_Composers – Prokofiev

Prokofiev / Peter and the Wolf – Sargent

xxxxx

SUPERB SOUND! This Orange and Black label British pressing has sweet strings, powerful dynamics, plenty of depth and a wide soundstage.

It’s major faults are a lack of deep bass and some congestion during loud passages.

Sir Ralph Richardson makes a wonderful narrator — the sound of his voice is priceless.

But the real attraction is the First Symphony, commonly known as the Classical Symphony. Sargent plays it with VERVE! He brings energy and excitement to this work. The London Symphony is at the top of their game as well; they play with the precision required to bring the work off with aplomb.

It’s hard to find a good Prokofiev First, and since this is my all time favorite piece of classical music, if you don’t have one, this is a good place to start. 

[We prefer the Previn on EMI but this one is very good and easily found in record stores.]

Prokofiev / Concerto #3 / Hendl – An Old Review of the TAS List Favorite

xxxxx

Good piano tone and dynamic too. Side two is not as good. It’s more compressed and smeared, but not too badly. If side one gets a 10, side two gets a 7 or so.

Performed by Van Cliburn, pianist, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Hendl. This performance also includes MacDowell’s ”Concerto #2”.

Prokofiev / Lt. Kije / Abbado (45 RPM) – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

xxxxx

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly.   

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

When a particular pressing we’re auditioning takes the recording to a level significantly higher than our expectations, it gets our attention, big time. This can only happen with a record we know well. We thought we knew how good Lt. Kije on Japanese 45 could sound but we were wrong — this pressing is clearly better than the copy we would be proud to call White Hot, which means this one deserves an impossible sonic rating of eleven on a scale of one to ten.

Forget the logic. It’s not about that, it’s about the sound and the music, and we make no apologies for calling this copy Beyond White Hot. It blew our minds.

This pressing fulfills the promise of the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. We had a pile of these 45s to play through. When we came upon this one halfway through our shootout, it was so big, so clear, so dynamic, so energetic, so extended on the top and bottom, we almost could not believe what we were hearing, especially compared to the others copies we played. There are very few records with dynamics that can compare with these.

With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. Once the needle has dropped you will quickly forget about the sound and simply find yourself in the presence of some of the greatest musicians of their generation captured on some of the greatest analog recordings of all time. (more…)

Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff / Piano Concertos / Janis / Kondrashin

xxxxx

  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on side one – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – backed with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • The finest Prokofiev No. 3 and Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1 – these performances by Janis are legendary, and with phenomenal sonics like these, this combination of sound and performance is all but unmatched in our experience
  • So big, so, rich, so transparent, so dynamic and full of life, we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto record in your life
  • Compare the weight of the piano on the two sides to see why the grades are so different

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Side one shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it that fourth plus!

This is an exceptionally quiet early Mercury Plum label stereo pressing of two of Byron Janis’s most famous performances (along with the Rachmaninoff 3rd, which is every bit as good). It’s a longtime member of the TAS Super Disc list.

The recording is explosively dynamic and on this copy, the sound was positively jumping out of the speakers. In addition, the brass and strings are full-bodied and rich, with practically no stridency, an unusual feat the Mercury engineers seem to have accomplished while in Russia.

Big, rich sound can sometimes present problems for piano recordings. You want to hear the percussive qualities of the instrument, but few copies pull off that trick without sounding thin. This one showed us a piano that was both clear and full-bodied.

With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. Once the needle has dropped you will quickly forget about the sound and simply find yourself in the presence of some of the greatest musicians of their generation captured on some of the greatest analog recordings of all time. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

xxxxx

What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label the way they did back the day. I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the limitations of the equipment, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

xxxxx

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

This White Hot Stamper pressing (on BOTH sides!) contains one of my favorite performances of the Classical Symphony, and it also carries the distinction of having the best combination of sonics and performance that we have ever heard on vinyl. (There is a recording by Previn and the LA Phil from 1986 with a performance To Die For; unfortunately it comes with the kind of mid-’80s tear-your-head-off-digital shrillness that makes the CD medium the worn out joke we analog lovers know it to be.) 

The First Symphony happens to be one of my favorite classical works of all time, right up there with The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition. I wouldn’t want to go to a desert island without all three.

This WHS pressing has exceptional transparency and dynamics, allowing the energy and precision of the performance to shine through. Truly a sublime recording that belongs in any music collection, whether you’re a fan of classical music or not.

If I had to choose one piece of classical music that I would never want to live without, it would have to be the Prokofiev’s First Symphony found on this very side one. It’s a work of such joy that I’ve never failed to be uplifted by it — except when the performance is too slow, which it often is.

This is a difficult piece to pull off. Most of the time either the orchestra is not up to the task or the conductor misunderstands the work. Previn has a spritely take on the piece, which is precisely what it needs and, every bit as important, the London Symphony has the chops to bring his vision to life.

What to Listen for

The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label to the extent that they did back the day. I chock it up, as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, to limited equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning (not to mention underdeveloped critical listening skills. Woops, I guess I just mentioned them.).

If you had Old School vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I had an Audio Research D-75a and later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record would not be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing the record on a much more revealing modern system.

Which is the only kind of system that can tell you what’s really on the record. That’s the kind of stereo we need to do our job; you, of course, have the option of hearing it any way you like on your system. Here is what we heard on this copy. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi

xxxxx

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

This performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1957 is our single favorite recording of the work. This copy is a DEMO DISC of the highest order, suitable for permanently destroying the rationale for every audiophile record ever made, simply on the grounds that none of them sound remotely as good as this one does.  

The immediacy and unerringly realistic presentation of the solo instruments — bassoon, oboe, flute, etc. (each of which serves to represent a character in the story) — are so lifelike that I defy anyone to name a recording to challenge our assertion that this is positively As Good As It Gets.

  • Our favorite performance, with wonderful narration by no less than film legend Boris Karloff
  • With WHITE HOT Stamper sound, this copy is a DEMO DISC of the highest order
  • Tubey Magically rich, yet realistic, which is of course an impossibility
  • And it plays Mint Minus – an exceptionally quiet Vanguard pressing

And did I mention that it was made in 1957? You couldn’t even buy it on stereo disc back then! (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein – Reviewed in 2013

xxxxx

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

Bernstein and the NY Phil’s performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1961 is one of our favorite recordings of the work here at Better Records, and with better than Super Hot Stamper sound, this copy really brings Prokofiev’s charming musical fable to life.

We had a whole stack of these pressings to play, and this copy came out pretty close to the top. You will have a very hard time finding this piece of music recorded, mastered and pressed with better sound than on this very side one. (more…)

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite / Dorati – Classic Records Debunked

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F 

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked. 

Dreadful sound. The Mercury series on Classic is a complete disaster. 

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs but is has since been replaced by another Heavy Vinyl reissue.

“Whether you prefer the fabulous bass dynamics and savage paganism of the Scythian Suite, the colorful and captivating sound-portrait of the fairy tale Love for Three Oranges Suite, Dorati’s super-charged readings of these scores are unsurpassed. Acclaimed by critics and audiophiles alike as among the very best of the best Mercury’s, this dramatic and riveting combination of Prokofiev, Dorati and Mercury Living Presence is a sure winner.” – Classic Records