- This superb performance of the 5th makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
- The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely
- Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
- This is a wonderful recording in every respect – it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.
This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. Practically none of them will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds.
Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.
This vintage London pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of this wonderful classical masterpiece 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 1958
- 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
Production and Engineering
James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from October of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. Released in 1960, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.
The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, perhaps of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound that goes beyond all the other recordings we have played, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.
It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
What We’re Listening For on Beethoven’s 5th
- 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.
Size and 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 just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.
1st Mov.: Allegro Con Brio
2nd Mov.: Andante Con Moto
3rd Mov.: Scherzo (Allegro)
4th Mov.: Allegro
Notes on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
by Christopher H. Gibbs
In Beethoven’s Time
The Symphony was premiered later that year together with the Sixth (their numbers in fact reversed) at Beethoven’s famous marathon concert at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on December 22, which also included the first public performance of the Fourth Piano Concerto (the composer was soloist), two movements from the Mass, the concert aria Ah! Perfido, and the “Choral” Fantasy, Op. 80. Reports indicate that all did not go well.
But inadequate performance conditions did not dampen enthusiasm for the Fifth Symphony, which was soon recognized as a masterpiece. The novelist, critic, and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote a long and influential review, ushering in a new era in music criticism that hailed “Beethoven’s romanticism … that tears the listener irresistibly away into the wonderful spiritual realm of the infinite.”
A Closer Look
Another reason for the great fame and popularity of this Symphony is that it distills so much of Beethoven’s musical style. One feature is its “organicism,” the fact that all four movements seem to grow from seeds sown in the opening measures. While Beethoven used the distinctive rhythmic figure of three shorts and a long in other works from this time (Tovey remarked that if this indeed represents fate knocking at the door it was also knocking at many other doors), it clearly helps to unify the entire Symphony. After the most familiar of openings (Allegro con brio), the piece modulates to the relative major key and the horns announce the second theme with a fanfare using the “fate rhythm.” The softer, lyrical second theme, first presented by the violins, is inconspicuously accompanied in the lower strings by the rhythm. The movement features Beethoven’s characteristic building of intensity, suspense, a thrilling coda, and also mysteries. Why, for example, does the oboe have a brief unaccompanied solo cadenza near the beginning of the recapitulation. Beethoven’s innovation is not simply that this brief passage may “mean” something, but that listeners are prompted in the first place to ask themselves what it means.