from the American edition occupies the whole area of the cover.

What is more important, however, is the way the material was recorded. The disc was released with the Red Seal Digital logotype, also repeated on the LP sticker. It is because the material was recorded in the digital domain using Soundstream equipment with the following parameters: 16 bit and 50 kHz. It is one of the best recording methods from those years that was mainly used by the Telarc company. It made digital mix and digital edition possible (more about that in the article entitled: Cyfra w świecie winylu. Koń trojański czy konieczność? (Eng. Digital technology in the vinyl world. A Trojan horse or a necessity?), HF | No. 155 http://www.highfidelity.pl/@numer--98&lang=en </a>).

Compact Disc

The first digital version was released already in the year 1982 as part of the "RCA Gold Seal" series. In 2009, the album became part of the 70-album box "Vladimir Horovitz: Complete Original Jacket Collection".


Long Play vs "High Performance"

The year 1982 also witnessed the official European premiere of the Compact Disc format which suppressed vinyl for almost 30 years. However, it is also a period when record companies used the most interesting solutions aiming to minimize the problems of the format.

The Teldec pressing is flawless! There is almost no crackling and the travelling noise is negligible, even though it is just the piano and the average volume level is quite low. A combination of the virtuosity of Soundstream engineers and Teldec technology has given fantastic results!

It is natural clear sound in which the emotional element is excellently balanced against the intellectual element and there is no conflict between them. The vinyl version presents the instrument at some distance and it is not strongly focused, but rather slightly out of focus. It may be caused by the influence of the concert hall acoustics, but the problem also lies in the medium itself (vinyl), which is rarely talked about.

The CD from the "High Performance" series is much better in this respect, i.e. it focuses sound exactly in front of us, showing us the real piano within large space. It is very interesting that the average volume level on the CD is lower than on the LP. As a whole, the centre of gravity on the CD is set lower, but these are not large differences—however, they are really important, as they add to the sound of the piano. That is why the CD sounds fantastic!

The CD sounds better not because the LP sounds bad—it is also great transfer. It is simply because engineers responsible for the CD edition managed to show the performer in an intimate situation, one-to-one with the piano. If we want to feel the character of the interior where the material was recorded a little more strongly, we need to listen to the vinyl edition. Both choices will be right.

"High Performance" vs Compact Disc

The Compact Disc reissue from the year 1982 is not that bad at all… The problem with it is that the "HP" version is much better 🙂 The 1982 edition is brighter and more forcible, it is also louder by some 1-1.5 dB. Despite that, we feel as if there was a blanket between the instrument and us, not allowing all sounds to go through. It is even stranger because one can hear stronger attack and more strongly set midrange, especially its upper part. However, a few moments are enough to realise that the "HP" edition is characterised by high resolution and simply excellent. It is also smooth, velvety and at the same time much more natural than the 1982 version. In this case, no other version could compete with the "HP" edition.

Sound quality

  • original: 8-9/10
  • "HP" reissue: 8-9/10

6. VLADIMIR HOROWITZ, Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto 3. Eugene Ormandy, New York Philharmonic. Date of release: 1978


Long Play: RCA Red Seal LSC-, LP | Teldec ARC1-4585 (1978)

"High Performance": RCA Red Seal/BMG Classics 63314 2 (1999) ⌋


Long Play

It was a prestigious edition for the RCA, so effort was made to make it impressive. The cover was printed on thick cardboard with silver embossed letters and logotypes. Together with the record, music lovers also got a 12-page booklet. It is interesting that, owing to technical problems, some of the material from the album was recorded later, after the concert. The album was released in almost all the countries where the RCA had its branches. The editions differ from one another when it comes to logotypes and the colour of the letters. In 1979, the album was released in Yugoslavia (Jugoton) and a year later in Spain.

Compact Disc

The first digital edition comes from the year 1987. In 1993, it was released as part of the "Gold Seal" series. In 2016, the Japanese branch of Sony Music released a BSCD2 version as part of the "Best 100 Classic" series with a remaster based on the "HP" edition of the year 2000. A decision was made then to change the cover—the photo that had been placed at the back of the original vinyl record was now placed on the cover.


Long Play vs "High Performance" 

All copies of the album that I know have a problem with noise and crackling. The quite low average sound volume level is partly to blame for that. But there is probably something more to that, which is demonstrated by the digital remaster and the CD. What I want to say is that frequency response seems narrower on the original vinyl version, as if the bottom was cut off and the treble trimmed. It can be heard especially clearly on the piano. With the vinyl edition, the piano is further away and smaller. On the CD it is closer and more robust and massive.

Perhaps this is why I liked the "HP" digital version more, I got more involved in music. Even perspective, thanks to which vinyl can be so stunning, was better with the CD. It is because that, although the piano was large and strong, the orchestra kept a great distance, it was widely set and had depth. And, in the first place, the CD sounded more natural with fewer audible efforts made by the sound engineer.

"High Performance" vs BDCD2

In this case, the later digital version is better than the earlier one, although both are quite similar as regards the tone and dynamics, and they also have an almost identical average sound level. The "superiority" of the BSCD2 version over the "HP" remaster is that it renders the sound of the piano more deeply and naturally. The "HP" version is very nice, but it lacks the saturation and resolution of the BSCD2 version—it may not seem much, but it does matter. Because of that, it has greater "weight"—both literally and metaphorically. Although the "HP" version is very good, I undoubtedly prefer the latest edition on the BSCD2. However, both are—attention!—better than the LP version.

Sound quality

  • original: 6-7/10
  • "HP" reissue: 7-8/10


The "High Performance" series is one of the most interesting initiatives connected with classical music reissues  on the West. Although the pressing process itself is the same, the series owes its power to remastering. As I have been trying to demonstrate, the result is different for each album. However, on the other hand, the average sound level is very good and really satisfactory. In a few cases, the digital version sounds better than the original vinyl version! Albums recorded digitally on a Soundstream tape recorder sound great—it is another confirmation of the ingenious character of the technology and it is a pity that it had to give way to the idea conceived by Sony.

After eighteen and nineteen years, "High Performance" is still very impressive. Things like this happen only when the right people are found at the right place and time, and have the right tools.

Company: RCA Red Seal

Reissue: 1999-2000



Text: Wojciech Pacuła

Photos: Wojciech Pacuła

Translation: Ewa Hornicka

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