- You’ll find two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides on this vintage pressing, offering Orchestral sound that is gloriously Big and Bold like no other recording of this music you have ever heard (or your money back)
- Rich and tubey, yet open and clear, with lovely string textures, especially in the lower strings, as would be expected of any Living Stereo record from 1959
- The Living Stereo Tubey Magical sound from 1959 is hard to fault here – they don’t make ’em like this anymore!
- Our favorite performance – Gruner-Hegge and the Oslo Philharmonic understand this music at the most profound levels, making it an absolute Must Own for those of who appreciate the sublime experience of playing classical music in the home
As much as I like Fjeldstad’s Peer Gynt on Decca/London with the LSO, I have to say that Odd Gruner-Hegge (love that first name!) and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra turn in the better of the two performances. To these ears, theirs is more lyrical; it flows more naturally both within and between the individual movements.
This vintage Living Stereo 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.
The Oslo Phil also gives me more of a sense that they are feeling the joy in the playing of these works; I do not get quite the same feeling from the LSO. As we worked our way through more and more Living Stereo copies, the Oslo Phil.’s enthusiasm and love for the music became recognizably stronger, and, as one would expect, more agreeable and involving.
Our preference for this performance is, of course, a matter of taste; we cannot be sure you will feel the same. No doubt, you have a version of the Fjeldstad on hand for comparison purposes, perhaps the Speakers Corner pressing (which we used to like quite a bit), but any will do. I expect that playing a handful of select movements from the two performances back to back will show this one to be superior.
To be fair, both are superb. A sizable group of other recordings were auditioned, but we found no others that were comparable in terms of both sound and performance.
What the Best Sides of Peer Gynt 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.
In comparing the sound I would call it a toss-up, perhaps with the tie going to the Fjeldstad. The Decca is bigger and clearer, but has some aspects to the miking that strike me as infelicitous. The brass in places seems to jump out and call attention to itself, which never happens on the RCA. Although less of a Demo Disc, the sound of the Gruner-Hegge performance was slightly more involving, or is it the performance that draws you in? As usual, separating the sound of the music from the music itself is no easy task, if it is even possible at all.
As the record plays the top end extends and the space of the hall becomes more clear and 3-D. Anitra’s Dance (sounding very much like a movement from Scheherazade) is superb here and would qualify to demo your system with, assuming you have the system a large orchestral recording such as this requires.
The opening of Ingrid’s Lament is exciting and sounds amazing here. The top is extremely open and clean yet the strings are never bright nor shrill. So transparent and spacious.
The last movement on side two has some Wagnerian touches. The string tone of the lower strings is hard to fault, and the overall sound at the end is lively and exciting without ever crossing the line into hi-fi-ishness. This is the mark of an exceptionally good record!
What We’re Listening For on Peer Gynt
- 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.
- 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.
It has taken us years of serious searching to come up with the pile of copies we were able to play in our shootout. To find a copy of this record in anything but beat condition has been difficult and time-consuming to say the least. The powerfully dynamic Hall of the Mountain King is at the end of side one and unless you have a very well-cared-for copy the inner groove distortion will be painful indeed.
By the way, none of the better copies in the shootout were quieter than these two sides. Mint Minus Minus is going to be as quiet as these pressings get.
What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are reproduced with remarkable fidelity. Now 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. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).
This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and any of you out there who pick this one up should get a real kick out of it.
A Must Own Classical Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
The Death Of Ase
In The Hall Of The Mountain King
Peer Gynt Suite No. 2
Peer Gynt’s Return Home
Peer Gynt, Op. 23 is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg in 1875. It premiered along with the play on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo).
Later, in 1888 and 1891, Grieg extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites: Suite No. 1, Op. 46, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55.