_Composers – Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens / Symphony #3 / Mehta – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Symphony #3 / Mehta

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

This British London pressing is the winner of our recent shootout. We had three London pressings, all the same stamper numbers if I recall correctly, and this is the only copy to have Super Hot Stamper sound on either side. Side one is actually quite nice, with lovely texture to the strings. The sound is transparent and natural, two qualities that are in short supply on most of the recordings Mehta did with the L.A. Phil. in our experience.

We pulled out all the copies of this famous work we could find in the backroom and most of them were just awful. This is not an easy work to record, incorporating as it does an organ with a large orchestra. (I saw the work performed back in 2009 and it was magical. There is nothing like the sound of violins playing high over the organ notes below.) (more…)

Saint-Saens – Piano Concerto No. 2

More Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Piano Concerto No. 2

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

Harry Pearson put this recording on his TAS List of Super Disc LPs, and with good reason — the sound is wonderfully relaxed and natural. This is no Hi-Fi Spectacular, as is the case with so many of the records on his list. (Hey, we like our Demo Discs every bit as much as he does; just not the same ones. SR 90006 and LSC 2225 on Classic? Really?)

Side two of this White Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound, and side one is not far behind with a sonic grade of A+ to A++. The richness of the strings, a signature sound for RCA in the Living Stereo era, is displayed here beautifully for fans of the classical Golden Age. It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years. It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that will not be lost on us.   (more…)

Everything But the Beer / Fiedler Conducts a Boston Pops Concert – Reviewed in 2012

More recordings conducted by Arthur Fiedler

Everything But the Beero

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

This VERY RARE 2 LP Shaded Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. Much of what’s good about Golden Age recordings is heard here, with side one for example having the sound of a HUGE hall and that Three-Dimensional quality that the best vintage recordings are able to convey so well.

We constantly knock Heavy Vinyl here at Better Records for the simple reason that we play vintage recordings such as this by the score every month and can hear what they do so well. Unfortunately the huge hall and the 3-D soundstaging they effortlessly reproduce cannot be found on any Heavy Vinyl pressing we know of.

Such qualities allow this record to sound — in some ways, to be sure not all — like live music. Heavy Vinyl just plain doesn’t. (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…)

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

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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…)

Saint-Saens – The Best Danse Macabre on Record

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Danse Macabre / Ravel, Debussy, Chabrier

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

This White Hot EMI pressing has some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard. Man, this copy sure has it going on: it’s super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, with all of the weight of the orchestra down low on both sides.

If you want a classical record to TEST your system, if you want a classical record to DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy.

Debussy – Prelude A L’apres-midi D’un Faune is excellent here as well – it’s a piece we rarely have recordings of on the site. (more…)

Various / Heart of the Piano Concerto – Rubinstein – Reviewed in 2008

More Living Stereo

Various / Heart of the Piano Concerto

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

This is an EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD SOUNDING Shaded Dog pressing with fairly quiet vinyl. What’s surprising about this is how transparent and low distortion it is. Just as with Destination Stereo (LSC 2307), the excerpts here frequently sound better than they do on the original complete performances. Rubinstein’s piano is solid and clear sounding, which is rarely the case, especially for his Beethoven concertos. Those almost never sound good, but the excerpt here for Concerto #3 is excellent. 

Saint-Saens / Violin Con #3 & Chausson / Poeme – Milstein – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens / Violin Con #3 & Chausson / Poeme – Milstein

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

This White Hot Stamper original Blue Angel pressing has some of the most exquisite sound for a violin/orchestral recording we have ever heard here at Better Records. I do not think there is any Heifetz album on RCA Shaded Dog (or otherwise) 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. In other words, this is one of the best sounding violin-led orchestral recordings we have yet to play, and we’ve played them by the hundreds and hundreds. (Practice makes perfect they say.)

So clear, so three-dimensional, so relaxed, rich and sweet — can it get any better? I’d have to say not much!

It’s the Chausson piece that earned our highest grade of Three Pluses, a work that is certainly less well-known than the legendary Saint-Saens Third. Both are superb examples of the kind of sophisticated, melody-driven music the French Romantic school was producing in the latter part of the 19th century. You may become as big a fan of the Chausson as we happily admit to being now, having heard this wonderful pressing. (more…)

Milstein / Master pieces / Susskind – Reviewed in 2013

More of the music of Nathan Milstein

Master pieces / Susskind

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

This is a RARE and WONDERFUL SOUNDING original Capitol pressing of Milstein playing pieces for violin and orchestra by Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Saint-Saens and others. The recording of the Mozart Rondo on side one boasts DEMO DISC quality sound. Side one is amazingly rich, sweet and tubey magical. The violin is tonally correct, with the kind of immediacy few violin records (in our experience) manage to capture as well, while still retaining the correct size of the instrument. (more…)

Ballet Music From The Opera on Classic Records Vinyl

More Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as one would have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance. In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price. 

Most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of this quality. If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.)