_Composers – Mussorgsky

Mussorgsky et al. / Night On Bare Mountain CS 6785 / Solti – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Night On Bare Mountain CS 6785 / Solti

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Released as Romantic Russia by Decca in 1967, this London can also be found with a different cover and a different catalog number, CS 6503.

DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side one — in some ways. Don’t go looking for the Tubey Magic of an earlier era. What you get instead is super-low distortion, full-bandwidth sound with deep powerful bass and more transparency than most later Londons.

Solti is clearly the man for this music! He’s on fire with this fiery material. THIS is the way you want to hear Russian Orchestral Showpieces — played with verve and dynamically ALIVE.  (more…)

Mussorgsky – Ravel / Pictures at an Exhibition / Ashkenazy – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This original London pressing of the solo piano version of Pictures has uncannily natural piano reproduction, which is why we are awarding this side one our highest sonic grade, A Triple Plus.

The fact that the recording takes place in Kingsway Hall in 1967 no doubt plays a large part in the superb sound. The hall is bigger here than on other copies, the piano even more solidly weighted, yet none of this comes at the expense of the clarity of the playing. There is no smear, allowing both the percussive aspects of the piano and the extended harmonics of the notes to be heard clearly and appreciated fully.

Side two has Mehta’s performance of the orchestrated work squeezed onto side two, which is never a good idea if one is looking for high quality orchestral sound. The performance itself is mediocre as well.

We are not, and never haver been, big fans of Mehta’s work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on London. The exceptionally rare copy of The Planets can sound good, but 90% of them do not — just don’t make the mistake of telling that to the average audiophile who owns one. Harry told him it was the best, he paid good money for it, and until someone tells him different it had better be “the one Planets to own.”

We see one of our roles here at Better Records as being the guys who actually will “tell you different”, and, more importantly, can back up our opinions with the records that make our case for us. (more…)

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Awesome In Stereo (2007)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. We put two top copies together to bring you the ultimate-sounding Pictures At An Exhibition. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.

One side of each copy rates A Triple Plus — our highest sonic grade. The sound is out of this world. 

We had to do it that way, for one simple reason: Pictures stretches over both sides of this record, and no copy we played had two good sides, which means that if you were to own only one LP of this set, some part of the work would not sound nearly as good as the rest. This is always a problem with classical recordings: one good sounding side is not enough.

On top of that there are always condition issues with old Living Stereo records. So few are quiet. We love the sound but the vinyl leaves much to be desired. Here are some comments from a previous comparison package (with minor changes of course). (more…)

Mussorgsky et al. – Danse Infernale – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Danse Infernale

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

It took two copies — one for side one, one for side two — to find two sides this good. We love this album but most copies are unbelievably dreadful. (Actually, if you’ve played a fair number of DG recordings over the years you might not have any trouble believing how bad the average one is, so I take that back.) 

This German Import has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — of a kind. Being a DG recording, one of the things you won’t be demonstrating with this record is natural string tone — it’s just not part of the DG sound. But, this record is ALIVE.

Some of the most powerful deep bass I have ever heard on LP. Dynamics that are rarely heard outside of the concert hall. Wonderful spaciousness, openness and depth. String basses and cellos that growl like the real thing.

But you don’t really want to buy this record for the sound, as good as it is in its own way. What you want to buy this record for is the best performance of Night On Bald Mountain ever recorded. Fiedler plays it with a kind of abandonment that no other conductor has to my knowledge. It’s supposed to be a wild witches’ frenzy, and this is the only performance I know of that allows you to picture such diabolic revelry in your mind’s eye. (more…)

Various Artists – Destination Stereo – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

More Living Stereo

Destination Stereoo

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Side one is White Hot, with some of the best 1959 Living Stereo we’ve ever heard. Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other. When “in -the-know” audiophiles discuss soundstaging and depth, they had better be talking about a record that sounds like this. Shockingly real – proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than we normally assume. 

This reasonably quiet RCA Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND on BOTH sides. It is without a doubt THE best sounding copy we have ever heard*. (more…)

Romantic Russia – Who on Earth Could Possibly Take This Kind of Sound Seriously?

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Borodin, Glinka & Mussorgsky / Romantic Russia / Solti

 

Sonic Grade: F

Another MoFi LP debunked.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic.

The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti

MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution? Whatever the reasons, the better and more accurate your equipment becomes, the most obvious this shortcoming will be. My tolerance for their phony EQ is at an all time low. But hey, that’s me. (more…)

Mussorgsky, Borodin, et al. / Orchestral Showpieces / Solti – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Orchestral Showpieces / Solti

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This London Whiteback LP recorded in 1967 (CS 6503) has DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side two. Solti is the man for this music! He’s on fire with this fiery material and the London engineers do him full justice — at least they do on side two. (Side one has a long scratch and cannot be played.)

Don’t go looking for the Tubey Magic of an earlier era. What you get instead is super low distortion, full bandwidth sound with deep powerful bass and lovely transparency. THIS is the way you want to hear Russian Orchestral Showpieces — played with verve and dynamically ALIVE.

The Polovtsian Dances on side two sound as dynamic and powerful as any I know. (more…)

Music of Old Russia / Milstein / Irving – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Tchaikovsky 

Milstein / Irving 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This rare, hard to find original Blue Angel stereo pressing has exquisite sound. As we noted in our listing for Milstein’s Saint-Saens Third, it is the rare Heifetz album on Shaded Dog (or any other label) that could hope to compete with it.

We would rank this Angel recording/pressing with the best of Rabin and Milstein on Capitol, as well as the wonderful Ricci and Campoli discs on London/Decca. (more…)

Britten – Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – Ozawa – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More of the music of Britten 

More Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – Ozawa 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

The sound of this White Hot Stamper side two is SUPER TRANSPARENT — you can hear all the way to the back of the hall and then some! There’s so much ambience on this pressing it forced us to reevaluate the other copies in light of the sound we were discovering here.

As if that wasn’t enought, it had energy and immediacy we simply did not expect to hear. The sound is big and bold during the loud passages, but sweet and delicate when, for example, the woodwinds are spotlighted in the composition.  (more…)

Mussorgsky / Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This White Hot Stamper EMI Two-Pak gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition and the Firebird Suite with TOP PERFORMANCES and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last. It took two separate discs to make it happen, but we managed to find the two copies with sides that matched up in order to bring both of these works to LIFE. 

Much like Steinberg and the BSO’s performance of The Planets, he finds the music in the work that no one else can. (more…)