Ravel / Rachmaninoff / The Reiner Sound – Reviewed in 2010

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This former TAS List record really surprised us on two counts.

First, you will not believe how DYNAMIC the recording is. Of all the classical recordings we’ve played lately I would have to say this is THE MOST DYNAMIC of them all.

I really don’t have the wattage to handle the explosively loud sections of these wonderful works, with their huge orchestral effects, dynamic contrasts that are clearly part of the composer’s intentions but ones that rarely make it from the concert hall to vinyl disc the way they do here. 

Second, there is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on this record. Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top. Again, it has to be some of the best I have heard recently. (This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies, positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a proper system. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.)

Condition Issues

The vinyl is not the best in the world, this is of course RCA in 1958 and not Decca or DG. There is constant light surface noise behind the music, and some vinyl stitches in places to deal with. But to find a copy that plays LOUD and CLEAN with none of the top end not shaved off but five or ten grams of tracking force is very unusual. And no real Inner Groove Distortion to speak of either. There may be quieter copies out there but they sure haven’t made it to my turntable in the last decade or so, and I doubt I will find many more like this in the next ten years either.

You may have read on the site that, unlike many right-thinking audiophiles who buy into HP’s classical choices, I am not the biggest Reiner fan. On these works, though, I would have to say the performances are Top Drawer, some of the best I have ever heard. The amount of energy he manages to coax from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is nothing less than BREATHTAKING.

This LP contains two works by Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole and Pavan for a Dead Princess, as well as Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead.