- This rich, sweet and full-bodied UK pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom – fairly quiet vinyl too
- Side one gives you not only a wonderful Clair De Lune, but a number of shorter works by Faure, Massenet and Elgar as well, with side two highlighted by meditative pieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky and others
- We can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound – this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
- It’s the same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included
- The other main difference between the Living Stereo pressing and our Decca here is that the Decca has better sound
Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music.
It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.
The 1959 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.
What The Best Sides Of This Wonderful Pressing 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.
Critically Important Adjustments (for Critical Listeners)
This is an excellent record for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like. Classical music is really the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge setup (and evaluation). A huge and powerful recording such as this quickly separates the men from the boys stereo-wise. Recordings of this quality are the reason there are $10,000+ front ends in the first place. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you do, this is the record that will show you what you got for your hard-earned money.
Ideally you would want to work your setup magic at home with this record, then take it to a friend’s house and see if you can achieve the same results. I’ve done this sort of thing for years. Sadly, not so much anymore; nobody I know can play records like these the way we can. Playing and critically evaluating records all day, every day, year after year, you get pretty good at it. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Properly set VTA is especially critical on this record, as it is on most classical recordings. The smallest change will dramatically affect the timbre, texture, and harmonic information of the strings, as well as the rest of the instruments of the orchestra.
You can be pretty sure of two things when you hear a record of this quality: one, the original won’t sound as good, having been cut on cruder equipment.
And two, no modern recutting of the tapes (by the likes of Speakers Corner for example, but you can substitute any company you care to name) could begin to capture this kind of natural orchestral sound.
I have never heard a Heavy Vinyl pressing begin to do what this record is doing. The Decca we have here may be a budget reissue pressing, but it was mastered by real Decca engineers, pressed in England on high quality vinyl, from fairly fresh tapes (twelve years old, not fifty years old!), then mastered about as well as a record can be mastered. The sound is, above all, REAL and BELIEVABLE.
What We’re Listening For On Claire de Lune
- 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’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is, of course, all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.
This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their mediocrity.)
Mint Minus Minus 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.
A Must Own Record
This wonderful album of reflective music should be part of any serious Classical Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Thaïs – Meditation (Massenet)
Chant Sans Paroles, Op 2 No. 3 (Tchaikovsky)
Dream Children, Op. 43, Nos. 1 And 2 (Elgar)
Suite Bergamasque – Clair De Lune (Debussy)
Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die Stimme – Choral Variation (Bach)
String Quartet In D, Op. 11 – Andante Cantabile (Tchaikovsky)
Orfeo – Dance Of The Blessed Spirits (Gluck)
La Vierge – Dernier Sommeil De La Vierge (Massenet)