Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Album Reviews of the music of Tchaikovsky

  • This RCA Gold Seal 1976 re-release features STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Tonally correct from top to bottom and as transparent as practically any vintage recording we’ve heard, the combination of clarity and Tubey Magic here is hard to beat
  • This copy is cut clean, and its dynamics and energy are fully intact, which just goes to show how much better the master tape must be than we’ve been led to believe by the original Shaded Dogs pressings and the awful Bernie Grundman pressing released by Classic Records
  • Not all of these later pressings sound like this one, so if you want to find your own, good luck, you sure aren’t likely to run across one of this quality, and the way we know that is that of all the copies that we played, this one was clearly the best
  • If you’re a classical music aficionado, this recording from the earliest days of stereo in 1955 belongs in your collection.
  • To see Living Stereo titles with Hot Stampers, click here.
  • To see the 200+ Living Stereo titles we’ve reviewed, click here.

Presenting a first for Better Records: a White Hot Stamper copy of this CORRECTLY remastered version of LSC 1901, which just happens to be a recording from the earliest days of stereo, 1955! It’s guaranteed to KILL any and all original Shaded Dogs, as well as the more common reissues; White Dogs, Red Seals, Victrolas, Classic Heavy Vinyl, you name it — this pressing will beat the pants off of it and in the process show you precisely what is wrong with each and every one of them.

This vintage RCA Gold Seal 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 Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique) 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 1955
  • 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.

What We’re Listening For On Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique)

  • 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.

Vinyl Condition

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

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Mvt. I: Adagio; Allegro Non Troppo
Mvt. II: Allegro Con Grazia

Side Two

Mvt. III: Allegro Molto Vivace
Mvt. IV: Adagio Lamentoso

Sixth Symphony

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is forever associated with the tragedy of his sudden death. In the last year of his life, 1893, the composer began work on a new symphony. Sketches dated from as early as February, but progress was slow. Concert tours to France and England and the awarding of a doctorate of music from Cambridge cut into the time available for composition. Thus, though Tchaikovsky could compose quickly when the muse was with him, it was not until the end of August that he was able to complete the Sixth Symphony. Its premiere, with the composer himself on the podium, was given in St. Petersburg two months later, on October 28. The work seemed unusually somber, particularly in its finale that, both in tempo and dynamics, fades into nothingness.

Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest suggested at the time that the work ought to be called by the French word “pathetique,” meaning melancholy, and Tchaikovsky supposedly agreed, but if Modest or anyone else bothered to ask the reason behind the symphony’s gloomy mood, Tchaikovsky’s answer is lost to time. His only remembered comment about the new piece is, “Without exaggeration, I have put my whole soul into this work.

Leave a Reply