_Composers – Tchaikovsky

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein – Reviewed in 2013

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

Bernstein and the NY Phil’s performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1961 is one of our favorite recordings of the work here at Better Records, and with better than Super Hot Stamper sound, this copy really brings Prokofiev’s charming musical fable to life.

We had a whole stack of these pressings to play, and this copy came out pretty close to the top. You will have a very hard time finding this piece of music recorded, mastered and pressed with better sound than on this very side one. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Swan Lake / Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This London Small Red Label “Whiteback” (it’s white inside the box, not on the back but you get what I mean) UK Import 2 LP Set put every other recording we had of Swan Lake to shame. This is the one folks, assuming you want a nearly complete performance of the work. (We will have some single LP highlight pressings coming to the site down the road. The Fistoulari on London can be especially good on the right pressing.) 

The performance here by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande I rank second to none.

Ansermet is surely the man for this music, and the famously huge hall he recorded in just as surely contributes much to the wonderful sound here. (The Royal Gala Ballet is a good example. If you have the two grand to spend we highly recommend you find yourself a good one. And don’t waste your money on the Classic no matter what you may have read elsewhere.)

Speaking of bad sounding Heavy Vinyl, Speakers Corner reissued this very recording on 180g fifteen years ago or so and ruined it. Imagine that. (I happily admit their Nutcracker was quite good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue. It cannot hold a candle to a good vintage pressing but it will beat most of what’s out there on audiophile vinyl, which, truth be told, isn’t saying much.) (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Concerto for Violin & Orchestra / Oistrakh – Not Too Big to Fail

More Tchaikovsky

More Concerto for Violin & Orchestra / Oistrakh

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Side two of this copy from our 2016 shootout provides a clear example of the effect known as the “The Violin That Ate Cincinatti.”

Yes, it may be oversized, but it’s so REAL and IMMEDIATE and harmonically correct in every way that we felt more than justified in ignoring the fact that the instrument could never sound in the concert hall the way it does here — unless you were actually playing it (and even then I doubt if it would be precisely the same sound — big, but surely quite different) (more…)

Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides 
  • These sides are incredibly rich, sweet and full-bodied yet still very clean, clear and spacious; Demo Disc sound throughout!
  • I can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the programme and the sound; this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
  • This is the exact same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. Nearly Triple Plus all the way. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Sleeping Beauty / Ansermet / 3 LP Box Set

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

Big Decca sound! Powerful deep bass. Beautiful string tone and sharply articulated brass sound. This is a wonderful record. Ansermet is of course a master of the ballet. The performance here is outstanding, perhaps even definitive.

(Royal Gala) Ballet Favorites / Ansermet (VICS-1066) – Reviewed in 2011

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

This RCA Plum Label Victorla has an AMAZING SOUNDING side one — it’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional with depth that goes on for DAYS. 

Side one earned its two pluses with the kind of spacious, rich, sweet sound you’ve come to expect from Super Hot Stampers. Note the correct sounding tape hiss — a dead giveaway that the highs are going to be correct. (Funny tape hiss is the hallmark of Classic Records and Mobile Fidelity, a dead giveaway that their highs will be phony and boosted.)

Side two would earn an A++ grade for the Delibes work that starts out the side. The strings are ever so slightly steely compared to side one, but in most respects the two sides sound quite similar. Giselle, the other work on side two, is not as good. It suffers from compressor distortion in the loud passages. It would earn about an A+ grade if we graded the two works separately. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This White Hot Two-Pack of the most well-known and beloved violin concerto in the classical repertoire gives you a TOP performance with TOP quality sound from first note to last. No single copy had two sides as good as these, so we’ve combined two LPs to bring you the best Tchaicovsky Violin Concerto ever to hit the site.

In choosing these two sides we put special emphasis on the sound of the violin. Many copies suffered from a slight screechiness to the sound of the instrument, but we present here a violin that is rich and sweet, yet retains the full pallette of its complex harmonics.

Side One – Record One

A++, with Tubey Magic to die for. The sound is rich, with a bit of tube smear that does little damage to the overall sound. Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are in evidence throughout the side. There’s so much energy that, in comparison to some copies, this side almost sounded like it was running fast!

Side two of this LP earned a grade of A+ — it’s too smeary and dark for our taste. (more…)

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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

This is a QUIET RCA Soria Shaded Dog Box Set with some of the BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this music on Disc One. This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND if what you are demonstrating is not the merely Hi-Fi, but the relaxed beauty and naturalness of what many consider to be the finest example of Living Stereo Magic brought to the greatest performances of ballet music ever committed to tape.

Allow me to paraphrase some commentary from another Shaded Dog (8972307) we currently have up on the site: 

This record shows off Living Stereo sound at its best. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record any better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records. This is pretty much as good as it gets, folks.

All of which is true. The interesting thing about the Royal Gala Ballet Box is how FEW of them sound as good as their press would have you think. And the little shootout we conducted for this set was more evidence of this very fact. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati

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

This London Symphony recording is without a doubt THE BEST SOUNDING Nutcracker we have ever played here at Better Records, and that includes not only the full ballet but the suites and excerpts as well. The sound in a word is GLORIOUS. This copy, with 8 1/2 pluses total for the four sides, has DEMO DISC quality sound on three out of four sides. We shot out nine original maroon label copies (and one oval label Philips pressing) so we had our work cut out for us when it came to this masterwork of Tchaicovsky’s. It was an absolute JOY to hear his sublime orchestration recorded so faithfully and naturally by the Mercury team, using 35MM film no less. 

The review which can be seen by clicking on the Nutcracker Review tab above discusses Dorati’s sprightly performance guiding the LSO. He brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor of which I am aware.

A top performance with top quality sound. Let’s get right to each of the four sides. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol / Black / London Fest. – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

AN AMAZING A++++ SIDE TWO, presenting the complete work by Rimsky-Korsakov. The Capriccio Espagnol here is one of THE BEST on record. Not only does it have incredibly powerful DEMO DISC sound, but the performance is superb on every level as well. The energy and excitement of the piece are brought to life by Stanley Black and the London Festival Orchestra like no other you have ever heard. 

This beyond White Hot Stamper may make you reevaluate virtually every classical recording in your collection. The energy, size, scope and immediacy found on this Four Plus copy is easily superior to that of any other recording of the work we have ever heard!

What this album has going for it over the London/Decca with Argenta is an even more exciting Capriccio Espagnol, with orchestral power and vibrant color that rival the composer’s Scheherazade and arguably exceed it, compressing as it does its bright orchestration into fewer than 15 minutes of unalloyed brilliance. I would argue that the sound here easily beats nine out of ten copies of LSC 2446, quite a feat when you consider what that record is selling for these days.

Who can resist these sublime orchestral works? To quote an infamous label, they are an audiophile’s dream come true. Scroll down to read more about them.

Capriccio Espagnol

The Most Exciting, Colorful Performance of all time — Black gets everything out of this famous work on this London recording.

Huge Wall to Wall Demo Disc sound, with the kind of IMMEDIACY that would make the folks at Mercury jealous. We grade this side A++++. You will find very few Living Stereos and Mercuries with this kind of sound, that I can assure you. (more…)