It should go without saying that a good original pressing kills the Classic reissue, and the Classic version is one of the better Classics. Still, it’s no match for the real thing, not even close. The Classic is airless, smeary and low-rez, which means that all the subtleties of the music and the performance will be much more difficult to appreciate.
I dare say that were you to hear a top quality copy it would be all but impossible to sit through the Classic ever again. (That might be true for all Classic records — once you hear the real thing it’s hard to imagine be able to tolerate the sound of this reissue.)
OUR HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY
WHITE HOT Stamper sound for the Bruch side of this original RCA Shaded Dog, one of the best Heifetz concerto titles of all time. (I’m trying to think of a Heifetz title that sounds better and coming up blank.)
This was our shootout winner on side two, beating all comers, earning our highest grade, the full Three Pluses (our blue ribbon, gold medal, and best in show all wrapped into one). The sound is nothing short of DEMO DISC QUALITY.
If you want to demonstrate the magic of Living Stereo recordings, jump right to the second movement of the Bruch. The sonority of the massed strings is to die for. When Heifetz enters, the immediacy of his violin further adds to the transcendental quality of the experience. Sonically and musically it doesn’t get much better than this, on Living Stereo or anywhere else.
The violin is captured beautifully on side two. More importantly there is a lovely lyricism in Heifetz’s playing which suits Bruch’s Romantic work perfectly. I know of no better performance.
The performance of the Vieuxtemps Concerto No. 5 is also wonderful, but the sound is not. Want proof that two sides of the same record can have vastly different sound? Here it is. Note how oversized the violin on side one is, how smeary the orchestra, how little texture there is to anything in the soundfield. This side one is no Hot Stamper.
And yet somehow side two won our shootout with the best sound we have ever heard for the Bruch. Go figure.
Side Two – Bruch / Scottish Fantasy
A+++, White Hot Stamper sound!
Pay special attention to the richness of the lower strings, a sonic quality that is not nearly as pronounced on side one as it is here on side two. The violin is also more present on this side. There’s lots of space around it, and the orchestra manages to stay uncongested in the loud sections for the most part (some congestion is heard on even the best Living Stereo records).
The energy, transparency and overall sweetness of the sound could not be beat! it’s the clear winner.
Having played more than a dozen Shaded Dogs of this album over the years, we would note that the sound on this side two is a bit dry as is almost always the case.
The Bruch brings to mind some of Tchaikovsky’s works. It’s so sweet and melodic, it completely draws you into its world of sound. This is a work of unsurpassed beauty, music that belongs in any serious music collection.
Side One – Vieuxtemps / Concerto No. 5
A or so. Lovely Romantic music that’s much better than I remember it from our last shootout.
I’ve commented often over the years of the benefits to be gained from listening to classical music regularly. Once a week is a good rule of thumb I would say. I love rock and roll, jazz and all the rest of it, but there is something about classical music that restores a certain balance in your musical life that can’t be accomplished by other means. It grounds your listening experience to something perhaps less immediately gratifying but deeper and more enriching over time. Once habituated, the effect on one’s mood is not hard to recognize.
Of course it should be pointed out that the average classical record is a sonic disaster. There are many excellent pressings of rock and jazz, but when it comes to classical music, being so much more difficult to record (and reproduce!), the choices are substantially more narrow. Most of what passed for good classical sound when I was coming up in audio — the DGs, EMIs, Sheffields and other audiophile pressings — are hard to listen to on the modern equipment of today.
I would say we audition at least five records for every one we think might pass muster in a future shootout, and we’re pulling only from the labels we know to be good. I wouldn’t even take the time to play the average Angel, Columbia or DG, or EMI for that matter. The losers vastly outweigh the winners, and there are only so many hours in a day. Who has the time?
All that said, it should be clear that assembling a top quality classical collection requires much more in the way of resources, both time and money.