Classical – Works for the Violin

Frames of Reference, Carefully Conducted Shootouts and Critical Listening

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Frames of Reference 

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

The sound we were hearing on this copy during a recent shootout was both rich and sweet, with easily recognized, unerringly correct timbres for all seven of the instruments heard in the work. The legendary 1959 Decca Tree microphone setup had worked its magic once again. And, as good as it was, we were surprised to discover that side two was actually even better! The sound was more spacious and more transparent. We asked ourselves, how is this even possible?

Hard to believe but side two had the sound that was TRULY Hard To Fault. This is precisely what careful shootouts and critical listening are all about. If you like Heavy Vinyl, what exactly is your frame of reference? How many good early pressings could you possibly own, and how were they cleaned?

Without the best pressings around to compare, Heavy Vinyl can sound fine. It’s only when you have something better that its faults come into focus. (We, of course, have something much, much better, and we like to call them Hot Stampers!)

Moon and Gray

The famous Moon and Gray London/Decca guide raves about this title, scoring it for music and sound at 9 each. I don’t always agree with their estimates — knowing that they could not possibly have the number of copies necessary to definitively judge the vast majority of titles they’ve written about, how could I? — but here I would agree completely. A nearly flawless recording with a performance to match.


Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Here are more entries in our ongoing Shootout Advice series.

The most important advice on the site can be found under the heading The Four Pillars of Success.

Here are some commentaries on a subject near and dear to all of us, namely Record Collecting.

The entries linked here may help you gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding Hot Stampers.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.

Wikipedia’s Entry

The Septet in E-flat major, Opus 20, by Ludwig van Beethoven, was sketched out in 1799, completed and first performed in 1800 and published in 1802. The score contains the notation: “Der Kaiserin Maria Theresia gewidmet”, or translated, “Dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa.” It is scored for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. It is in six movements.

The overall layout resembles a serenade and is in fact more or less the same as that of Mozart’s string trio, K. 563 in the same key, but Beethoven expands the form by the addition of substantial introductions to the first and last movements and by changing the second minuet to a scherzo. The main theme of the third movement had already been used in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, (Op. 49 No. 2), which was an earlier work despite its higher opus number. The finale features a violin cadenza.

The scoring of the Septet for a single clarinet, horn and bassoon (rather than for pairs of these wind instruments) was innovative. So was the usually prominent role of the clarinet, as important as the violin, quite innovative.

The Septet was one of Beethoven’s most successful and popular works and circulated in many editions and arrangements for different forces. In about 1803 Beethoven himself arranged the work as a Trio for clarinet (or violin), cello and piano, and this version was published as his op. 38 in 1805.

JS Bach / Mozart – Two Violin Concertos

More Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) 

More Two Violin Concertos 

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This original plum label Victrola pressing from 1965 has SUPERB sound on both sides. The Bach piece is a rich tapestry of strings spread across the stage and clearly separated left to right. There’s not much depth but that seems of little consequence; all the instruments are heard in their proper space and location. The tonality is right on the money throughout.

The Mozart concerto starts out sounding a bit opaque, but about an inch or so into the side it opens up wonderfully, with sweet, spacious, natural sound from there on out. Jaime Laredo plays both works superbly, and the Living Stereo quality sound brings his playing to life in a way that few recordings can.

Although never released as a real LSC, this Victrola pressing is every bit the equal of most of the better Living Stereo pressings. (more…)

Beethoven / ’Kreutzer’ Sonata – Putting Your System to the (Violin and Piano) Test

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More ’Kreutzer’ Sonata

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating this kind of recording.

Do you want a recording that is going to put your system to the test? Well this is that record! That violin is REAL. As you compare equipment or tweak your system, you will hear the sound of that violin change and it should be obvious when it gets better and when it gets worse.  (more…)

Vintage Violin Recordings – What to Listen For

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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This copy had practically no smear on either the violin or the orchestra. Try to find a violin concerto record with no smear. We often say that Shaded Dogs, being vintage All Tube recordings, tend to have tube smear. But what about the ’70s Transistor Mastered Red Label pressings – where does their smear come from?

Let’s face it: records from every era more often than not have some smear and we can never really know what accounts for it. The key thing is to be able to recognize it for what it is. (We find modern records, especially those pressed at RTI, to be quite smeary as a rule. They also tend to be congested, blurry, thick, veiled, and ambience-challenged. For some reason most audiophiles — and the reviewers who write for them — rarely seem to notice these shortcomings.) (more…)

Heifetz on Classic – An Overview

brahmvioli_1903_debunk

 

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.
(more…)

The Dvorak Violin Concerto with Accardo on Philips – 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.) (more…)

Beethoven Violin Concerto with Heifetz (LSC 1992)

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More on Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Heifetz

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

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary. The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Practically zero smear, exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — this copy takes the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible. (more…)

Brahms Violin Concerto – Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

More recordings featuring the violin

More Brahms Violin Concerto

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This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good Super Hot stamper sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1S is that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that’s just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you’ve played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.

The 1S pressings do not win all that many shootouts around here. Of course, to avoid being biased the person listening to the record doesn’t know the stamper numbers, and that may help explain why the 1S loses so often! (more…)

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.