More George Gershwin
More Spectacular Orchestral Recordings
- This outstanding 6 Eye pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
- Here is sound that is both tubey and real, with much more space and a much bigger and more realistic presentation of the hall than most of the other copies we played
- 4 1/2 stars: “Paired with his buoyant 1958 performance of An American in Paris with the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein’s rendition of Rhapsody is lively, flashy, bluesy, and intensely romantic in feeling, and these positive characteristics no doubt contributed to keeping this album in print for many years as one of Columbia’s great successes.”
*NOTE On side one, a mark makes 6 moderately-loud pops about two and one-half inches into Rhapsody In Blue.
Here is the sound we’ve been searching for – rich, tubey and real, with nicely textured strings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and percussive — there is hardly any Old School smear to be heard, always important to proper piano reproduction.
This Columbia 6-Eye Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 orchestra, 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 Rhapsody In Blue / An American In Paris 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 1959
- 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.
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.
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 more dynamic and exciting. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on Rhapsody In Blue / An American In Paris
- 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.
Rhapsody In Blue
An American In Paris
AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review
Because George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is one of the most beloved American masterpieces, most people who have taken an interest in his music have come to know it quite well and have usually adopted a favorite recording already.
Among American performers who made a splash playing this piece, Leonard Bernstein may not have given the most fastidious, note-perfect performance, but he made this impressive recording with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1959 a true reflection of his charismatic, flamboyant personality.
Paired with his buoyant 1958 performance of An American in Paris with the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein’s rendition of Rhapsody is lively, flashy, bluesy, and intensely romantic in feeling, and these positive characteristics no doubt contributed to keeping this album in print for many years as one of Columbia’s great successes.
An American in Paris
The piece is a true tone poem, inspired by extra-musical considerations — the sights, sounds, and moods of Paris.
Deems Taylor, the 1920s composer and critic, furnished a blow-by-blow program for the piece from which I quote a brief excerpt: “You are to imagine an American visiting Paris, swinging down the Champs-Elysées on a mild sunny morning in May or June….Our American’s ears being open as well as his eyes, he notes with pleasure the sounds of the city. French taxicabs seem to amuse him particularly.”
Although he claimed not to have a program in mind when he wrote the work, Gershwin did sketch his own general scenario: “[A]n opening section, in which an American visitor strolls about Paris and ‘absorbs the French atmosphere,’ is followed by a rich blues with a strong rhythmic undercurrent,” representing an episode of homesickness on the visitor’s part. But the American overcomes his spell of depression and once again revels in the sights and sounds of Paris. “At the conclusion,” according to the composer, “the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.”