>>> How - for example - they could engage such a fine pianist as Wilhelm Kempff (for a complete Beethoven sonata cycle!) and then not bother to give him decent sound, I simply cannot understand <<<
Actually me neither! It is deeply disappointing in deed.
However, that stuff counts into 'my' EARLY period, and much of what I had said hinges around some of these.
Also, thank you very much for all your great detail. I have printed it out and will make it my study, and later on comment where applicable.
Now a bit on the DECCAs vs DG. You see, quite a few 'wide silver bands' I have, are Made in South Africa and consistently not a match to a UK pressing of same, and neither to a decent DG. So I have to make allowances and not declare some skewed opinion.
But then, one example SXL 6002 you have not mentioned it, Adam: Giselle, Karajan and Vienna Philharmonic would ABSOLUTELY support your experience with the early 6000 series, it is beautiful (alas mine just a bit noisy) --- BUT behold, those are STILL wide silver bands! You can see on the label when they started to rationalise more and more, -- and not just with the label it seems.
Peer Gynt with O. Fjeldstad SXL wide silver band is such a PRIME example. These can sell (UK pressing in good nick) for 1000$ and more! So, my SA pressing only gives me some idea why that should be.
Now look at the DG, CLEAN vinyl (some a bit soft...) pretty well finished for that period, alas the recording of these newer ones tends to be a bit 'stringy', sinuous.
But yet with a well resolving system the, Berlin Philharmonic Hall makes most always for great ambience, and Karajan not going too slow as yet, has the most delicate sound colours.
I have only very limited access to a large variety of second hand (there is very little new of all this) and so, as always, I can only comment on my personal collection. Went through 1000s of classics but most didnt survive. What passed the filter is ~ 700 800 records max. I have a hard time to keep those clean and listening to as it is.
I do clean them with my Hannl MERA, which is doing a great job and plenty of them need repeat cleaning until found fit for the keeping.
You also mention Argo. Well, the ones I found this far didnt make it. My impression is they are a bit like Angel --- some really nice but VERY variable. DG might not always be tops BUT I think they are pretty consistent (the Made in Germany stuff).
Now, Bartok, Khachaturian, and Im looking in vain for your mentioning Stravinsky, but never mind Schoenberg. These are pretty less distributed composers and I do hardly get any ever. In fact, just to get a good Respihgi of his Fountains and Pines of Rome is nigh impossible (Im still looking, and not for Muench with the Bostons either)
I do get lucky once in a while and got Chabrier on that famous London pressing, and Falla SXLs but its neither my main listening taste nor is their much second hand about.
That Chabrier CS 6438 with Ansermet (one of my favourite conductors) in considered by some as Listening for the Gods! I wouldnt go that far, but it is a prime example of excellent recording craft.
Now to the vinyl:
>>> The question of where the records were (mastered and) pressed is distinctly secondary. <<<
I wish I could agree, but a CAN NOT! It does depend where you are living I guess. But ANY 3rd-word pressings from USSR, SA, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Zambia, et al are just BAD QUALITY.
I have never (repeat never) as yet found even a DG pressed in SA that is acceptable, never.
Sorry, but they are rubbish. The East-Block stuff is a bit better, funny enough some recordings are surprisingly good, the pressings are not to my standard, they were shoddy, the lot of them, and just by degree some a bit better.
In closing you mention first pressing yeah, well I could add some of mine, like if the template is run-in it gets even better and such. My point, I cant get any, other than by some major 'accident', and Im not crazy or well healed enough to consider fishing for such, and paying big sums of money for them.
So, I will now go on an study some of your other detail, and as I find food for comment will let you know.
Thank you for sharing,