Tchaikovsky / Capriccio Italien & Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol / Black / London Festival

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•Incredible sound on both sides of this London Phase 4 pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
•These pieces are some of THE BEST on record – not only do they have incredibly powerful DEMO DISC sound, but the performances are superb in every way as well
•The energy and excitement of these works are brought to life by Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra like nothing you have ever heard
•This White Hot pressing may make you reevaluate virtually every classical recording in your collection

The Most Exciting, Colorful Performances of all time — Black gets everything out of these famous works on this Decca Phase 4 recording. Full, rich and clear like no other, with more space and a more three-dimensional stage than we even knew was possible. (Ongoing improvements in the stereo have helped a lot in those areas of course.)

Huge Wall to Wall Demo Disc sound, with the kind of IMMEDIACY that would make the folks at Mercury jealous. You will find very few Living Stereos and Mercuries with this kind of sound, that I can assure you.

Who can resist these sublime orchestral works? To quote an infamous label — infamous around these parts anyway — they are an “audiophile’s dream come true.”

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

•The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space

•The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1964

•Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low

•Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre

•Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Shaded Dogs and Heavy Vinyl (Gasp!)

As good as the famous Kondrashin performance on RCA is (LSC 2323), the sound on both the Shaded Dog copies we had on hand and the Classic Records reissue (which is very good by the way) could not begin to match the sonics of this pressing. We’ve had copies of the album in the past, but they sure never sounded like this! From both an audiophile and music lover’s perspective you would have a hard time finding a record that holds so much appeal to both groups.

Do what we do: play it against the best of the RCAs, Londons and Mercs from the period and you will see what I mean. And of course it will completely DESTROY any pressing you may have on Heavy Vinyl, from any label, at any playback speed — of any music.

What We’re Listening For on Capriccio!

•Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?

•The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.

•Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.

•Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.

•Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.

•Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Hi-Fidelity

What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

Capriccio Espagnol

Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34, is the common Western title for an orchestral work based on Spanish folk melodies and written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended to write the work for a solo violin with orchestra, but later decided that a purely orchestral work would do better justice to the lively melodies.

The Capriccio consists of five movements and is scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes (one doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and strings.

The piece is often lauded for its orchestration, which features a large percussion section and many special techniques and articulations, such as in the fourth movement when the violinists, violists, and cellists are asked to imitate guitars (the violin and viola parts are marked “quasi guitara”). Despite the critical praise, Rimsky-Korsakov was annoyed that the other aspects of the piece were being ignored. In his autobiography, he wrote:

The opinion formed by both critics and the public, that the Capriccio is a magnificently orchestrated piece — is wrong. The Capriccio is a brilliant composition for the orchestra. The change of timbres, the felicitous choice of melodic designs and figuration patterns, exactly suiting each kind of instrument, brief virtuoso cadenzas for instruments solo, the rhythm of the percussion instruments, etc., constitute here the very essence of the composition and not its garb or orchestration.

The Spanish themes, of dance character, furnished me with rich material for putting in use multiform orchestral effects. All in all, the Capriccio is undoubtedly a purely external piece, but vividly brilliant for all that. I was a little less successful in its third section (Alborada, in B-flat major), where the brasses somewhat drown the melodic designs of the woodwinds; but this is very easy to remedy, if the conductor will pay attention to it and moderate the indications of the shades of force in the brass instruments by replacing the fortissimo by a simple forte.

Wikipedia

Capriccio Italien

Tchaikovsky possessed a remarkable talent for instrumentation, instinctively scoring his works to obtain a maximum variety of color and the widest possible range of tonal effects. His “Capriccio Italien”, vibrant with the raw colors of its Italian song and dance rhythms, is one of his most popular works and shows the composer’s complete mastery of orchestration. Its music passes vigorously from the opening trumpet call (echoes of the Cuirassiers) through a slightly melancholy phase to a climax of power and brilliance reminiscent of the popular Italian dance, the Tarantella.

From the liner notes

TRACK LISTING

Side One (Tchaikovsky)

Capriccio Italien

Side Two (Rimsky-Korsakov)

Capriccio Espagnol