This famous Shaded Dog, containing two superb performances by Monteux and the LSO, has many of the Golden Age strengths and weaknesses we know well here at Better Records, having played literally hundreds upon hundreds of these vintage pressings over the last twenty years or so.
Both sides earned sonic grades of at least A+ to A++ (with side one being just a bit better than that but maybe not quite A++). The sound is rich and sweet and full of Living Stereo Magic!
The wonderful sounding tube compressors that were used back in the day result in quieter passages that are positively swimming in ambience and low-level orchestral detail. Tube compression is, in large part, what we mean when we use the term Tubey Magic. (If you want to know what Zero Tubey Magic sounds like, play some Telarcs or Reference Recordings from the ’70s. Or a modern digital recording on CD.)
But all that sweet and rich Tubey Magic comes at a price when it’s time for the orchestra to get loud. It either can’t, or the louder passages simply distort from compressor overload. Fortunately on this copy the orchestra does not distort, it simply never gets as loud as it would have in a real concert hall, clearly the lesser and more preferable of the two evils.
Side two has lovely texture to the strings. It’s not quite as rich and full as side one, but it does have more extension on the top end, which is somewhat rare for a vintage RCA pressing from 1960.
The cover has some problems so we’ve kept the price down somewhat. Check the Sonic Grade tab to read more.
This recording contains Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Brahms’ Haydn Variations as played by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Pierre Monteux.
Production and Engineering
The gorgeous hall the London Symphony recorded in was one of the best venues of its day. Scores of amazing sounding recordings were made there by Decca using an All Tube Recording Chain being fed by the Decca “Tree” miking setup.
There is a solidity and richness to the sound that goes beyond practically any other recordings we know of, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.
Elgar: Enigma Variations, Op. 36 ( Part I)
Elgar: Enigma Variations, Op. 36 (Concluded)
Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Haydn, Op. 56 A
This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review
Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.
We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)
We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.
Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.
As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.
The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.