The second box is, if anything, even more startling. For the first time, Coup d’Archet have embarked on re-issuing previously available records – in this case, everything that Martzy recorded at EMI. The ten discs (two of them single sided – by spreading the music over three sides, Armstrong allows the music to breathe rather than cramming over half an hour onto a single face) cover the Mendelssohn and Brahms concertos, the Beethoven Romances Nos 1 and 2, the Bach Sonatas and Partitas and the Schubert Sonatas and Sonatinas. With so much of the core repertoire included, the collection offers a stunning musical journey. There are those who will miss the spread of stereo on the orchestral recordings, but I say listen to the tonal honesty and timing integrity of the mono sound; it’s a more than fair trade off, believe me. Nor do you need a mono cartridge to really enjoy these discs. Cut with a stereo head, a stereo cartridge performs just fine.
I don’t have the 1950’s EMI originals, but I know a man who does, and he assures me that the Coup d’Archet pressings surpass them in every respect.
But the best thing about these boxes is that you can’t appreciate their physical quality, the care that’s gone into their every detail, until you hold them in your hands. The first thing that will strike you is the look and feel. They’ve inherited the lovely, cloth wrapped cases of the L’Archet d’Or series, combined with beautifully executed individual sleeves for the albums. In the case of the Radio Recordings each album is treated to a beautiful new sleeve, with clean white ground, elegant graphics and colour coded, original artwork. The second is the sheer quantity of material on offer. One box contains 10 discs and the other nine: That’s twice as many as the L’Achet d’Or sets – for the same price. Ahhh yes – the price; each box will set you back £300, which isn’t exactly chicken feed (you can also get the Radio Recordings as an 8CD box, just as beautifully presented, for £80). But before you choke in indignation, consider this: An original pressing of any one of those EMI discs would start at around £500 and go to £1000 – and at that price they don’t hang around! That’s for a used disc which you’ll need a mono cartridge to enjoy, with all that entails. Coup d’Archet offers you the same performance, superior sound and beautiful presentation, for £30 a disc…
The Coup d’Archet Martzy boxes must be one of the best presents possible for any music lover. Fantastic to handle and fantastic to listen to, you should go ahead and treat the audiophile in your life – even if that means buying one for yourself! These boxes aren’t just things of beauty. The musical performances are so powerful and communicate so directly they’ll serve as a constant reminder of just what made hi-fi so fascinating in the first place. Records really don’t get any better than this.