Classical – Works for Piano & Organ

Mozart / Quintet – Piano + Winds & Trio

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your chamber music recordings.

This is a handy record for VTA setup as well. Listen for fullness and solidity, especially in the piano, although a rich, full sounding clarinet is a joy here as well. 

Some of the copies lacked the weight and solidity to balance out the qualities of transparency and clarity. The resulting sound is less natural, with the kind of forced detail that CDs do so well, and live music never does. There is a balance to be found.

The right VTA will be critical in this regard. When you have all the space; the clearest, most extended harmonics; AND good weight and richness in the lower registers of the piano, you are where you need to be (keeping in mind that it can always get better if you have the patience and drive to tweak further).  (more…)

Shostakovich & Ravel / Piano Concerto No. 2 & more / Bernstein – Reviewed in 2011

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

Super Hot Stamper or BETTER sound for the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.2, which is positively SUPERB on this later Columbia pressing. It’s shockingly transparent, rich and sweet, with wonderful depth and clarity. Where is the shrill, upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound we’ve come to expect from ’60s Columbia recordings like this one?

Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. Right here on this very side two, the Ravel side. It’s typical Columbia from the period, with nasally, pinched upper-mids, the kind which make the strings and brass screech and blare at you in the worst way.

If Columbia’s goal was to drive the audiophile music lover screaming from the room, on this side two they have succeeded brilliantly. On side one they’ve failed; it sounds great! (more…)

Beethoven / Concerto No. 4 / Rubinstein / Krips – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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This Super Hot Stamper pressing has superb RCA Living Stereo sound, with an exceptionally clear, solid, tonally correct piano.

We recently did a major shootout for all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, pulling pressings from the three major Golden Age labels — RCA, London, Mercury — and this Fourth came out near the top of the heap. Most pressings of Rubinstein’s Beethoven concertos simply do not have this kind of open, big and bold sound. Side one earned a grade of A++ and side two was actually a bit better at A++ to A+++. That makes this a very special piano recording indeed. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini / Reiner – Reviewed in 2005

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

1S/ 1S Shaded Dog with fairly good sound. As is usual with this album, and most Rubinstein records, the piano lacks weight compared to the best Golden Age recordings. 

Beethoven / The Emperor Concerto / Backhaus – Reviewed in 2010

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

Another top London, recorded with more of a mid-hall approach, and smooth sound that reminds me much more of a live concert than most recordings do. This is a demo quality disc, if what you are demonstrating is the kind of realistic piano sound and natural, relaxed presentation found in the concert hall. These may not be qualities that all audiophiles appreciate, but we sure as hell do.

Rachmaninoff / Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini / Fiedler

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

Side two here earned a seriously good sonic grade of A++ for the two shorter works by Franck and Litolff respectively. The top end is extended and the overall sound is quite clear and natural. 

Side one is not quite up to the sound heard on side two. We rate it A+. It’s a bit dark and there is some smear on the piano. However, this is a wonderfully well-recorded album, so even at one plus the sound is still quite respectable. (more…)

Schumann & Grieg / Piano Concertos / Lupu / Previn / LSO – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This is an EXCELLENT SOUNDING London pressing of the famous TAS list LP. I’ve never heard a quieter copy. Usually these are noisy as hell and this one plays dead quiet most of the time, and Mint Minus the rest.

HP was right: the Grieg here has the best sound. The piano is amazingly well recorded; the sound is rich and powerful. The orchestra sound better on the Grieg as well; it’s slightly more compressed and leaner on the Schumann side.  

Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon – Speakers Corner – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: B?

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing when it came out back in the day. We’ve come to learn that it is such an exceptional recording that even their second rate remastering of it was still capable of producing a very good sounding record.

One of the ways you can tell how great a recording this is is simply this: as soon as the needle hits the groove you are immediately involved in the music, listening to each of the lines created by the five preternaturally gifted players, all the while marveling at Schubert’s compositional skills.

That’s what a good record is supposed to do. That’s supposedly why we’ve dumped so much money into all this fancy equipment. Because if you have records like this, and the equipment (fancy or otherwise) to play them, you will find yourself being transported to the musical space of the performance in a way that other recordings (read: Heavy Vinyl) simply will not allow you to be. (more…)

Chopin / Various Works / Badura-Skoda – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)  

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

TWO SUPER HOT SIDES for this collection of solo piano works by one of the instrument’s foremost composers. Big, clear and solid on both sides, this is superb music performed and captured with honesty.

If you can handle a bit of noise, this is an excellent way to hear some of the finest piano music ever written, beautifully laid out on a big soundstage. (more…)

Brahms / Sonatas #2 & 3 / Rubinstein and Szeryng – Reviewed in 2010

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

3S/ 4S RCA Shaded Dog. The sound is actually quite decent when you INVERT the ABSOLUTE PHASE. If you cannot or will not do that, this record will not sound good — it’s somewhat hard and bright. It will never be a Top Shaded Dog but it is a good one with the absolute phase inverted.

This record is third in a series of masterpieces for violin and piano.