_Composers – Beethoven

An Extraordinary Recording of the Beethoven Septet – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

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

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

My first note on side one is “HTF” — Hard To Fault, for the sound was both rich and sweet, with easily recognized, unerringly correct timbres for all seven of the instruments which are 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!)

Side One

A++, so good, yet in comparison to side two we realized that it was not as present, spacious and transparent as it SEEMED.

Side Two

A+++, White Hot!

Ah, here was the sound we didn’t know we were missing. So big and open, with space for every player, each clearly laid out across the stage. This is Hi-Fi at its best.

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Beethoven / Wagner – Symphony No. 4 / Siegfried Idyll / Monteux

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

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This early Plum Label Victrola pressing of these lively and masterful performances earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both 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
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – all qualities the best vintage vinyl classical pressings have in abundance
  • A top performance of the 4th by Monteux and the LSO, with strings that are tonally correct, rich, and sweet
  • The horns on the Wagner piece are exceptionally well reproduced here as well – how could a Wagner record be any good without good horns?
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality Sound. This record has earned a place on that list.

Both sides of this early Plum Label Victrola pressing are superb, with the kind of string tone only found on the best of the Living Stereo releases and other top quality Golden Age recordings.

Here is the kind of sound that Classic Records could not ignore, even though the original was only ever made available as part of RCA’s budget reissue series, Victrola.

Don’t let its budget status fool you — this pressing puts to shame most of what came out on the full price Living Stereo label. (And handily beats any Classic Records reissue ever made.)

And Monteux is once again superb.

We played a large group of Beethoven’s symphonies this week and this was clearly one of the best, if not THE best. Well recorded Beethoven is hard to come by. The box sets we played were mediocre at best, and that left us with only a handful of clean early pressings. These records just aren’t out there like they used to be.

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Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya – Reviewed in 2010

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

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

A famous resident of the TAS list, this album offers excellent music, performed with feeling, and recorded properly, the best of all possible worlds for us audiophiles.

A friend of mine tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing. Good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this. Or plays this quietly.

You will have a hard time finding a better recording of the piano than this. It’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Discs.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Beethoven – Putting Your System to the (Violin and Piano) Test

Hot Stamper Pressings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

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. 

The piano is also very well recorded. If you lose some body to the piano you’re probably going in the wrong direction. But since that direction would make the violin almost unbearable sounding, I’m going to guess that would be easily recognized as a mistake.

The balance between those two instruments on this recording is perfection, so if you get this record right, you’re making progress of the most important kind: toward musical naturalness.

Otherwise this violin, at least on the Kreutzer Sonata, is going to tear your head off.

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Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – On an Outstanding White Dog Pressing

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

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Our vintage White Dog pressing of this brilliant Living Stereo recording — from 1956! — boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Heifetz’s violin is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • The orchestra is wide, tall, spacious, rich and tubey, and transparency, the hallmark of the vintage vinyl pressing, especially one in Living Stereo, is first rate
  • Hard to find them without marks or groove damage, but here is one without either, and the sound is magnificent (which is the hardest thing of all to find)

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. Little smear, exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — the best copies take the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible.

Heifetz is a fiery player. On a good pressing such as this one, you will hear all the detail of his bowing without being overpowered by it. 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 No. 6 – Reviewed in 2005

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

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Beethoven

This is a lovely sounding RCA Shaded Dog.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.

Our favorite Beethoven 6th is of course the Ansermet from 1960. Decca does a pretty good job recording strings too in our opinion.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 9 – This MoFi Has Two Strikes Against It

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Beethoven

Sonic Grade: F

MoFi took a mediocre-at-best Decca recording from 1972 and made it worse.

They should not have chosen this performance of the Ninth Symphony in the first place, and they certainly should not have added the treble they chose to add, which they did to this title, and to every classical recording they remastered.

Two strikes. In this case, two strikes and you’re out.

If you want the best Ninth on vinyl that we know of, this is the one we recommend.


This is a Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP with ridiculously unnatural sound.

Full of the worst kind of bright, phony string tone, MoFi’s trademark sound for classical recordings. Anyone who has ever attended a concert knows that strings in real life simply do not sound anything like they do on these MoFi records.

The London and Decca pressings of this recording are no great shakes either. Any pressing of this performance should be avoided.

Londons and Deccas from this era (1972 in this case) rarely sound very good to us.

Here is what we specifically don’t like about their sound.

An Overview of the Ninth

The best pressings from the Readers Digest set with Leibowitz conducting were passable but no match for Ansermet and the wonderful hall the legendary Orchestre De La Suisse Romande recorded in. (We like the 4th and 5th from that set; if you own them give them a spin, if you can clean them properly you may be quite pleased.)

In 1972 the engineering team of Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson recorded a Ninth with Solti and the CSO for Decca. I believe it was on the TAS List for a very long time.

We played it recently and heard the usual problems associated with later Decca recordings. It’s opaque, lacks size and space, and comes off as a bit flat and dry.  Like practically every later Decca pressing we play, it’s passable at best.

If you want to know what’s wrong with the Mobile Fidelity, take the above faults and add some others to them. Start with an overall brighter EQ, add a 10k boost for extra sparkly strings, the kind that MoFi has always been smitten with, and finish with the tubby bass caused by the half-speed mastering process itself.

Voila! You are now in the presence of the kind of mid-fi trash that may have fooled some audiophiles back in the day but now sounds as wrong as the records this ridiculous label is still making today.

The later ’60s Decca/London cycle with Schmidt-Isserstedt and the Vienna Phil has sounded flat and modern to us on every pressing we have ever played. We simply cannot take them seriously and you shouldn’t either.

Stick with Ansermet!


FURTHER READING

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Frames of Reference, Carefully Conducted Shootouts and Critical Listening

More Lessons Learned from Record Experiments

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

180+ Reviews and Commentaries for Decca/London/Argo

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 to play that its faults come into focus.

We, of course, have something much, much better, and we like to call them Hot Stampers!

(more…)

One of the Greatest Beethoven Ninths on Vinyl – Ansermet in 1960

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

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

The legendary Ansermet recording from 1960 shown above is the best sounding Beethoven 9th we have ever had the pleasure to audition here at Better Records.

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.

Both sides are big, rich and clear, and both were showing us pretty much everything that’s good about a vintage symphonic recording.

To get the chorus to play cleanly right to the very end is difficult for any vinyl pressing and this one is no exception. The chorus should play mostly without distortion or congestion even in the loudest parts, but we can’t say there won’t be a trace of one or both.

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Beethoven / Violin Concerto – Classic Records Reviewed

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

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…)