Classical – Works for Piano & Organ

JS Bach / The Fox Touch, Volume 1

More Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

More The Fox Touch, Volume 1

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[This review was written in 2010. Since then I have played copies of these Crystal Clear organ recordings and been much less impressed. The ambience is a fraction of what it should be, and the reason I know that is that the vintage organ recordings I play have dramatically more size and space than these audiophile pressings do. Live and Learn.]

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

Are we changing our tune about Audiophile records? Not in the least; we love the ones that sound right. The fact that so few of them do is not our fault. 

The methods used to make a given record are of no interest whatsoever to us. We clean and play the pressings that we have on hand and judge the sound and music according to a single standard that we set for all such recordings. Organ records, in this case, get judged against other organ records. If you’ve been an audiophile for forty years as I have you’ve heard plenty of organ records.

Practically every audiophile label on the planet produced at least one, and most made more than one. Some of the major labels made them by the dozen in the ’50s and ’60s, and many of those can sound quite wonderful.

Who made this one, how they made it or why they made it the way they did is none of our concern, nor in our mind should it be of any concern to you. The music, the sound and the surfaces are what are important in a record, nothing else.

Richter was making recordings of this caliber for London and Philips in the late ’50 and all through the ’60s. Clearly the direct to disc process is not revelatory when it comes to organ records (or any other records for that matter), but finding vintage Londons with quiet vinyl that sound as good as this disc does is neither easy nor cheap these days, so we are happy to offer our Bach loving customers a chance to hear these classic works sounding as good as they can outside of a church or concert hall.

  • White Hot on both sides, a DEMO DISC quality organ Direct to Disc recording
  • Full, rich, spacious, big and transparent, with no smear
  • The size and power of a huge church organ captured in glorious direct to disc analog
  • We’ve never been fans of Crystal Clear, but even we must admit this recording is Hard To Fault

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Toccata, Adagio and Fugue (J.S. Bach)

Side Two

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (J.S. Bach)
Toccata Fom the Symphonie Concertante (J. Jongen)

Wikipedia on Bach

Bach was best known during his lifetime as an organist, organ consultant, and composer of organ works in both the traditional German free genres—such as preludes, fantasias, and toccatas—and stricter forms, such as chorale preludes and fugues.

At a young age, he established a reputation for his great creativity and ability to integrate foreign styles into his organ works. A decidedly North German influence was exerted by Georg Böhm, with whom Bach came into contact in Lüneburg, and Dieterich Buxtehude, whom the young organist visited in Lübeck in 1704 on an extended leave of absence from his job in Arnstadt. Around this time, Bach copied the works of numerous French and Italian composers to gain insights into their compositional languages, and later arranged violin concertos by Vivaldi and others for organ and harpsichord.

During his most productive period (1708–14) he composed several pairs of preludes and fugues and toccatas and fugues, and the Orgelbüchlein (“Little organ book”), an unfinished collection of 46 short chorale preludes that demonstrates compositional techniques in the setting of chorale tunes. After leaving Weimar, Bach wrote less for organ, although his best-known works (the six trio sonatas, the “German Organ Mass” in Clavier-Übung III from 1739, and the Great Eighteen chorales, revised late in his life) were all composed after his leaving Weimar. Bach was extensively engaged later in his life in consulting on organ projects, testing newly built organs, and dedicating organs in afternoon recitals.

Wikipedia on Fox

Virgil Keel Fox (May 3, 1912–October 25, 1980) was an American organist, known especially for his flamboyant “Heavy Organ” concerts of the music of Bach. These events appealed to audiences in the 1970s who were more familiar with rock ‘n’ roll music, and were staged complete with light shows. His many recordings made on the RCA Victor and Capitol labels, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, have been re-mastered and re-released on compact disc in recent years. They continue to be widely available in mainstream music stores.

Beethoven / Concerto No. 3 / Hendl / Graffman in Living Stereo

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More Concerto No. 3 / Hendl / Graffman

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This rare RCA Shaded Dog has SUPERB SOUND as well as a top performance. Super Hot Stampers for both sides means that this pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades. Unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings (Rubinstein’s come immediately to mind in this regard), the brilliant soloist featured here is not overly spotlighted, hence the more credible “concert hall” sound. The piano is part of the orchestra, allowing all the contributions of the musicians to be heard clearly, with each of the orchestral sections laid out beautifully across an especially huge and deep Orchestra Hall stage.

The spaciousness and three-dimensionality of the recording here is also exceptional. Through the efforts and skill of the RCA engineers, that striking openness in the recording never comes at the expense of a tonally correct and natural sounding piano. The piano is clear, never lost in the space of the huge hall the way it would be on an EMI from the ’70s for example. (All that weird SQ washed-out sound is just not our thing, sorry.) 

There may be other performances of merit, but I know of no recording of this music with better sound. If you are demonstrating naturalistic recorded sound, not bombastic Hi-Fi Spectacularity, this pressing truly qualifies as a DEMO DISC. (more…)

Beethoven / Piano Concerto No.1 with Richter

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More Piano Concerto No.1 / Richter / Munch

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

As you may know, this is a ridiculously difficult Shaded Dog to find in clean condition. Its companion, the Brahms disc with Richter (LSC 2466), is ten times more common and not half as good.

This pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades, but unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings, Richter, the brilliant soloist featured here, is not overly spotlighted, hence the much more natural “concert hall” sound. (more…)

Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya – Reviewed in 2010

More of our Direct to Disc recordings

More Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya

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A distinguished member of our Better Records Hall of Fame.

A famous resident of the TAS list, this album mixes beautiful music with lovely, solid piano tone, the best of both worlds for audiophiles. A friend of mine tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing. Good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this.

You will have a hard time finding a better recording of solo piano than this. It’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Disc recordings.

Chopin – Fantasy-Impromptu and More with Philippe Entremont

More Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

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

The subtitle of the album reads Philippe Entremont Plays Best-Loved Piano Pieces.

After hearing this one as well as another exceptionally good sounding copy, we would like to amend that to Philippe Entremont Plays the Hell Out of These Best-Loved Piano Pieces.

Truly this is an undiscovered gem from Columbia in 1966. (more…)

Philippe Entremont – Ritual Fire Dance

More Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

More Ritual Fire Dance

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

An undiscovered gem from 1967 on 360 Columbia! Side two of this record blew our minds with its White Hot Stamper sound. Musically and sonically this record is nothing short of wonderful. Who knew? You could play fifty vintage piano recordings and not find one as good as this!

Tchaicovsky, Liszt, Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart — these shorter pieces and excerpts were composed by those with the greatest gift for melody, men who’ve produced works that have stood the test of time, enchanting audiences over the centuries with works of such beauty and charm.  (more…)

Bach The Goldberg Variations – Glenn Gould

More JS Bach

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

Interesting record. The first side sounds about like what one would expect from an old Columbia six-eye mono piano recording — not bad but not particularly good either, with a tonally correct but rather small and distant piano in the middle of a big room.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we flipped the record over and heard a shockingly ROBUST, CLEAR and PRESENT piano, sounding pretty much — if one were to close one’s eyes — like a real piano in a practice hall. We call it at least Super Hot Stamper sound. Without more copies to compare it to, this may be for all practical purposes As Good As It Gets.

We are not always enamored of original vintage pressings, but in this case, on at least side two, we heard the sound we were looking for. It’s doubtful we would hear that sound on many of the reissues. We’ve played a few and they sure never sounded like this! (more…)

Bach Organ Music – Richter on Vintage London Vinyl, in Stereo, from 1954 (!)

More JS Bach

More Organ Music / Richter

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

This London Whiteback pressing of CS 6173 has SUPERB SOUND! Like its brother, CS 6172, recorded by Richter in 1954, probably on the same day, the sound of this early stereo 2 mic recording is amazingly spacious and rich.

Here’s what I wrote about CS 6172: (more…)

Another Audio Myth Exploded – Large Tulips, Small Tulips – What Do Tulips Have to Do with Anything?

Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan
 dglabel

The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?

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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience.

To pull off this kind of Mind Boggling sound from start to finish we combined an amazing side one on the Large Tulips label with an amazing side two on the Small Tulips label. And what a finish — side two earned a grade of A+++, being a full step above even our hottest other side two, and we played a lot of copies, more than a dozen in fact. (more…)

Where Cheap Turntables Fall Flat – The Music of Franz Liszt

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

 

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Classical music is unquestionably the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge set-up. The Liszt recording you see pictured is a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.

One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has paid for.

It has been my experience that cheap tables more often than not collapse completely under the weight of a mighty record such as this.
(more…)