Saint-Saens / Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso / Friedman

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  • A nearly White Hot side two with the complete Saint-Saens work
  • Side two has explosive dynamics and near-perfect violin reproduction
  • Side one has the first movement of the Paganini Concerto No. 1
  • A Mohr/Layton Living Stereo Shaded Dog pressing from 1962

Side Two – Paganini – 2nd / 3rd Movements / Saint-Saens – Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso 

A++ to A+++, nearly White Hot. Big and lively, and so involving. Huge space, great dynamics, so immediate and engrossing. 

It’s one of the best sounding violin-led orchestral recordings we have played in recent memory, and we’ve played them by the hundreds and hundreds. (Practice makes perfect as they say.)

Side two of this copy easily puts most of the TAS Super Discs to shame. I would venture to say that there’s a very good chance that you have NEVER heard a violin-led orchestral recording as good as this one (that is, unless you own some of our White Hot Stamper violin records).

Side One – Paganini – Concerto No. 1 – First Movement

A+ to A++, lush living stereo strings and good orchestral weight and space.

What to Listen For

What else, the violin! It’s so present on side two, with rosiny string tone, yet rich and not the least bit dry.

We love Ricci’s performances of these works on Decca/London but clean copies of his records are getting expensive and hard to find. It’s been years since I’ve seen one at a price I was willing to pay.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Paganini – Concerto No. 1 – First Movement

Side Two

Paganini – Concerto No. 1 – Second and Third Movements
Saint-Saens – Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso

Saint-Saens

Artist Biography – Camille Saint-Saens

by Robert Cummings Camille Saint-Saëns was something of an anomaly among French composers of the nineteenth century in that he wrote in virtually all genres, including opera, symphonies, concertos, songs, sacred and secular choral music, solo piano, and chamber music.

He was generally not a pioneer, though he did help to revive some earlier and largely forgotten dance forms, like the bourée and gavotte. He was a conservative who wrote many popular scores scattered throughout the various genres: the Piano Concerto No. 2, Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”), the symphonic poem Danse macabre, the opera Samson et Dalila, and probably his most widely performed work, The Carnival of The Animals. While he remained a composer closely tied to tradition and traditional forms in his later years, he did develop a more arid style, less colorful and, in the end, less appealing. He was also a poet and playwright of some distinction.

Saint-Saëns was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. He was one of the most precocious musicians ever, beginning piano lessons with his aunt at two-and-a-half and composing his first work at three. At age seven he studied composition with Pierre Maledin. When he was ten, he gave a concert that included Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, Mozart’s B flat Concerto, K. 460, along with works by Bach, Handel, and Hummel. In his academic studies, he displayed the same genius, learning languages and advanced mathematics with ease and celerity. He would also develop keen, lifelong interests in geology and astronomy.

In 1848, he entered the Paris Conservatory and studied organ and composition, the latter with Halévy. By his early twenties, following the composition of two symphonies, he had won the admiration and support of Berlioz, Liszt, Gounod, Rossini, and other notable figures. From 1853 to 1876, he held church organist posts; he also taught at the École Niedermeyer (1861-1865). He composed much throughout his early years, turning out the 1853 Symphony in F (“Urbs Roma”), a Mass (1855) and several concertos, including the popular second, for piano (1868).

In 1875, Saint-Saëns married the 19-year-old Marie Truffot, bringing on perhaps the saddest chapter in his life. The union produced two children who died within six weeks of each other, one from a four-story fall. The marriage ended in 1881. Oddly, this dark period in his life produced some of his most popular works, including Danse macabre (1875) and Samson et Dalila (1878). After the tragic events of his marriage, Saint-Saëns developed a fondness for Fauré and his family, acting as a second father to Fauré’s children.

But he also remained very close to his mother, who had opposed his marriage. When she died in 1888, the composer fell into a deep depression, even contemplating suicide for a time. He did much travel in the years that followed and developed an interest in Algeria and Egypt, which eventually inspired him to write Africa (1891) and his Piano Concerto No. 5, the “Egyptian”. He also turned out works unrelated to exotic places, such as his popular and most enduring serious composition, the Symphony No. 3.

Curiously, after 1890, Saint-Saëns’ music was regarded with some condescension in his homeland, while in England and the United States he was hailed as France’s greatest living composer well into the twentieth century. Saint-Saëns experienced an especially triumphant concert tour when he visited the U.S. in 1915. In the last two decades of his life, he remained attached to his dogs and was largely a loner. He died in Algeria on December 16, 1921.


Edward Moore on Paganini

Paganini’s impact on nineteenth century music cannot be overestimated: he set an entirely new standard of technical virtuosity; he was among the first musicians to champion the music of Berlioz (having commissioned, but never performed, Harold in Italy); and the inspirational effect that his works would have on the young Franz Liszt — who set out to duplicate Paganini’s achievements on the piano — would alter both the course of music and the life of the young Liszt forever. Paganini’s own compositions, including an unidentified number of violin concertos (some six are extant) and numerous chamber works, have more or less been abandoned. The concertos are written in the Italian operatic style of the day, oscillating between lyric charm and ferocious technical display, and are the only works of his which remain in the repertory (though many of the shorter works, by comparison, are gems and deserve to be played more).

VTA and the Violin

Experimenting with the VTA for this record we found a precise point where it all came together, far beyond whatever expectations we may have had, to reveal a violin floating between the speakers, an effect that as audiophiles we appreciate for the magic that it is. The sound of the wood of the instrument became so clear, the harmonic textures so natural, it was quite a shock to hear a good record somehow become an amazing one. All it took was a little work.

With the right VTA setting we immediately heard more harmonic detail, with no sacrifice in richness. That’s the clearest sign there is that your setup is right, or very close to it.

What to Listen for (WTLF)

This is an excellent turntable setup disc; when your VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate are correct, this is the record that will make it clear to you that all your effort has paid off.

What to listen for you ask? With the proper adjustment the harmonics of the strings will sound extended and correct, neither hyped up nor dull; the wood body of the instrument will be more audibly “woody”; the fingering at the neck will be noticeable but will not call attention to itself. In other words, as you adjust your setup, the violin will sound more and more real, honest and emotionally powerful.

And you can’t really know how right it can sound until you spend time experimenting with all the forces that affect the way the needle rides in the groove. If you are serious, and thorough, and approach your work scientifically with notepad in hand, two to three hours should do the trick.

Without precise VTA adjustment there is almost no way this superb pressing will be able to do what it is so clearly capable of doing. There will be hardness, smear, sourness, thinness — something will be off somewhere. With total control over arm and cartridge setup, these problems will all but vanish. (Depending on the quality of the equipment of course; we must all work within the limitations of our hardware, room treatments, electrical quality and all the rest.)

Other recordings — popular vocals, heavy rock, classical piano, small combo jazz, big band — are also important for setup and tweaking. Never rely exclusively on one record; it’s too easy to make the mistake of optimizing the sound of a single disc at the expense of most others. When your setup is right, practically all of your best recordings should sound better. (There may be an exception or two, and it’s important to figure out why they are not working with the new settings. Rather than ignore them, it’s best to go back to the drawing board.)

We harp on so many aspects of music reproduction in the home for a reason. When you’ve done the work, records like this can become nothing less than GLORIOUS.

 

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