Classical – Works for the Violin

Bizet’s Carmen Fantaisie on Speakers Corner Vinyl

More Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Carmen Fantaisie, etc. – Ricci / Gamba

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Sonic Grade: C

Speakers Corner remastered this title back in the ’90s and did a decent enough job; I would guess my grade would be about a “C.” We carried it and recommended it at the time. I doubt if I would have very many kind things to say about it now. We’ve played an enormous number of superb classical records in the last ten years or so, raising the bar dramatically higher than it used to be.  (more…)

Mendelssohn & Prokofiev Concertos (LSC 2314) on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked. 

Classic Records ruined this album, as expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, edgy and smeared than the better vintage pressings. In fact it’s just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered.

We have a section for all the Classical Records we have reviewed on the site to date.

We also have a section for all the Heavy Vinyl Classical Records we have reviewed on the site.

We have a number of Commentaries specifically addressing issues we’ve encountered when playing classical recordings.

The Brahms Violin Concerto – Unplug or Suffer the Consequences!

More recordings featuring the violin

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The massed strings here, such as those found at the opening, are close miked and immediate in the “Mercury recording style.” Your electricity better be good when you play this record, because it presents a test many of you will have trouble passing at even moderate levels. 

We’ve often encouraged our readers and customers to go about unplugging things in their homes in order to test the effect of clean electricity on their playback systems. The opening of this record is a perfect example of the kind of material with which everyone should be testing in order to hear these changes. I’d be very surprised if the strings on this record don’t sound noticeably better after you’ve unplugged a few things in your house, and the more the better. (more…)

Beethoven / Violin Concerto in D – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More recordings featuring Jascha Heifetz

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

It is an airless fraud, a cheap fake reproduction that’s incapable of fooling anyone with two good ears, a properly set up stereo and a decent collection of Golden Age violin concertos. 

The Classic pressing of this album does not present the listener with the sound of a real, wood instrument bowed by horsehair in physical space.

Notes from a Recent Hot Stamper Pressing (more…)

An Extraordinary Recording of the Carmen Fantasie – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

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This London Whiteback LP has DEMO DISC sound like you will not believe, especially on side two, which earned our coveted A Triple Plus rating. The sound is warm, sweet and transparent; in short, absolutely GORGEOUS. We call it AGAIG — As Good As It Gets!

As this is one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time, it is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophle’s collection. (If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.) Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout.
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VTA – A Few Moments of Experimentation Can Really Pay Off

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically adjust your VTA.

Experimenting with the VTA for this record we found a precise point where it all came together, far beyond whatever expectations we might have had at the time, which revealed a violin floating between the speakers, an effect that as audiophiles we appreciate for the magic trick that it is.

The sound of the wood of the instrument became so clear, the harmonic textures so natural, it was quite a shock to hear a good record somehow become an amazing one. All it took was a few moments of experimentation.

With the right VTA setting we immediately heard more harmonic detail, with no sacrifice in richness. That’s the clearest sign that your setup is right, or very close to it.
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The Four Seasons and More Orchestral Recordings Featuring the Violin

Recordings in Stock

Recordings We’ve Auditioned

 

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Vivaldi / The Four Seasons / Societa Corelli

This excellent RCA Shaded Dog has the kind of clarity, harmonic texture and freedom from smear that few Golden Age recordings can claim.

Through the effort and skill of the RCA engineers, that striking openness in the recording is combined with an immediacy in the sound of the lead string players, no mean feat. One rarely hears both, except of course in live performance.

Both Sides

Both sides are big, rich, and natural, with lovely string texture.

We Was Wrong in 2007 About Tubes

In 2007 we did a shootout for this album and noted the following:

For those with better tube gear, the string tone on this record is sublime, with that rosin-on-the-bow quality that tubes seem to bring out in a way virtually nothing else can, at least in my experience.

Our experience since 2007 has changed our view concerning the magical power of tubes relative to transistors to bring out the rosiny texture of bowed stringed instruments. We have in fact changed our minds completely with respect to that common belief. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet / Suisse Romande

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I attended this Dec. 2013 concert; it was a thrill like no other. (Well, maybe The Planets.)

“Guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’s attention to detail delivers the razzle dazzle and also discovers renewed radiance in ‘Scheherazade.'”

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We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had shown potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet. This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is a year later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually any area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way Ansermet’s performance is the one for me.

Both Sides

Superb! Big brass, so full-bodied and dynamic, yet clear and not thick or overly tubey. Lots of space as is usually the case with Ansermet’s recordings from this era.

Both sides here are BIG, with the space and depth of the wonderful Victoria Hall that the L’Orchestre De La Suisse Romande perform in. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are as big and rich as any you’ve heard. On the finest pressings (known around these parts as Hot Stampers) they seem to be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made.

The solo violin is present and so real you will have a hard time believing it.

This copy is huge in every dimension, just as all the best ones always are, with maximum amounts of height, width, and depth. The transparency is also superb — you really hear into this one in the way that only the best Golden Age recordings allow.

Side Two Coupling Work

Borodin: Prince Igor – Polovtsian Dances

The Borodin is amazing on this pressing’s side two!

Huge scope — depth and width like you will not believe, perfect for this music. The voices in the chorus are clearly separated out and so big and rich! Open and sweet in the best Golden Age tradition, as well as smooth and natural, like live music should be.

Awful Shaded Dogs

The somewhat shocking news is just how awful most Shaded Dog copies of LSC 2446 are. Even the ones with the “right” stampers are often far from what they should be. It is my heretical opinion that only one or two out of ten copies of the RCA vinyl will beat the Living Stereo CD, and no reissue of any kind can touch it. The CD sounds right. Most vinyl pressings do not.

As is so often the case, hearing the phenomenally good pressings is what truly makes all the time and effort we put into the shootout worthwhile.

Ansermet’s performance with the Suisse Romande here may not have the uncanny precision of Reiner’s with the CSO, but he does manage to bring out most of the more lyrical elements that seem to hold less interest for Reiner.

The key element is the brass — it must have tremendous weight and power, otherwise the proceedings become thin and lose their energy. Consequently, the copies without good weight to the brass and richness in the lower strings fared poorly in our shootout.

Lessons Learned, 2015

There are certain stampers that seem to have a consistently brighter-than-it-should-be top end. They are tolerable most of the time, but the real magic can only be found on the copies that have a correct or even slightly duller top. Live classical music is never “bright” the way recordings of it so often are.

It’s rarely “rich” and “romantic” the way many vintage recordings are — even those we rave about — but that’s another story for another day.

See more of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in stock

 

The Dvorak Violin Concerto – Was Sound This Good Still Possible in 1980?

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You’ll find amazing nearly White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this exceptionally quiet Philips recording

Yes, it was still possible to record classical music properly in 1980, though few labels managed to do it

A SUPERB performance from Salvatore Accardo, certainly competitive with the best we have heard

Yes, it was still possible to record classical music properly in 1980, though not many labels managed to pull it off. (Londons from this era are especially opaque and airless. We find them as irritating and frustrating as most of the Heavy Vinyl releases being foisted on the audiophile public today.)

The orchestral passages are rich and sweet, the violin present, its harmonic colors gloriously intact. This is still ANALOG, with the better copies displaying much of the Tubey Magic of ’50s and ’60s vinyl without as much compressor distortion (the Achilles’ heel of so many of the great recordings from the Golden Era).

And the fairly quiet Dutch vinyl here is a refreshing change from the notoriously noisy vintage pressings we suffer through every week (ah, but we don’t mind, the sound is so good!).

See more commentaries as well as our in stock recordings featuring the violin
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Heifetz on Classic – An Overview

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The RCA pressing of the Brahms Violin Concerto with  Heifetz and Reiner you see pictured, LSC 1903, is yet another Hall of Shame pressing and yet another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 is a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.

The best Heifetz records on Classic were, if memory serves, LSC 2734 (Glazunov), LSC 2603 (Bruch) and LSC 2769 (Rozsa). They aren’t nearly as offensive as the others. If you can pick one up for ten or twenty bucks, you might get your money’s worth depending, I suppose, on how critically you listen to your classical records. The CDs are better for all I know. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s generally poor track record.
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