Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 (Pathetique) on Classic Records

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Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as none-too-impressive, playing into my natural prejudice against early Living Stereo recordings and Classic Records themselves.

Keep in mind the Shaded Dog originals of this recording are awful too, as we make clear below.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Orchestral Music Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers. 

We’ve played at least three Shaded Dogs of LSC 1901 since 2011 and all three were AWFUL. A recent reissue showed us the light.

The size and scope of this recording is enormous, with the orchestral sections clearly staged wide and deep. Where is the old tube smear and compression and opacity? It must not be on the tape, because I hear no trace of it.

This copy is cut clean, its dynamics intact, which just goes to show how much better the master tape must be than we’ve been led to believe by the original Shady Dogs and the hacks at Classic Records (note: their heavy vinyl reissue is awful).

A Top Quality Performance

“Buoyant vigor tempered with tender lyricism mark this performance as first-rate…” wrote The American Record Guide, and we could not agree more.

Classic Heavy Vinyl

But RCA managed to cut this record amazingly well decades after the tape was first recorded, not for audiophiles, but for music lovers. Maybe that’s the secret.

Records For Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records

Of course it is. Records made for audiophiles are rarely any good, so rarely that we are shocked when such a record is even halfway decent. After playing so many bad records for so many years it’s practically a truism here at Better Records.

A record like this is the perfect example of why we pay no attention whatsoever to the bona fides of the disc, but instead make our judgments strictly on the merits of the pressing at hand.

This approach has opened up a world of sound that the typical audiophile — one who believes the hype associated with the typical audiophile pressing — will never be able to experience.

Sixth Symphony

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is forever associated with the tragedy of his sudden death. In the last year of his life, 1893, the composer began work on a new symphony. Sketches dated from as early as February, but progress was slow. Concert tours to France and England and the awarding of a doctorate of music from Cambridge cut into the time available for composition. Thus, though Tchaikovsky could compose quickly when the muse was with him, it was not until the end of August that he was able to complete the Sixth Symphony. Its premiere, with the composer himself on the podium, was given in St. Petersburg two months later, on October 28. The work seemed unusually somber, particularly in its finale that, both in tempo and dynamics, fades into nothingness.

Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest suggested at the time that the work ought to be called by the French word “pathetique,” meaning melancholy, and Tchaikovsky supposedly agreed, but if Modest or anyone else bothered to ask the reason behind the symphony’s gloomy mood, Tchaikovsky’s answer is lost to time. His only remembered comment about the new piece is, “Without exaggeration, I have put my whole soul into this work.