- INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound is found throughout this original (but not FR-1, those didn’t do as well!) Mercury LP
- Absolutely As Good As It Gets – it’s easy to forget just how REAL a recording like this from 1957 can sound
- We have a preference for Dorati’s work with the London Symphony Orchestra, and a record like this will show you exactly why we do
- If you’re a fan of 20th century orchestral showpieces such as these, Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart have here produced a very special record of two of the best
- We hope you like your sound big and bold,m because that is the sound they were obviously going for
- I have to admit I was never a fan of this album until only a few years ago, when I finally got my hands on a clean copy and heard the powerful sound of the London Symphony come blasting out of my speakers — what a thrill!
- This record seems to have dropped from the TAS Super Disc list, which is only fitting since those nitwits have been watering it down with one crappy title after another since HP passed in 2014
In the heyday of the ’90s, when these records were all the rage, this copy would have sold for at least $1000 and probably more. And the copy that sold for that would have been very unlikely to sound as good as this one, if only for the fact that cleaning technologies have advanced so much over the last twenty years or so (and no, I do not mean ultrasonic cleaning. I mean scrubbing the right fluids and using the right machines to vacuum them off).
This vintage Mercury Living Presence 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 Love For Three Oranges Suite / Scythian Suite 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 1957
- 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.
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 clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three-dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean British copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of British pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.
What We’re Listening For On The Love For Three Oranges Suite / Scythian Suite
- 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.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Better Front Ends Are Often Quieter
I would make the further point that the better your front end is, the less likely you are to have a problem with vinyl like this, which is the opposite of what many audiophiles believe to be the case. In other words, some of the cheaper tables and carts seem to make the surface noise more objectionable, not less. On the other hand, some pricey cartridges — the Benz line comes to mind — are consistently noisier than those by Dynavector, Lyra and others, in our experience anyway.
A Must Own Orchestral Showpiece
These wonderful orchestral showpieces — two of the greatest ever composed — should be part of any serious Classical Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale
This album is especially Difficult to Reproduce. Do not attempt to play it on anything but the highest quality equipment.
Classical music is unquestionably the ultimate test for proper turntable / arm / cartridge setup. The Pines of Rome would be a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.
One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as these two tones poems. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has bought you.
It has been my experience that cheap tables (anything under $2k I would guess) more often than not collapse completely under the weight of a mighty record such as this. If you have one of those, this is probably not the record for you.
Love for Three Oranges
The libretto is based on the 18th-century commedia dell’arte theater piece L’amore delle tre melarance by Carlo Gozzi. The story is of a young, melancholy Prince who, upon laughing at the unfortunate antics of the old witch Fata Morgana, is cursed by her to voyage to distant lands in search of three rather large oranges, each of which contains a beautiful Princess. The first two Princesses die instantly on their emergence from the oranges; only the third and most beautiful, Princess Ninetta, survives her exposure to the elements. The Prince and Ninetta fall in love and marry, and Fata Morgana flies to the nether regions.
Commentary by Robert Cummings
In the summer of 1914, Prokofiev, the then-emerging enfant terrible of Russian music, traveled to London to meet with the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Diaghilev commissioned the young composer to write a ballet with a prehistoric or fairy-tale scenario — hoping, perhaps, for the same kind of success he had recently enjoyed with the like-themed ballets of Stravinsky. Prokofiev returned to St. Petersburg and engaged the services of poet Sergei Gorodetzky in developing an effective story line.
The composer settled on a theme centered on a prehistoric tribe of barbarians, the Scythians, known to drink blood and engage in other similarly gruesome practices. The immediate musical result was Ala and Lolli (1914-1915), which Prokofiev first presented to Diaghilev in the form of a nearly complete piano score. Diaghilev, however, rejected the work as too close in spirit to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, fearing comparisons to the still-new succès du scandale. To placate Prokofiev, Diaghilev commissioned from the dejected composer a new ballet, Chout (1915). Before fulfulling that commission, though, Prokofiev turned his attention back to his orphaned ballet, distilling its most effective numbers into the Scythian Suite.
The suite is cast in four movements whose titles readily evoke the ballet’s prehistoric themes: “The Adoration of Veles and Ala,” “The Evil God and Dance of the Pagan Monster,” “Night,” and “The Glorious Departure of Lolli and the Sun’s Procession.” What is most immediately striking about the score is Prokofiev’s brilliant orchestration. The music is the product of a 23 year old, yet it clearly demonstrates the unmistakable confidence, control, and imagination of a seasoned master. The vivid colors and instrumental effects are such that the work, despite its relative unfamiliarity, survives as one of the most brilliant orchestral essays of its era.
The first movement begins savagely, the discordant main theme calling to mind a titanic struggle between monstrous forces. The mood turns quiet but restless, and the sound darkens; here the writing for reeds and harp here is especially brilliant and atmospheric. The second movement is fast and brutal, the rhythms pounding and insistent, the themes menacing and ominous; this is the most unambiguously Russian music of the suite. The first half of “Night” is appropriately dark, the second half explosive and unsettling. “The Glorious Departure” begins with a rush of energy, then slows to a colorful march, followed by a menacing yet comical theme. The suite concludes with a brilliant depiction of the rising sun that smites Chuzbog.
The Scythian Suite was premiered under the composer’s baton in St. Petersburg on January 29, 1916.
Suite from “The Love for Three Oranges”