_Composers – Sibelius

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjeldstad – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjelstad

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

This is a wonderful sounding London Stereo Treasury pressing featuring one of our favorite violinists, Ruggiero Ricci, performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor. The tone of the violin on side one is just right — every nuance of Ricci’s bowing can clearly be heard!   

While the violin sounds amazing on side one, the orchestra lacks a bit of weight. This side is also not quite as tubey magical as it could be. In our opinion, however, the violin tone and the incredible dynamics are more than enough to award this an A++ grade.

Side two actually has a bit more fullness, but this also seems to rob the violin of some of its presence. We gave this side an A+.

Sibelius / Finlandia and Karelia Suite / Kord – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Finlandia and Karelia Suite / Kord

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

A few months back we stumbled upon the London pressing of this relatively rare record — never heard of it before, and who on earth is Kazimierz Kord? — and were shocked to hear how good the random copy of this unknown-to-us recording sounded. The brass was incredibly solid and powerful; I don’t think I had ever heard Finlandia with the kind of heavy brass that this record was able to reproduce. We had to know more! 

We started by pulling out every performance on every label we had in our backroom and playing them one after another. Most never made it to the half-minute mark. Sour or thin brass on the opening salvo of Finlandia? Forget it; on to the trade-in pile you go.

(If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a manageable size, pick a composer and play half a dozen of his works. Most classical records display an irredeemable mediocrity right from the start; it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. If you’re after the best sound, it’s the rare record that will have it, which makes clearing shelf space a lot easier than you might imagine. If you keep more than one out of ten you’re probably setting the bar too low if our experience is any guide.) (more…)

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras – Classic Records Debunked

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Finlandia / Mackerras

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and anothe Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic Records, as expected, ruined this album. Their version is dramatically more smeared and low-rez than our good pressings, 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 anything other than a nominal price.

Classic Records — Let’s Try and Forget The (Dreadful) Sound

If you’re tempted to pick one up for a few bucks to hear how badly mastered their version is, go for it. If you actually want a record to play for enjoyment, don’t bother — it’s a complete waste of money. (more…)

Sibelius / Symphony #2 / Barbarolli

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Symphony #2 / Barbarolli

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

A truly extraordinary recording mastered beautifully but pressed on vinyl that has never been known for its quiesecece (if I can get by with that ten cent word).

The strings are clear and textured, yet rich and full-bodied. The bottom is big and weighty. The horns are tubey and full-bodied and never screech through even the most difficult passages.

My notes mention that it’s rich and tubey but clear and lively; big, with great energy, and lastly, superbly spacious and never harsh or shrill. (It can be a bit dark in places; as you know this is much preferable to the alternative.)

About as close to live music as I think this piece can sound in my listening room. (more…)

Liszt / Les Preludes / Dorati – Reviewed in 2008

More Franz Liszt’s music

Les Preludes / Dorati

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

This copy with Philips stampers has a fairly quiet and good sounding side one, which has the work by Smetana and A Night On Bald Mountain. Side two is thin and bright. Dorati is excellent on material like this and plays it with great verve. 

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Antal Dorati. This performance also includes Smetana’s “The Moldau”, Mussorgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain”, and Sibelius’ “Valse Triste.”

Sibelius, Liszt, Dukas et al. / Bernard Herrmann Conducts – London Phase 4 Debunked

More Bernard Herrmann

More London Phase 4 Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

While preparing for a Finlandia shootout recently we happened to drop the needle on this album, a 1977 Phase 4 recording made in Kingsway Hall and engineered by Arthur Lilley. We could hardly believe how bad it sounded. The multi-miking is the worst I have ever heard! We like lots of Phase 4 recordings — especially those of Bernard Herrmann — but this is definitely not one of them. 

Are they all bad? Who can say? We sure aren’t going to be wasting any more time and money on the album in order to find out, I can tell you that.

The Obsession soundtrack is a dog as well; audiophiles looking for good sound are best advised to avoid them both. 

 

Finlandia – Striving for Orchestral Clarity with Decca and Failing with RCA

 

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

 

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The original RCA Living Stereo pressings we played in our 2014 shootout were not competitive with the best Deccas and London reissues.

Original is better? In our experience with Finlandia, not so much.

 

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The record you see above is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1961 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from the early-’70s, 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.
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Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – Classic Records Reviewed

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More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

More Jascha Heifetz

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic remastered this title in the ’90s — it’s one of the better Heifetz recordings. As expected, their version was awful, as bad as LSC 1903, 1992, 2129 and others too numerous to list.  

It’s both aggressive and lacking in texture at the same time, the worst of both worlds. Bernie’s cutting system is what I would call Low Resolution — the harmonics and subtleties of the sound simply disappear. If you have the Classic, do your own shootout. We guarantee any Hot Stamper pressing will murder theirs. (more…)