_Composers – Schubert

Schubert / Symphony No. 9 “The Great” / Krips / LSO – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca (from Kingsway Hall, with the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson behind the board) is here brought to life on a quiet and wonderful World of the Great Classics reissue from 1976. This copy was one of the best we played, showing us depth and transparency that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are so, so rich and sweet — this pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The ’50s master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1976, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.  (more…)

Schubert / Symphony #9 (“The Great”) / Skrowaczewski

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

This Colorback Maroon Label RFR pressing (SR 90272) has wonderful orchestral sound, with both sides having Hot Stampers. Side two earned the full Two Pluses for its relatively rich strings, a quality one rarely hears on Mercury recordings from this era. The string texture is superb here, so critical to the enjoyment of a large scale romantic symphony such as this. 

  • A Superb Super Hot side two – rich strings on a Merc? Yes!
  • Nearly as good on side one – spacious and open, with a huge stage
  • Reasonably quiet vinyl for a vintage Mercury
  • One of the great symphonic works of the Romantic period

Side One

Pretty quiet vinyl! Side one is spacious and open, with a huge stage and practically no transient smear.

Like so many Mercury recordings, it’s a bit “shifted up” tonally, with the strings and brass lacking the weight one would hear in a live performance. A+ to A++ sonically, quite good.

Side Two

Even better, earning the full Two Pluses (A++). It’s relaxed and musical, with excellent string texture. The sound on this side is richer so we kicked up the grade a bit. An excellent Merc! (more…)

Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon – Speakers Corner – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: B?

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing when it came out back in the day. We’ve come to learn that it is such an exceptional recording that even their second rate remastering of it was still capable of producing a very good sounding record.

One of the ways you can tell how great a recording this is is simply this: as soon as the needle hits the groove you are immediately involved in the music, listening to each of the lines created by the five preternaturally gifted players, all the while marveling at Schubert’s compositional skills.

That’s what a good record is supposed to do. That’s supposedly why we’ve dumped so much money into all this fancy equipment. Because if you have records like this, and the equipment (fancy or otherwise) to play them, you will find yourself being transported to the musical space of the performance in a way that other recordings (read: Heavy Vinyl) simply will not allow you to be. (more…)

Schubert / Octet / Vienna Octet – Reviewed in 2012

More Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Octet / Vienna Octet

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

Very good sound and very quiet vinyl on both sides of this London Whiteback LP! Side one is rich and sweet with nice space and soundstaging, but it could use more texture and top end. Side two fares a bit better in those areas. Both sides play mostly Mint Minus. There may be better sounding copies out there, but I doubt there are many quieter! (more…)

Schubert / Death and the Maiden / Julliard String Quartet

More Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Death and the Maiden / Julliard String Quartet

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

Wow! One of the RAREST and most sought after RCA Shaded Dog pressings (LSC 2378) in BEAUTIFUL CONDITION with SUPERB SOUND (on side two anyway). This Demo Copy has a side two with the kind of richness and sweetness lacking on many of the RCA chamber recordings we’ve played in the past, and in fact is lacking somewhat on side one of this very record!  

Side two, which has the third and fourth movement of Death and the Maiden, is wonderful here, earning a sonic grade of A++. It’s very transparent, with real “rosin on the bow” resolution and naturalness.

Side one, with sound that rates something in the range of A to A+, was somewhat lean and midrangy, a common fault with RCA’s chamber recordings. It does have lovely 3-D soundstaging and spaciousness though.

The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts

More of the music of Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This IMMACULATE set has dry, edgy, screechy sound — until you reverse your absolute phase! Then it sounds pretty good! It certainly will never win any awards, but it’s practically unlistenable without the phase reversed. 

Now I can’t say that’s true for all six sides. I play graded all six sides — they range from M- to slightly worse, about as quiet as these Soria pressings ever are — but I only reversed the phase on side one after dropping the needle on the other sides and suffering through the brittle sound. (more…)

Mendelssohn & Schubert / Symphony No. 4 & Symphony No. 5 – Reviewed in 2014

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Symphony No. 4 & Symphony No. 5

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

The strings are rich, with lovely rosiny texture and virtually no tube smear. Played with zest and the recording is every bit as lively. 

The grade on side one could even be better than Two Pluses — we just don’t have enough clean copies to know. Big bass at the end, powerful dynamics too.

Side two was good but nothing like this amazing side one. Too much smear hurts it badly, and the mark is not helping either.

We’re pricing this one for just the one side. Fortunately it’s the complete symphony, one of Mendelssohn’s most famous works.


Artist Biography by Rovi Staff

Mendelssohn was the only musical prodigy of the nineteenth century whose stature could rival that of Mozart. Still, his parents resisted any entrepreneurial impulses and spared young Felix the strange, grueling lifestyle that was the lot of many child prodigies.

Mendelssohn was a true Renaissance man. A talented visual artist, he was a refined connoisseur of literature and philosophy. While Mendelssohn’s name rarely arises in discussions of the nineteenth century vanguard, the intrinsic importance of his music is undeniable. A distinct personality emerges at once in its exceptional formal sophistication, its singular melodic sense, and its colorful, masterful deployment of the instrumental forces at hand.

A true apotheosis of life, Mendelssohn’s music absolutely overflows with energy, ebullience, drama, and invention, as evidenced in his most enduring works: the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826-1842); the Hebrides Overture (1830); the Songs Without Words (1830-1845); the Symphonies No. 3 (1841-1842) and No. 4 (1833); and the Violin Concerto in E minor (1844).

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Symphony No. 4 (Mendelssohn)

Side Two

Symphony No. 5 (Schubert)

Beethoven, Bach, Schubert / Heifetz, Primrose, Piatigorsky

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Beethoven, Bach, Schubert / Heifetz, Primrose, Piatigorsky 

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

This Red Seal pressing of the famous 1961 recording (LSC 2563) has SUBLIME White Hot Stamper sound for one of the works contained herein, the Schubert. It’s so rich and sweet you may have a hard time believing it’s on a Red Seal LP. The originals we’ve played over the years sure never sounded like this! Perhaps it’s the thin vinyl that contributed to the shockingly good sound. Maybe, just maybe, RCA was right to start pressing thinner records in the ’70s. If they can sound this good, we should all be for it.

So often when we do these shootouts involving original pressings up against their reissue counterparts, it’s the reissues that sound rich, warm and tubey, and the originals that sound dry and boxy. If you haven’t noticed that in your own critical listening, play this record against any shaded dogs that you own and see which one is more Tubey Magical.

If you have your VTA set right, you might be shocked to find it’s this one. Don’t get us wrong; lots of these later RCA pressings are awful: thin, often with no top end at all. Flat transfers perhaps? Who is to say? (more…)

Schubert Great C Major Symphony with Krips on Speakers Corner

More Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

“Superb sound with a great performance to match. A TOP TOP TITLE in every way. This performance has never been equaled and probably never will be (on any format I can stand to listen to!)”