_Composers – Stravinsky

Stravinsky / Song of the Nightingale / Ansermet – Reviewed in 2007

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

“Song of the Nightingale” is far more enjoyable in Ansermet’s hands than in Reiner’s or Dorati’s. The sound is significantly better on this pressing than on the Stereo Treasury, the RCA, and the Mercury versions. Once past the obvious saturation that opens this recording, the sound is perfection! The percussion leaps off of this LP like it does with a good Direct To Disc recording. The strength of this LP is “Song of the Nightingale”.

The “Pulcinella Suite”, also featured on this record, never sounds as good as “Song of the Nightingale”. But what does?

Stravinsky / Petrushka and Circus Polka / Mehta – Not Recommended

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Sonic Grade: F 

A Hall of Shame Pressing and a London Classical Record we can’t recommend. We’re big fans of Decca/London Records in general, but in this case the sound and the performances are simply not acceptable.

We had three original UK pressed copies of CS 6554 and none of them sounded any good to us. What’s worse, Mehta and the Los Angeles Phil play the work quite poorly. How this album got released I have no idea. (more…)

Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring / Solti – Reviewed in 2008

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

This is an amazing recording, DEMO QUALITY SOUND, far better than the Decca heavy vinyl reissue that came out in the 2000s.

This record is extremely dynamic; full of ambience; tonally correct; with tons of deep bass. Because it’s a more modern recording, it doesn’t have the tubey magic of some Golden Age originals, but it compensates for that shortcoming by being less distorted and “clean.” Some people may consider that more accurate. I don’t know if that is in fact the case, to be honest with you. (more…)

Stravinsky – Le Sacre du Printemps – Solti – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca.

Years ago we wrote the following: “Wow! What a performance! What dynamic full bodied sound! To be fair, I pulled out my original London, one of those awful mid-’70s English pressings that are never quiet, and yes, some of the ambience on the original is missing here on the new version, but everything else seems right: dynamics, tonality, the frequency extremes (including some pretty awesome deep bass).”

Can’t be sure we would still feel that way but I’m guessing this is a good record if you can pick one up at a cheap price. 

If you have a quiet original, great, consider yourself lucky. As few of you have any copy at all, I recommend this one. The alternative is to miss Solti’s energetic performance and the precision of the Chicago Symphony, one of the few orchestras capable of making sense out of this complex and infuriating work. (At least it used to infuriate audiences. Now our modern ears can take a difficult work like this and appreciate the complex rhythms and atonality as the expression of a truly original mind.

This is not music to play during dinner. This is music to engage the mind fully. It belongs in any collection. Yours in fact. Unless you have small speakers, in which case you would be wasting your money, as small speakers cannot begin to reproduce the power of this work in the hands of Solti and the CSO.

Stravinsky / The Firebird Suite / Ansermet – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

More Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) 

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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. (more…)

Stravinsky / Song Of the Nightingale / Reiner – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) 

Song Of the Nightingale / Reiner 

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

The Hot Stamper pressing has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND for the Stravinsky piece that takes up side two, the one on the TAS Super Disc List. The sound is BIG and BOLD, stretching from wall to wall, and so transparent you can clearly hear all the way to the back of the stage and then some. Trust me, few Shaded Dog pressings sound like this one!

Normally we list this record under Prokofiev, but, as usual, the Prokofiev side of this copy is not very good sounding. (In fact I’ve never liked the sound of Reiner’s Lt. Kije. It always sounded hard and sour like a bad DG to me.) (more…)

Ruggiero Ricci / Solo Recital – Reviewed in 2011

More Classical Music on London

Ruggiero Ricci / Solo Recital

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

EXCELLENT SOUND and quiet vinyl on both sides of this London LP featuring the great Ruggiero Ricci performing solo violin pieces! Side two in particular has a sweet, clear top end that really shows you the detail in the violin. Side one is transparent and tonally correct but a bit dark, without all the clarity and sweetness of side two. Still, a very good side at A+ to A++. (more…)

Milstein / Masterpieces / Susskind – Reviewed in 2013

More of the music of Nathan Milstein

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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…)

Stravinsky / The Firebird Suite / Freccia – Our First Reader’s Digest Offering

More Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) 

More The Firebird Suite / Freccia 

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

This is the first time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re starting off with a bang — The Firebird Suite and La Mer are the two pieces on record 7 of the set, and both of them are knockouts. We have a devil of a time finding good recordings of either work, and to find SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) for both back to back on one disc is a surprise indeed.

You may remember that recordings from these sets were reissued by Chesky back in the ’90s (with mediocre sound of course, as all their reissues are mediocre at best; we never carried any of them even when we were carrying reissues).

I remember the first time I heard some of the records from this Scheherazade set and was knocked out — here was Tubey Magical RCA Living Stereo sound at a fraction of the price the real RCAs were commanding, a price I could not begin to afford.

The problem — and it’s still a problem, though less so — is the vinyl. These sets were produced cheaply in order to be priced affordably (under $20 for 10 LPs in a box!), and that means the best vinyl was simply not part of the budget. To find pressings that play even Mint Minus Minus is not easy, even today. Back then, before the advent of modern enzyme-based cleaning fluids and expensive record cleaning vacuum machinery, there was no way to get most of the vinyl to play even that well. (more…)

The Said and the Unsaid – Stravinsky’s Firebird on Mercury

More of the music of

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

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Another entry in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series.

For our recent shootout of The Firebird we had three minty, potentially hot copies of the Mercury with Dorati, as well as our noisy ref. (We have a noisy reference copy for just about every major title by now. We have been doing these shootouts for a very long time. After thirty years in the record business we have accumulated a World Class collection of great sounding records that just too noisy to sell.)

We had one FR pressing and two of the later pressings with the lighter label, the ones that most often come with Philips M2 stampers.
This is how we described the winner:

So clear and ALIVE. Transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Zero compression.

Lifelike, immediate, front row center sound like few records you have ever heard.

Rich, sweet strings, especially for a Mercury. This side really gets quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy.

strong>What we didn’t say — and what we never say in the listings — is what the second tier copies didn’t do as well as the shootout winner. (more…)