_Composers – Beethoven

Beethoven / Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 / Leibowitz

 

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This single disc, taken from the 7 LP Readers Digest Box Set, contains THE BEST sounding recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony we have ever played at Better Records. And that makes it something very special indeed, with nothing short of White Hot sonics and a top performance by Rene Leibowitz conducting the Royal Philharmonic.

Produced by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, to my mind this has always been one of the finest groups of recordings of the complete symphonies of Beethoven , held back only by the usual pressing variations (and the RDG ’60s vinyl). Until we amassed a pile of these sets and got them sparkling clean we had no idea that the recordings could sound this good, good enough in fact to beat all comers — from every major label and then some — in our shootout!

You may have noticed that Beethoven’s symphonies rarely make it to the site. There’s a reason for this: most of the recordings of them don’t sound very good. We are happy to report that, at least when it comes to the Fourth and Fifth, that problem has been solved.

Side Two – Symphony No. 5

A+++. The hall here is HUGE; your speakers will simply disappear. The sound is rich, Tubey Magical and clear, all at the same time. (It’s not quite as clear as the Solti on CS 6092 we will be listing but in every other way it’s better than that record.)

The string texture reminds me of the finest Living Stereos I have heard. The overall sound is as dynamic and exciting as one could hope for, yet Leibowitz manages to make it more lyrical and flowing as well. I know of none better.

One other copy, competitive in most ways with this one, was somewhat more lush and tubey. We felt in the end that the sound on this pressing was actually more correct and lifelike. We like our recordings to have as many Live Music qualities as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use. It’s precisely this kind of big, clear sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca-London (and RDG!) recordings above those of virtually any other label, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record lovers. (more…)

Beethoven / Symphony No. 5 / Solti / Vienna Philharmonic

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  • This lovely Whiteback pressing is big and lively, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • Good weight to the brass, huge hall space, wonderfully textured string tone – it’s all here and more
  • A top performance from Solti and the Vienna Phil – it’s classic Solti: fast-paced, exciting and powerful
  • This is Beethoven played with gusto – he brings this music to life like no other conductor we know of (with the exception of Dorati perhaps)

Solti’s Beethoven has always been underrated. In some respects it’s more satisfying than his ventures into the late Romantic repertoire on which his reputation largely rests. His Fifth Symphony, for example, has all of the drama and flair one could ask for in its outer movements, and his treatment of the Third’s epic funeral march is truly gripping, with a hair-raising fugato climax.

— David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

We like our recordings to have as many of the qualities of Live Music as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this, especially when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use. It’s precisely this kind of big, clear, yet rich sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca/London recordings above those of virtually all other labels, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record loving audiophile friends.

This Golden Age tape has been mastered brilliantly with “modern” mastering equipment (from the mid-’60s, 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.

You may have noticed that Beethoven’s symphonies rarely make it to the site. There’s a reason for this: most of the recordings of them don’t sound very good. We are happy to report that, at least when it comes to the Fifth, that problem has been solved, by this very record in fact.

Choices

The Leibowitz from Readers Digest that we like is tubier and richer, and more lyrical in performance.

The Solti from 1958 here is cleaner, clearer and both more exacting and lively. I would have a hard time choosing between them. (more…)

Beethoven / Kreutzer Sonata / Heifetz – Another Awful Cisco Pressing

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex. 

The Cisco pressing of LSC 2577 is not acceptable on any level. There is no violinist in front of you when you play their record. There is someone back behind your speakers under a thick blanket, and his violin sure doesn’t sound very much like a real violin — no rosiny texture, no harmonics, no real body. I am proud to say we rejected the record out of hand when it was released and never carried it. (The Cisco Peer Gynt was every bit as bad.)

We’ve played dozens and dozens of good violin recordings. We have no problem recognizing good violin sound when we hear it. In the past our top Hot Stamper classical pressings would go directly to our best customers, customers who want classical recordings that actually sound good. not just the kind of Golden Age Recordings that are supposed to. Now that we are able to do more shootouts, we have enough classical recordings to make available to our many Hot Stamper fans.

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…)

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.

Beethoven/ ’Kreutzer’ Sonata & Bach/ Concerto… / Heifetz – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Beethoven/ ’Kreutzer’ Sonata & Bach/ Concerto… / Heifetz 

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

This beautiful 1S/1S first pressing in excellent condition has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — on both sides!

This is the kind of record on which the RCA reputation is based. They’re not kidding — this is truly LIVING STEREO SOUND at its best.

The immediacy and clarity of the violin are state of the art. I don’t know of a better sounding violin recording. And on this copy both sides are out of this world. (more…)

Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Grumiaux

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

Violin Concerto / Grumiaux 

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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. 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 from Philips.

As we listened, we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to such a difficult and demanding work. (more…)

Beethoven – Symphony #6 / Monteux – Reviewed in 2005

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Beethoven – Symphony #6 / Monteux 

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

1S/ 6S Immaculate looking RCA Shaded Dog.

This is a lovely sounding record, with a smooth, natural top end, the opposite of a hi-fi spectacular. Some may find it dull, but it’s actually correct.

Monteux has a wonderful feel for this symphony. His Beethoven in general is actually quite good. This music belongs in any serious collection. String tone is everything in the Pastoral, and Living Stereo gives you the string tone rarely found elsewhere.

 

Beethoven / Piano Sonatas / Backhaus – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Beethoven / Piano Sonatas / Backhaus 

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

CS 6535. This is the best sounding Backhaus LP I’ve ever heard. The piano is natural and full bodied, as would be expected from the Decca engineers of the day. They were still making good records in 1967, when RCA had gone Dynagroove.

 

Beethoven / Famous Beethoven Overtures / Munchinger – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

More Famous Beethoven Overtures / Munchinger

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

This British London Blueback original pressing has better than A+ Hot Stamper sound on both sides. The music is lively and well-played, as one would expect from the venerable Karl Munchinger leading the Vienna Phil.

The sound is quite good but very different for each of the two sides. For more on the sound please see our notes below. (more…)