Lalo / Symphonie Espagnole / Szeryng / Hendl – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Lalo

More Symphonie Espagnole / Szeryng / Hendl

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

This is an AMAZING sounding early Plum Victrola pressing, one of the BEST SOUNDING Victrolas we have ever heard — when (and only when) you have a copy that sounds as good as this one does. This is by far the best side two we played, out of the three copies we had on hand, earning our top sonic grade of A+++. This pressing on side two ranks right up there with the best of the hundreds of Shaded Dogs we’ve played. I haven’t had a Shaded Dog of this title to audition in a long time, but I sure don’t remember it sounding like this. 

Musically and sonically this is an audiophile DREAM come true. The orchestration is rich with many colors, calling to mind such audiophile-friendly pieces as Capriccio Italien and Capriccio Espagnol.

The Sound of the Violin

Of course what really sets this record apart is the superb reproduction of the violin. It’s immediate and sweetly textured without sounding shrill or unnatural. This could easily become your go-to Violin Demo Disc (or test disc) for proper timbre, resolution and presentation. Yes, it’s that good.

Of course the violin is superb on side two — that’s to be expected on a White Hot Stamper violin concerto record – but interestingly this side one, with a much lower sonic grade, has a wonderful sounding violin as well. The midrange on side one is gorgeous. It’s tonally correct, neither too thin or rich. The problem is mostly confined to the sound of the orchestra, which lacks weight and high frequency extension. It’s not shrill, but it certainly does not sound as rich and sweet as it does on side two. You will hear exactly what we mean when you play it, of that we have no doubt.

Critical Listening in the Audio World

Dramatic differences in sound between the two sides of a record are of course to be expected. How many great records are good on both sides? A fraction of the number that are good on one side. This is something the reviewers and audio forum posters of the world have yet to appreciate fully, if at all. When do you ever read about the differences between the sides of famous pressings? Practically never, right? That being the case, how critically must these people be listening to their records? Not very, right?

Is there any more damning evidence regarding the lack of critical listening skills on the part of both reviewers and the public than this exceedingly obvious fact?

OK then. So what does this side two have that the other side ones don’t? It’s easy: more of everything! More presence in the violin, more dynamic orchestral passages, bigger sound stage, more ambience — everything that makes one record better than another is here in abundance. And Tubey Magical violin tone like you will not believe.

Side One

A+ to A++. Real RCA Living Stereo Magic in the midrange, with a violin that sounds just right. The orchestra, not so much.

Side Two

A+++. So rich and sweet, this is VINTAGE 1959 ANALOG at its best. It was a very good year.

Not So Quiet Vinyl!

Both sides play about Mint Minus Minus, about as good as most properly cleaned Victrolas and Shaded Dogs tend to play.

Performance

The performance here is definitive in our opinion. If you like fiery violin playing, the kind that Ruggiero Ricci can be counted on to bring to a performance, this is going to be your Lalo recording of choice.

AMG Review

This concerto-like work is one of the favorite large-scale violin works of the Romantic era. Its colorful Spanish quality and its flowing, attractive melodies, along with its copious display of violin tricks, have kept it before a public that has largely forgotten the other works of its composer.

Stimulated by Pablo de Sarasate’s playing of his First Violin Concerto in 1874, Lalo decided to write another concerto, this time paying tribute to Sarasate’s Spanish nationality and his own Spanish descent. Lalo tailor-made the new Symphonie Espagnole to fit Sarasate’s playing style, which was innovative for stressing a bright, light attack rather than the powerhouse style that had characterized earlier violinists…

It has frequently been said that it is not a concerto or a symphony at all, although it does have elements of symphonic form. It is really a suite, whose five movements add up to the dimensions of a symphony, about 30 minutes.

Production Notes

Symphonie Espagnole (complete five-movement version)
Henryk Szeryng, violin
Walter Hendl / Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
John Pfeiffer, producer
John Crawford, engineer.
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, Chicago; February 28, 1959.