_Composers – Bach

Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult

  • This rich, sweet and full-bodied UK pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Side one gives you not only a wonderful Clair De Lune, but a number of shorter works by Faure, Massenet and Elgar as well, with side two highlighted by meditative pieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky and others
  • We can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound – this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
  • It’s the same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included
  • The other main difference between the Living Stereo pressing on our Decca here is that the Decca has better sound

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

The 1959 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

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Bach / Suite No. 2 / Janigro – Reviewed in 2007

Our 2007 listing for this album presented it this way:

A 1S/1S Indianapolis pressing with A1 metal mothers from 1960 with sweet sound.

Perfectly fitting for these Baroque pieces recorded in Italy.

UPDATE 2022

In 2007, we typically did not have the number of copies needed for a shootout, so records such as this one would be auditioned and, if they sounded good, sold on that basis.

We judged records like this one on their absolute sound as opposed to the Hot Stamper shootout approach we use today, which gives us the record’s relative sound.

1s doesn’t mean much to us now, and even back then we knew better than to put much stock in it. We had been actively selling Living Stereo and other vintage Golden Age pressings starting in the late ’80s.

We knew from playing scores of them that often the best sounding pressings had stampers between 10s and 20s. This was true for LSC 1817, 2446 and no doubt many others that I can no longer remember.

This commentary addresses the issue — or should I say the myth? — of the 1s stamper.

Our 2007 Review

For those of you who are fans of this kind of music, you will find much to like on this rare early pressing.

It’s the first stereo recording of Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite for Flute and Strings.

The Solisti di Zagreb comprises 7 violinists, 3 violists, two cellists, in addition to Janigro and one double bass player. This album features three outstanding soloists: Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute, Robert Veyron-Lacroix on harpsichord and Jelka Stanic on violin.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of these older reviews are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding the best sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s. We found the records you see in these listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described in the listing and priced according to how good the sound and surfaces seemed to us at the time.

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Bach / Suites for Solo Cello – Reviewed in 2010

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Classical Records on Mercury 

EXCELLENT CELLO REPRODUCTION and MOSTLY QUIET VINYL on side one, where you get Bach’s entire Suite No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello. Side two has excellent sound as well but the vinyl is noisy so take this one at a bargain price and hear how wonderful a cello can sound when recorded and mastered for maximum effect, live in your listening room!

The sound of Starker’s cello here is HUMONGOUS — it’ll fill up your room, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Click on the link to see other recordings with oversized images.

It’s also tonally correct from top to bottom, a quality we heard on none of the Mercury Heavy Vinyl Reissues, some of the worst sound we had heard from Speakers Corner up to that time, but very much in keeping with overly rich, overly smooth sound of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. We despise that sound and want nothing to do with it.

Two Mercury recordings of Starker’s are currently on the TAS List, SR 90303 and SR 90392. I suppose we could order them up, audition them and list their many sonic shortcomings, since we do have nice copies of both albums in the backroom, just not enough to do a shootout, but there are so many other good pressings to play, why go out of way to play another second- or third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing?

(By the way, we have a new link for audiophile pressings that are tonally correct but are wrong in other ways (as they usually are). You can assume that our Hot Stamper pressings are tonally correct for the most part, as correct tonality is fairly key to high quality sound. Not essential, but important nevertheless.)

The cutting is super low distortion on this later label copy as well. This copy will show you why these Starker Mercury records are so highly prized.

Starker’s records are legendary for their sound, not to mention Starker’s way with this music. If anybody can make Bach’s solo cello pieces capture your interest, Starker can. (more…)

Bach / Britten Conducts Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

  • This superb 2-LP London pressing of the complete Brandenburg Concertos boasts Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • There are only two complete Brandenburgs that we like for music and sound, the Munchinger on Decca/London from 1959 and this one
  • When you have enough of both for a shootout, and can play them side by side, you hear the differences between 1959 and 1969, but choosing one over the other when they can both be so good is a lot harder than it sounds
  • I much prefer Britten’s excellent conducting to his rather tiresome composing – most of his classical and orchestral works seem uninspired and academic
  • Marks in the vinyl are the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Benjamin Britten’s interpretations of the Brandenburgs occupy a middle ground between extremes, and these tasteful performances should satisfy all but the most partisan advocates of one performance practice over the other. Informed by the musicological discoveries of the 1960s in terms of rhythmic nuances and appropriate ornamentation, Britten’s performances are rich with Baroque inflections without sounding unnaturally contrived.”

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Debussy / Clair de Lune – Compare and Contrast Sides One and Two

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

This Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, if what you’re demonstrating is not a Hi-Fi spectacular, but rather a sublime presentation of an exceptionally sweet and natural string section in an orchestra, presented here on analog disc pressed more than sixty years ago.  

I can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound. This record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers were able to capture on tape, and the RCA mastering engineers were able to master from that tape.

Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it’s a superb example of Living Stereo Tubey Magic at its best. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the space, transparency, sweetness and richness of the sound here.

Side Two

A++ to A+++ or better! Without more copies in hand it’s hard to know how good the sound can get, but we found it Hard To Fault (HTF).

This side has more extension up top and down low and more texture to the strings.

Side One

A++, although it starts out a bit weaker than that and only really gets good a few minutes into the side. (We hear this effect fairly often on the records we play. Noticing things like this is what we do for a living.)

There is some smear and it is slightly opaque as well.

You will hear what we mean when you flip it over and those two problems disappear.

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Vivaldi, Bach, et al. / Concertos for Cello / Janigro

Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • A glorious Living Stereo recording from 1960 of cello concertos on the early Shaded Dog label – this copy had Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, remarkably quiet for a record that is 60 years old
  • Janigro’s cello is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.

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Mozart / Haydn – The Best Toy Symphony on Vinyl

More of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An early EMI UK import pressing with STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The amazingly well recorded Toy Symphony on side two (which is fairly quiet by the way) is the real reason to own this record – you will be shocked at how realistic the toys sound, and how spaciously they are arrayed in the soundfield
  • These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of live venue space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
  • The first pressing of the album I ever played, back in about 1995, was on the Japanese Soundphile Series, and it blew my mind at the time
  • Fast forward 25 plus years and now we know that, as good as the Japanese pressing can be, the real EMI can be even better.  That’s what shootouts are for, right?

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Bach / Brandenburg Concertos / Munchinger

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • A wonderful 3 LP Box Set with stunning Nearly White Hot (A++ to A+++) sound on sides 1, 2, 3, and 6 and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on sides 4 and 5
  • The first five sides play about as quietly as any UK pressings from this era ever do
  • There are only two complete Brandenburgs that we like for music and sound, this Munchinger on Decca/London from 1959 and the Britten from 1969
  • When you have enough of each for a shootout, and can play them side by side, you hear the differences between 1959 and 1969, but choosing one over the other when they can both be so good is a lot harder than it sounds

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Bach – Partitas And Sonatas For Unaccompanied Violin / Milstein

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • With some Triple Plus (A+++) sides, as well as some Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, all six of these sides are the winners of our Shootout since there was no other performance of the complete works that could compete with the sonics of these Capitol pressings from 1962
  • Milstein’s 1957 recording on three discs in a lovely box simply could not be beat – fairly quiet vinyl too considering the age of the vinyl
  • The original pressing in this kind of condition — uncleaned, of unknown sound quality — easily sells for $1500, making the pricing here “attractive” for fans of Bach’s violin showpieces
  • The box is in excellent shape by the way

This vintage Capitol mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performance, and feeling as if you are listening live in Geneva’s Victoria Hall, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Bach – The Musical Offering / Münchinger

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

  • A superb Decca stereo pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This recording is from 1976, more than a decade later than the one we recently offered on London from this conductor — the sound holds up though
  • Engineered by the brilliant James Lock at Schloss Ludwigsburg palace in Germany, you can feel the cool air of the recording venue
  • Karl Münchinger understands this music and makes it come alive – the Decca engineers are of course a big help too

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