- A STUNNING pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – a true Orchestral Demo Disc from 1970
- As I write this, dollar for dollar this is probably the best sound for the money on the site
- The Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” sound superb here – big, rich and Tubey Magical
- The performances are superb – energetic as befits most of the music, yet lyrical when the score calls for it
- Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and fairly quiet surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
- Big speakers and loud levels are the sine qua non for the proper reproduction of this album
- We’ve identified a number of Orchestral Demo Discs of superior quality, and they can be found here
This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most spectacular sound we have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presences, EMIs and Deccas we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in the Top Ten, right near the top judging by what we heard when we played it.
If you have a system with the speed, power, and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best-sounding orchestral recording you’ve ever heard.
Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record!
Side two is where the some of the best orchestral action can be found, and it is presented here with spectacular audio fidelity the likes of which you may have never experienced.
What The Best Sides Of The Music of Leonard Bernstein 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 1961
- 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.
THE All Time Sleeper
This record is a real sleeper, for which I am much indebted to Robert Pincus, the man who first brought it to my attention more than a decade ago. It contains the music of Leonard Bernstein, conducted by Eric Rogers, played with extraordinary skill by the Royal Phil. Rogers, to these ears anyway, seem to understand Bernstein as well or better than Bernstein himself. I certainly don’t know a better recording of the selections of Bernstein’s music compiled here.
Rogers really breathes FIRE into these pieces, especially on side two. We have never heard anything like it, and we play a lot of records!
What We’re Listening For On The Music of Leonard Bernstein
- 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.
Phase IV, Are You Serious?
Yes, absolutely. Allow me to make the case this way. Phase 4 has the life, dynamics, and deep articulate bass not found on most Golden Age recordings. There is no compression to speak of on the album, not on the best copies anyway.
Shaded Dogs may have sweeter strings and more Tubey Magic (which, as anyone who listens to live classical music knows, is mostly a euphonic coloration), but this recording sounds dramatically more like live music than most of them in every way other than soundstaging.
There are of course multiple mikes being used, and sometimes they call attention to themselves, but for the most part the stage is wide and deep enough, and the mikes far enough from the orchestral sections, to create the illusion of a real orchestra in a hall.
The tympani at the back (along with most of the percussion) are especially convincing in this regard. On the copies with the most correct top ends, the triangles and bells are shockingly lifelike, sounding, to my “mind’s ear” exactly the way they do in the concert hall.
By the way…
Those of you with a recording of Glinka’s Russla and Ludmilla Overture will no doubt notice the surprising similarities between it and Lenny’s Overture to Candide found here. I wouldn’t want to call it a ‘steal’; let’s just say he borrowed liberally from that work.
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.
This Bernstein Album Is a Monster
The Music of Leonard Bernstein ranks right up at the top of our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using anything but than the highest quality equipment.
Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems .
Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.
This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the audio enthusiast, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).
Overture to “Candide”
‘Times Square, 1944’ from “On the Town”
Symphonic Suite from the film “On the Waterfront”
Excerpts from “Fancy Free”
Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”
1. Prologue (Allegro Moderato)
2. “Somewhere” (Adagio)
3. Scherzo (Vivace e Leggiero)
4. Mambo (Meno Presto)
5. Cha-Cha (Andantino Con Grazia)
6. Meeting Scene (Meno Mosso)
7. “Cool”, Fugue (Allegretto)
8. Rumble (Molto Allegro)
9. Finale (Adagio)
The musical works well partly because of its potent combination of violent, energetic music, often powered by vibrant rhythms, with more reflective and indeed thoroughly romantic material. There are also elements of Latin American music. But two other qualities mark out this amazing score. First, there’s the brilliant orchestration. Actually that for the Suite is not by Bernstein at all but by two master orchestrators, Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin, whom he appointed to do the job of converting music composed for a pit-sized band to music designed for a huge symphony orchestra. And there are all those memorable melodies. This is a musical, and like all the best musicals it sends the listener away with the tunes buzzing in the head.
About Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. According to The New York Times, he was “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.”
His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world’s leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side Story, as well as Candide, Wonderful Town, On the Town and his own Mass.
Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. In addition, he was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard.
As a composer he wrote in many styles encompassing symphonic and orchestral music, ballet, film and theatre music, choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. Many of his works are regularly performed around the world, although none has matched the tremendous popular and commercial success of West Side Story.