Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade – A Classic Records Disaster

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Our Favorite Performance of Scheherazade – Ansermet with the Suisse Romande

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP debunked.

In 2009 or 2010, during our testing of the TT Weights turntable products, the record I played again and again — close to a hundred times over the course of two days — was a wonderful White Dog pressing of LSC 2446. The sound was glorious, some of the best reproduction of large orchestra I have ever heard.  

(Late in life, Harry Pearson disgraced himself by putting this Classic Record on his TAS List of Super Discs.)

A week later I was still testing the system, and again using Scheherazade. A friend brought over his Classic pressing, probably the same one I would have sold him in the mid-’90s. Now we could compare the two.

It was a massacre. The sound on the reissue is simply AWFUL.

There is no transient information anywhere on that heavy vinyl pressing whatsoever! No instruments have any texture — not the strings, not the woodwinds, nothing. There is no air going through the flutes. There is no rosin on the bow of the solo violin.

The tympani are a blurry mess. Triangle: okay. Bass drum: okay. Everything else: FAIL.

Not having played it in years I could not believe how much worse the record sounded than I remember. The gulf between the real thing and the Classic wannabe was now so huge that the reissue was nothing less than positively UNPLEASANT to listen to. Enjoyment? Out of the question.

TAS List? The original is, but the Classic is too! Now how messed up is that!

Disgraceful, that’s all I have to say about it.

Previous Hot Stamper Commentary

The fourth movement on this famous RCA recording is breathtaking. You will not find a more exciting performance on the face of this earth, that’s for sure. Some criticize Reiner for a lack of lyricism in the quieter passages, and I have heard performances of this work that are better in that respect. But this is still overall the best performance I know of. The Chicago Symphony was on fire that day. The precision and energy of their playing is uncanny. Go back and hear other orchestras from the ’50s and ’60s play this piece and you will hear a lot of slop — the technical qualities required for this work were simply not as common back in those days. Orchestras today are much more proficient in this respect. Unfortunately the recording engineers have been letting us classical music lovers down for decades, so their better playing is for naught.