Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Massenet / Le Cid / Martinon – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Jules Massenet (1842-1912) 

Le Cid / Martinon 

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

Superb Super Hot Stamper sound for Les Patineurs, and the Le Cid is just a step behind at A+ to A++. We had a copy of the famous Greeensleeves pressing for our shootout, along with a number of Londons, and this Stereo Treasury had the highest overall sonic grades of all of them. The original Blueback pressing — true, we only had the one, so take it for what it’s worth — was a complete disaster: shrill, with no top or bottom to speak of.

Both these pieces are audiophile Must Own Demonstration pieces, full of depth, ambience, and wonderfully correct instrumental timbres, especially from the woodwinds. Add explosive dynamics and deep bass and you have yourself a genuine audiophile recording.   (more…)

Holst / The Planets / Previn / LSO – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

More Gustav Holst

The Planets / Previn / LSO

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

This Beyond White Hot Stamper Planets has Out Of This World sound on side two, where it earned a Four Plus sonic grade for its MINDBLOWING orchestral power, especially from the brass section, a subject we discuss at length below. 

This is some of the best sound I have ever heard coming out of my two speakers, if not THE best. Side two of this very copy takes the recording to a level we had no idea was possible. Out of the fifty or so copies of The Planets we’ve played in the last decade or so, this is without a doubt the best side two of them all.

We can only hope to find a side one as good in the next ten years. It probably exists, but will it take us another fifty copies to run into it? Only time will tell! (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…)

Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff / Piano Concertos / Janis – Kondrashin – Reviewed in 2010

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Piano Concertos / Janis – Kondrashin

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

This is a very good sounding and pretty darn quiet Mercury Plum label pressing of Janis’ superb performances, and a member of the TAS Super Disc list. Side one, the Prokofiev side, is super-transparent, with a percussive and wonderfully clear, correct sounding piano at the center of the stage. Additionally, the orchestra is not shrill as it is on so many Mercury pressings. 

If you’re in the market for quality classical recordings these days you know that finding a fairly quiet, not shrill, tonally correct Mercury is no easy task. So many are scratched or groove damaged, especially on this title — we went through three copies to find one that was even passable. The piano on the other two broke up like crazy whenever Janis started to pound away, which is something both works call for throughout. (more…)

Bruch & Mozart / Violin Concertos / Laredo – Mitchell – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More of the music of Max Bruch 

More Violin Concertos / Laredo – Mitchell 

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

Superb sound. The violin is wonderful on both sides. The Mozart is absolutely gorgeous; the best I’ve ever heard it.

The orchestra on the Bruch side gets a little congested in the louder passages, which is typical for records of this era.

Laredo plays these pieces beautifully. The Bruch is an especially romantic work and his violin sings sweetly and with deep emotion throughout. The Mozart is more spritely and he plays it with the light touch it requires. You will have a hard time finding a better violin concerto record. This ranks with the best of them.

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

More Franz Liszt’s music

Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

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  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on both sides – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The finest Liszt 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos we know of for their performances, and unquestionably for sonics (when the sonics are this good!)
  • More like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording I have played in longer than I care to remember
  • So big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording – this is a game changer, the first time a single pressing of the album has earned grades these high on both sides

NOTE: *Unlike Concerto No. 1, The Second Piano Concerto opens very quietly, so there will likely never be a vintage pressing of the album that will get that opening to play like a CD. Expect to hear some random ticks, a small price to pay to hear this wonderful performance on top quality analog.

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.  (more…)

Mussorgsky / Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti

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

This White Hot Stamper EMI Two-Pak gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition and the Firebird Suite with TOP PERFORMANCES and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last. It took two separate discs to make it happen, but we managed to find the two copies with sides that matched up in order to bring both of these works to LIFE. 

Much like Steinberg and the BSO’s performance of The Planets, he finds the music in the work that no one else can. (more…)

Holst / British Band Classics Vol. 2 / Fennell

More the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

More British Band Classics Vol. 2 / Fennell

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

Side one big, full and dynamic, with horns and winds that are never screechy. (Side two of this first LP is very screechy and not at all to our liking.) 

Side two of the second record has the sound of live music. Huge space, clear yet rich, this is the sound we were looking for! (more…)

Haydn / Symphonies No. 22 & 90 / Ansermet – Reviewed in 2012

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

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

Nearly White Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) for side one of this early British Stereo Treasury pressing, which should not come as too much of a shock — this is after all a vintage Golden Age performance by Ansermet and L’Orchestre de La Suisse Romande, a 1966 recording from the glorious Victoria hall in which so many of our favorite recordings were committed to analog tape through the all-tube chain Decca had perfected. 

If only they all sounded this good! Although side two sounds much better than the average STS we play, at A+ it’s hardly in the same league as this superb side one.

Side One

A++ to A+++, so transparent, BIG, spacious and natural, this is the sound of live classical music. Many of the colorations some audiophiles like — the Decca thickness and overly rich bass just to pick two — are not to be found here, which is precisely why it sounds more like live music! (more…)

Dvorak / Symphony No. 9 / Kertesz / Vienna Phil. – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More Antonin Dvorak

More Symphony No. 9 / Kertesz / Vienna Phil.

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

Presenting yet another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering courtesy of the more modern equipment of the ’70s, in this case 1970. (We are of course here referring to the good modern equipment of 40 years ago, not the bad modern mastering equipment of today.) 

Dvorák draws the musical threads together in the last movement, weaving new material with moods and themes from previous movements into a grand finale that resulted in extended cheering from the New York audience at its December 1893 premiere.

The New York critic W. J. Henderson raved: “It is a great symphony and must take its place among the finest works in the form produced since the death of Beethoven.”

This combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on either of these Super Hot sides. And the 1970 British vinyl plays mostly Mint Minus!

Side One

A++ to A+++, just shy of the sound of White Hot shootout winning side. The hall is huge, so wide and deep, spacious and open. The perspective is above all natural. A little more extension up top and this side would have been impossible to beat.

Solid, powerful tympani whacks — listen for them. Sweet woodwinds too. (more…)