Bizet / Saint-Saens / Carmen Fantaisie / Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso / Ricci


We sold this copy last night (10/10), immediately after one had sold in an auction on ebay for $787, a price almost two hundred dollars more than what we were asking. Note that our copy was cleaned and auditioned and found to be both phenomenally good sounding and reasonably quiet. None of these things could be said of the record on ebay of course, but apparently the word is out that this is an amazing recording and the bidding reflected that fact. I have never seen one go for anything like this kind of dough. Now that they do — there were four bidders about $550 — you should not expect to see a Hot Stamper pressing of the album show up on our site again unless we get very lucky locally, and that is highly unlikely.

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — Triple Plus (A+++) on both sides and vinyl that is as quiet as any that can be found from this era
  • This is a spectacular recording, and one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time
  • It is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection. If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.
  • Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout – we know of no better performances of this works than those found on this very record
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater performance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal.

The Average Copy

When you play a copy of this record and hear a smeared, veiled violin, don’t be too surprised. This is not the least bit unusual, in fact it’s pretty much par for the course. The soundstage may be huge: spacious and 3-D; it is on most copies. But what good is a record of violin showpieces if the violin doesn’t sound right?

Sides One and Two

These two sides can show you how good the violin — and the whole orchestra — can sound. They’re tonally correct from top to bottom, transparent and sweet. The texture on the strings is PERFECTION.

These pieces are less about the “violin-in-your-lap” effect and more about the violin as an integrated member of the orchestra.

Of all the copies we have ever played, these sides had the most of a quality that goes a long way in the world of classical music. As we went through the various copies, we noticed that the sound on the best sides was especially RELAXED. (Compare that to the typical Classic Records heavy vinyl pressing, which, on the relaxation scale of one to ten, rates a lot closer to one than it does to ten. Between one and two probably.)

Once you spot the relaxed copies, you find they tend to do every other thing well, and that’s what it takes to win shootouts — doing everything well.

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 the Carmen – Fantaisie 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 1960
  • 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.

What We’re Listening For on the Carmen – Fantaisie

  • 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.


Side One

Bizet Arr. Sarasate, Carmen – Fantaisie
Sarasate – Zigeunerweisen

Side Two

Saint-Saëns – Havanaise
Saint-Saëns – Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso

Liner Notes

Pablo de Sarasate was one of the great nineteenth century violin virtuoso-composers of whom Paganini was the archetype and Fritz Kreisler the last surviving representative. Without exception, therefore, all the many pieces written and arranged by Sarasate are virtuoso fiddler’s music, designed expressly to show off his own commanding skill. They are in the nature of effervescent trifles conceived in terms of spectacular violin technique and intended to be thrown off with faultless polish and panache. However, despite the difficulties, Sarasate was a consummate musician thoroughly versed in the classics, and his own compositions are imaginatively contrived to give genuine musical as well as performing satisfaction. In the realm of virtuoso violin music his name stood during his lifetime and remains today on the highest plane of achievement.

Much of his music has a Spanish flavour—the four books of Spanish dances exploit the rhythms and idioms of Sarasate’s native country and add to them on imaginative use of advanced violin technique.

The Havanaise is based upon the rhythm of the Habanera, the themes languid and intense except for some legitimate passages of virtuoso writing. There is a brilliant coda in which the violinist disports himself in bravura over an insistent bass Habanera rhythm. The piece ends very softly, a feature that is as welcome as it is unusual in virtuoso music.

Both this and the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso are typical products of their composer. To modern ears his music sounds easy to assimilate, and yet in his time (as is often the case) it was found revolutionary. The Danse Macabre was hissed at its first performance [!]… However, the sweetness and clarity of his musical thought have always endeared him to the public.

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