This rare RCA Shaded Dog has SUPERB SOUND as well as a top performance. Super Hot Stampers for both sides means that this pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades. Unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings (Rubinstein’s come immediately to mind in this regard), the brilliant soloist featured here is not overly spotlighted, hence the more credible “concert hall” sound. The piano is part of the orchestra, allowing all the contributions of the musicians to be heard clearly, with each of the orchestral sections laid out beautifully across an especially huge and deep Orchestra Hall stage.
The spaciousness and three-dimensionality of the recording here is also exceptional. Through the efforts and skill of the RCA engineers, that striking openness in the recording never comes at the expense of a tonally correct and natural sounding piano. The piano is clear, never lost in the space of the huge hall the way it would be on an EMI from the ’70s for example. (All that weird SQ washed-out sound is just not our thing, sorry.)
There may be other performances of merit, but I know of no recording of this music with better sound. If you are demonstrating naturalistic recorded sound, not bombastic Hi-Fi Spectacularity, this pressing truly qualifies as a DEMO DISC.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency and solid, weighty sound. Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that high-resolution analog is known for. (Note that most Heavy Vinyl pressings being produced these days seem to be seriously Transparency Challenged. Lots of important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular-weight pressings — is simply nowhere to be found.)
Solid, weighty sound for a piano concerto recording is critically important as well. The piano has to be big, powerful, and massive as a boulder, just the way it is in the concert hall.
A++, the piano sounds right although it is bigger here than it would be in performance, which is not the case on side two. We can’t be sure why that would be but that’s the way it sounded to us switching back and forth between the sides.
There is more top end on this side, and the piano has more clarity. A little smear can be heard on the strings, otherwise we would have called this side White Hot.
A++, with the same wide deep stage and tonally correct piano, now with a more realistic size. Rich smooth strings. The piano is not quite as clear on this side, so A++ seems fair to us.
Classical Music on Vinyl — An Overview
We sometimes mention the benefits to be gained from listening to classical music on a regular basis. Once a week is a good rule of thumb for playing a recording from the classical world I should think. We all love our rock, jazz, folk and the rest, but there is something about classical music that has the power to restore a certain balance in your musical life that, for whatever reason, cannot be accomplished by other music. Perhaps it grounds your listening experience in something less immediately gratifying, yet deeper and more enriching over time. Once habituated to the effect, the changes in one’s mood are easy to recognize.
Moving Beyond the Average
Of course it should be pointed out that the average classical record is at best a mediocrity and more often than not a sonic disaster. There are many excellent pressings of rock and jazz, but when it comes to classical music — by its nature so much more difficult to record (and reproduce!) — the choices narrow substantially.
Most of what passed for good classical sound when I was coming up in audio — the DGs, EMIs, Sheffields and other audiophile pressings — are hard to take seriously when played on the modern high quality equipment of today.
We probably audition at least five records for every one we think might pass muster in a future shootout, and we’re pulling only from the labels we know to be good. We wouldn’t even waste our time playing the average Angel, Columbia or DG, or EMI for that matter. The losers vastly outweigh the winners, and there are only so many hours in a day. Who has the time to hunt for so few needles in so many haystacks?
Commitment of Resources
With the above in mind, it should be clear that assembling a top quality collection of classical LPs requires much more in the way of resources — money and time — than it would for any other genre of music.
We are happy to do some of that work for you — our best classical pressings are amazing in almost every way — potentially saving you a lifetime of work. But we do so at a price. The service we provide is extremely labor-intensive. In addition, as you may have noticed, vintage classical records are not getting any cheaper or easier to find.
On the positive side, every Hot Stamper we sell is 100% guaranteed to satisfy in every way: music, sound, and playing condition. Ideally this means less work for you and more time for listening enjoyment, weekly or more if you can manage to carve it out of your schedule.