_Composers – Ravel

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

xxxxx

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…)

Ravel / Rachmaninoff / The Reiner Sound / Reiner – Classic Records Debunked

More Maurice Ravel

Rachmaninoff / The Reiner Sound / Reiner

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked. 

There is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on this original pressing. Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top. This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a proper system.  

Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs. (more…)

Mark Levinson – Acoustic Recording Series, Volume 2 – Reviewed in 2008

xxxxx

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

The sound on the record is excellent. It was engineered by Mark Levinson, on special equipment designed to create virtually noiseless ultra-low-distortion master tapes, without noise-reduction systems. It’s mastered by Robert Ludwig. 

The first side contains Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales played on the piano by Lois Shapiro. Side two contains her performance of Haydn’s Sonata No. 49.

Julian Bream – The Art of Julian Bream

More Classical albums

Julian Bream

xxxxx

  • You’ll find stunning sound on this vintage RCA Living Stereo pressing, with both sides winning our recent shootout and earning Triple Plus (A+++) grades for their superb sonics 
  • These sides are wonderfully full-bodied and natural, using State-of-the-Art All Tube Living Stereo recording technology that was so advanced in 1960 it could transport a living, breathing Julian Bream directly from his studio into your listening room, 59 years later (!)
  • The set list comprises mainly baroque arrangements for classical guitar, including an especially lovely version of Ravel’s ‘Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte’

(more…)

Various Artists – Destination Stereo – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

More Living Stereo

Destination Stereoo

xxxxx

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…)

Ravel, Falla, Weber & Berlioz – Alborado…, Bolero, more – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Ravel, Falla, Weber & Berlioz – Alborado…, Bolero, more

xxxxx

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

Side two here has a SUPERB sounding Bolero, and an EVEN BETTER Alborado del Gracioso, possibly the best we have ever heard. True A Triple Plus sound.

As you probably know, Bolero is very hard to find on vinyl properly performed with audiophile quality sound. The sound of Bolero here is excellent: very natural, not harsh at the end where the trombones comes in, and the not too compressed. (This is probably the biggest problem with most recordings of the work. Compression makes the quieter parts ravishingly open and clear, and positively ruins the climax with distorted compressor overload.) 

Alborado… has some of the best sound we have heard on London. It’s spacious, dynamic and clear. With an extended top end the strings and horns sound harmonically correct. The orchestra from top to bottom is tonally correct as well. (more…)

Ravel / Piano Concertos / Haas – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Piano Concertos / Haas

xxxxx

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

This Philips recording from 1970 on exceptionally quiet Dutch vinyl has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one for one of Ravel’s best known piano works, the Piano Concerto in G. Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. (In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the ’70s and ’80s.)

Dropping the needle on this pressing, however, was a pleasant surprise. It’s big and spacious on side one, with zero smear on a piano that is both full and clear.

This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, and the kind of sound we do not hesitate to praise highly here at Better Records.

To us it sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can really work its magic. (more…)

Ravel, Saint-Saens et al. / Tzigane, Havanaise / Kyung-Wha Chung – Reviewed in 2012

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Tzigane, Havanaise / Kyung-Wha Chung

xxxxx

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

This 1979 London original English pressing of violin showpieces has Super Hot Stamper sound on side two, which came as a bit of a shock to us after playing side one, which is as congested and opaque as one would expect from such a late London recording. Side two is fabulous — full-bodied, rich and sweet. Even though it may have been recorded in 1977, the engineer is Kenneth Wilkinson, and the hall is Kingsway — not many bad recordings can be attributed to either.    

But bad mastering or bad pressing quality are surely not the fault of either; when the record doesn’t come out of the oven right, the sound is going to suffer, and the sound on this side one is insufferable all right. But side two is GLORIOUS; it has wonderful music played with the greatest skill and feeling.  (more…)

Ravel / Daphnis et Chloé / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2012

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Daphnis et Chloé / Monteux / LSO

xxxxx

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

Nearly White Hot Stamper sound on this superb London Blueback pressing make it quite possibly the best complete Daphnis et Chloe we have ever heard.

Both sides here are BIG, with the space and depth of the wonderful hall that the LSO perform in. From my research it appears that John Culshaw may have produced the album, which surely accounts for the huge size and space, not to mention quality, of the recording. The sound is dynamic and tonally correct throughout. Without more copies on hand we feel it’s best to hold back half a plus on the sonic grade. That said, it’s clearly the best Daphnis et Chloe we’ve ever heard.

Please note that we should, but often don’t, make a vitally important distinction between two words we tend to use interchangeably. There is a difference between the sound of records that we’ve played and the sound that we’ve heard. The stereo, the listening room, our cleaning technologies and who knows what else are all undergoing constant changes. This means that we may have played a better pressing in the past but couldn’t hear it sound as good as it would now. The regular improvements we make in all areas of playback make sonic comparisons over time all but impossible. (more…)

Ravel / Concerto in G / Munch – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Concerto in G / Munch

xxxxx

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

This is a wonderful sounding performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto, originally available on Shaded Dog (LSC 2271) and overflowing with Tubey Magical Living Stereo sound from 1958. The Victrola here is from 1964, and may or may not sound better than the average original RCA pressing. LSC 2271 is not a record we run into every day, so comparisons would be speculative to say the least.

What we can tell you is that our Victrola here is big, spacious, transparent and clear, with dead-on tonality throughout.

The overall sound seems to lack weight at first but with continued listening it appears to be the result of the orchestration being “lighter”, more appropriate to the jazz influences in the music. If you like Gershwin this piece will be right up your alley. (more…)