Mussorgsky, Borodin, et al. / Orchestral Showpieces / Solti – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Orchestral Showpieces / Solti

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This London Whiteback LP recorded in 1967 (CS 6503) has DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side two. Solti is the man for this music! He’s on fire with this fiery material and the London engineers do him full justice — at least they do on side two. (Side one has a long scratch and cannot be played.)

Don’t go looking for the Tubey Magic of an earlier era. What you get instead is super low distortion, full bandwidth sound with deep powerful bass and lovely transparency. THIS is the way you want to hear Russian Orchestral Showpieces — played with verve and dynamically ALIVE.

The Polovtsian Dances on side two sound as dynamic and powerful as any I know.

Side Two

A++ to A+++. Huge scope — depth and width like you will not believe, perfect for this music. The voices in the chorus are clearly separated out and so big and rich! This side is open and sweet in the best Golden Age tradition.

A touch of smear and some veiling are all that hold it back from A+++.

The MoFi Sucks

Mobile Fidelity may know a good record when they hear one — they chose to remaster this title after all (#517) — but their version is phony up top and has bloated bass like a bowl of jello. The real London pressing here also has the deepest bass that’s missing from the MOFI.

It’s the SLAM factor in a recording that let’s you appreciate that these large orchestral instruments can really move some air when the piece calls for it, and of course these pieces do, big time. (Night on Bald Mountain especially. The concert hall is supposed to shake with the blasts of brass and tympanic beatings called for by Mussorgsky.)

(Note that it’s rare for a half speed mastered record to have deep solid bass. What their cutters manage for bass is never as tight, defined and note-like as the better real time cutters. We wrote about the subject in the track commentary for Deja Vu

Déjà Vu

If I could indulge in some more MOFI and Half-Speed mastering bashing for a moment, the bass “solo” at the end of this song is a great test for bass definition. The notes are relatively high, and it’s easy for them to sound blurred and wooly. The MOFI, like virtually all Half-Speed mastered records, has a problem with bass definition. If you own the MOFI, listen for how clearly defined the notes are at the end of this track. Then play any other copy, either off So Far or Deja Vu. It’s a pretty safe bet that the bass will be much more articulate. I know how bad the MOFI is in this respect. Rarely do “normal” records have bass that bad.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Glinka – Russlan and Ludmilla
Moussorgsky – Khovanshchina
Moussorgsky – Night On The Bare Mountain

Side Two

Borodin – Prince Igor (i) Overture
(ii) Polovtsian Dances