_Composers – Beethoven

Beethoven – String Quartet Opus 130 / Grosse Fuge / Quartetto Italiano

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  • This wonderful Philips recording makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This is a superb recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of chamber music you own
  • This copy showed that it had the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the tone of the violins, viola and cello
  • Above all, the recording sounds natural and real, and with Shootout Winning sides, this pressing was the most natural and most real of all the copies we played

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Beethoven – Symphony No. 5 / Ansermet / L’Orchestre De La Suisse

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  • This superb performance of the 5th makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • The texture on the strings is captured perfectly – this is an area in which modern pressings fail almost completely
  • Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
  • This is a wonderful recording in every respect – it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own

Everything sounds so right on this record, so much like live music, there is practically nothing to say about the sound other than You Are There.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. Practically none of them will ever begin to sound the way this record sounds.

Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time. (more…)

Beethoven / Piano Concerto No. 1 / Richter / Munch – Our Favorite Performance on Vinyl

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  • This stunning vintage RCA Living Stereo pressing boasts wonderful Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, with vinyl that is as quiet as any Shaded Dog from 1961 is ever going to play
  • This pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades, but unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings, Richter, the brilliant soloist featured here, is not overly spotlighted, hence the much more natural “concert hall” sound
  • The piano is part of the orchestra, and properly sized, allowing the contributions of the other musicians in the orchestra to be heard more clearly, laid out as they are so elegantly across a huge and deep Boston Symphony Hall stage

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Frames of Reference, Carefully Conducted Shootouts and Critical Listening

More Lessons Learned from Record Experiments

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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.

Faults in Focus

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! (more…)

What We Think We Know about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 with Hot Stampers

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

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In our opinion this is the best sounding Beethoven 6th Symphony ever recorded. It is the most beautiful of them all, and has long been my personal favorite of the nine Beethoven composed.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

We have a section of classical recordings that we nominate for The Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this record is of course one of its founding members. (more…)

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.