_Composers – Stravinsky

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…)

This Is Your Idea of a Great Firebird?

See more of Stravinsky’s music

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Classic Records 45 RPM Debunked

Sonic Grade: C-

A customer alerted me to a review Wayne Garcia wrote about various VPI platters and the rim drive, and this is what I wrote back to him:

Steve, after starting to read Wayne’s take on the platters, I came across this:
That mind-blowing epiphany that I hadn’t quite reached with the Rim Drive/Super Platter happened within seconds after I lowered the stylus onto the “Infernal Dance” episode of Stravinsky’s Firebird (45 rpm single-sided Classic Records reissue of the incomparable Dorati/LSO Mercury Living Presence recording).

That is one of my half-dozen or so favorite orchestral recordings, and I have played it countless times.

This is why I have so little faith in reviewers. I played that very record not two weeks ago (04/2010) against a good original and the recut was at best passable in comparison. If a reviewer cannot hear such an obvious difference in quality, why believe anything he has to say? The reason we say that no reviewer can be trusted is that you cannot find a reviewer who does not say good things about demonstrably bad and even just plain awful records. It’s the only real evidence we have for their credibility, and the evidence is almost always damning. (more…)

Today’s MoFi Mess Is Pictures at an Exhibition

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi mastering here is a joke. All that phony boosted top end makes the strings sound funny and causes mischief in virtually every other part of the orchestra as well. Not surprisingly, those boosted highs are missing from the real EMIs.

MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution?
(more…)