Kunzel/CSO – 1812 Overture rare Telarc UHQR box set

A rare UHQR audiophile pressing of Tchkaikovsky's 1812 Overture, issued by Telarc in 1982


Offered for sale is a limited edition UHQR audiophile pressing of Tchkaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Orchestra, issued by Telarc in 1982.

We’ll get right to the point; this is the infamous audiophile record that nearly every turntable out there cannot play.

In 1978, Telarc Records began recording classical music using digital recorders, and one of the first pieces chosen was Tchkaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.  In those early days of digital, everyone was impressed with dynamic range, or the difference in sound level between the quietest passages in a piece of music and the loudest passages.  Digital recordings were said to dramatically improve upon the dynamics of analog recordings, so what better way to demonstrate this than to record a classical piece that was scored for cannons?

The recording of 1812 Overture, by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Orchestra soon became the biggest-selling title in the Telarc catalog.  Yes, it was loud, but at least most stereos could play it.  The original release, issued as a standard-weight LP, still included a warning on the cover about playback volume and how playing the record at too high a volume could possibly damage equipment, particularly speakers.

In 1982, Telarc decided to take this experiment a step further by issuing 1812 Overture as a limited edition Ultra High Quality Recording, or UHQR.  Most collectors are familiar with the term, as Mobile Fidelity released eight titles in the format in the early 1980s.  This format was not proprietary to Mobile Fidelity; the term “UHQR” and the “Supervinyl” used to press it actually belonged to JVC in Japan.  This pressing was mastered by the late Stan Ricker, who mastered a number of early titles by Mobile Fidelity.

Telarc had an unknown number of copies of 1812 Overture pressed by JVC in the 200 gram UHQR format, which had a flat profile and was capable of reproducing the recording more accurately than the standard weight pressing.  The only problem is that most turntables proved unable to track the groove when the cannons kicked in at the end of side one.  A few super high end turntables with meticulous adjustments will play it, but most won’t.  The record usually plays perfectly well until the cannons arrive, and then the needle just jumps out of the groove.

Telarc was well aware of this problem, and the insert that accompanied the UHQR pressings had the following text:

WARNING: The recording of the powerful 1812 cannons was made at the maximum level possible from the original digitally recorded master.  Under the best conditions tracking the grooves presents an incredible challenge.  Playback at high volume could result in severe damage to speakers and other playback equipment.  No attempt should be made to play this record on other than the most sophisticated audio equipment in absolutely perfect adjustment.  See suggestions for equipment set-up and playback inside this booklet.  TELARC ASSUMES NO LIABILITY FOR DAMAGE TO THE RECORD OR CONSUMER’S PLAYBACK EQUIPMENT.

Over the years, this record has become well known in audiophile circles, due to the fact that hardly anyone has a system that can actually play it.

About this record: The copy of 1812 Overture is one of the limited edition UHQR pressings, individually numbered and released in a box set by Telarc in 1982.  This copy is #1064 of an unknown number of copies.

Side 1: Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture
Side 2: Tchaikovsky – Capriccio Italien and Cossack Dance

The box is close to M-, though the printing is worn on the spine.  The disc is M- on side 2 and VG++ on side one, with one very faint mark through the cannon section at the end.  This mark does not affect play.  Both paper inserts are included.

We don’t know how many of these were pressed, but they rarely come up for sale.  For some reason, owners just don’t want to part with them.  This is only the second copy we’ve ever seen.

A beautiful copy of an infamous and legendary recording.

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