_Composers – Berlioz

Destination Stereo and the State of Reviewing As We See It

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars Available Now

Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other.

When “in-the-know” audiophiles discuss three-dimensionality, soundstaging and depth, they should be talking about a record that sounds like this.

But are they? The glorious, life-changing sound of one heavy vinyl reissue after another seems to be the only kind of record audiophiles want to discuss these days.

More’s the pity. A record as good as Destination Stereo belongs in every serious audiophile’s collection. Allow me to make the case.

The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy.

If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are so often lacking in many of the qualities prized by audiophiles, all you have to do is put this record on for them. 

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

The State of Reviewing

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this often had better sound than the albums from which they were taken, proof that they were listening critically and comparing pressings. What happened to reviewers of that caliber?

I can tell you what happened to them: they left audio, driven out according to the principle that underlies Gresham’s Law: bad reviewers drive out good ones.

Which leaves you with the type that can’t tell how truly awful most modern Heavy Vinyl Reissues are. A sad state of affairs if you ask me, but one that no longer impacts our business as we simply don’t bother to buy, sell or play most of these records.

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Bizet / Saint-Saens / Gounod, et al. – Ballet Highlights From French Opera

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

    • With top grades on both sides, this original Mercury stereo pressing of these renowned ballet works features some of the BEST sound we’ve heard from Paray
    • Listen to the lush strings and the overall weighty, rich sound on the Massenet piece on side two – that is the sound of a Shootout Winning pressing
    • The Ballet Music from Faust may just give the impossibly rare RCA (LSC 2449) a run for its money in terms of sound and performance
    • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
    • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
    • If you’re a fan of delightful orchestral showpieces such as these ballet highlights, this LP from 1961 belongs in your collection
    • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique – Gorgeous Living Stereo Strings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture

Gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings, lovely hall acoustics. The size and power of a large orchestra in Living Stereo sound. One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, as it clocks in at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass. The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises occurring in other areas.

So open and spacious, with gorgeous, richly textured strings — this is the VIVID sound we love from the Golden Age!

The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for? 

Classic Records Pressings and Their Abysmal String Tone

Of course this was always the downfall of the Classic Records RCA remasterings. Their records had bass and dynamics, no one could deny it, but the strings were usually shrill and the hall practically non-existent. We found out just today [which was quite a while ago of course] that there is a new series of recuts coming from Acoustic Sounds. Based on their dismal track record I will be very surprised if they are much better than mediocre. We look forward to playing one or two.

Monteux Is The Man

According to the biographical sketch in Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Monteux “was never an ostentatious conductor … [he prepared] his orchestra in often arduous rehearsals and then [used] small but decisive gestures to obtain playing of fine texture, careful detail and powerful rhythmic energy, retaining to the last his extraordinary grasp of musical structure and a faultless ear for sound quality.” – Wikipedia

Destination Stereo – Demo Disc Living Stereo Sound

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Your Destination — Stereo!

“Your passport to great music in new sound by the world’s greatest artists.”

This reasonably quiet RCA Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND on BOTH sides. It is without a doubt THE best sounding copy we have ever heard*.

Side one is White Hot, with some of the best 1959 Living Stereo we’ve ever heard. Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other. When “in-the-know” audiophiles discuss soundstaging and depth, they had better be talking about a record that sounds like this.

Shockingly real – proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than many might think. 

This record is designed to show off the Living Stereo sound at its best and it succeeds magnificently. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record much better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is as good as it gets, folks.

The State of Reviewing

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this often had better sound than the albums from which they were taken, proof that they were listening critically and comparing pressings. What happened to reviewers of that caliber?

I can tell you what happened to them: they left audio, driven out according to the principle that underlies Gresham’s Law: bad reviewers drive out good ones. Which leaves you with the type that can’t tell how truly awful most modern Heavy Vinyl Reissues are. A sad state of affairs if you ask me, but one that no longer impacts our business as we simply don’t bother to buy, sell or play most of them.

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Berlioz – Another Dubby Mess from Klavier

Klavier Is a Label Best Avoided by Audiophiles

Actual Audiophile Quality Pressings of Orchestral Music Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

The sound is smeary, thick and opaque because, among other things, the record was mastered by Doug Sax from a copy tape, and not all that well either.

It is yet another murky Audiophile Piece of Trash from the mastering lathe of the formerly brilliant Doug Sax. He used to cut the best sounding records in the world. Then he started working for Analogue Productions and never cut a good record again as far as I know.

On this record, in Doug’s defense it’s only fair to point out that he had only dub tapes to work with, which is neither here nor there as these pressings are not worth the dime’s worth of vinyl used to make them.

Maybe the hearing-challenged Chad Kassem wanted this sound — almost all his remastered titles have the same faults — and simply asked that Doug cut it to sound real good like analog spossed to sound in the mind of this kingpin, which meant smooth, fat, thick and smeary.

Yes, this is exactly what some folks think analog is supposed to sound like.

Just ask whoever mastered the Beatles records in 2014. Somebody boosted the bass and smoothed out the upper midrange, and I don’t think they did that by accident. They actually thought it was good idea.

Harry Moss obviously would not have agreed, but he’s not around anymore to do the job right.

Here is the cover for the real EMI. No idea if the sound is any good, but it has to be better than the awful Klavier, doesn’t it?

Below are some thoughts from a recent classical listing that we hope will shed some light on our longstanding aversion to the sound of these modern remastered records.

Modern Opacity

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’s stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a whole — including those that pass themselves off as the champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear our Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more recognizable, even obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.

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Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique / Argenta

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

More Music Conducted by Aaulfo Argenta

  • A KILLER pressing of this classical masterpiece, performed by The Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this original London pressing
  • The sound is clear and open and wonderfully smooth and the bottom is BIG — the tympani and lower strings are powerful and dynamic
  • You will have a hard time finding better sound in the lower registers for this work — most of the pressings we’ve played were simply too anemic to take seriously

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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Monteux

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • This stunning classical masterpiece finally returns with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • A superb pressing, with gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings and lovely hall acoustics
  • One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork
  • The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for?

One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork returns to the site in spectacular fashion, with stunning 1960 Living Stereo sound on both sides.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, clocking in as it does at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass.

The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises in other areas.

(Of course this was always the downfall of the Classic Records RCA remasterings. Their records had bass and dynamics, no one could deny it, but the strings were usually shrill  and smeary, and the hall practically non-existent. We found out just years ago that there was a new series of recuts coming from Acoustic Sounds. Based on their dismal track record I will be very surprised if they are much better than mediocre.) (more…)

London Records Takes You on A Journey Into [Potentially Very Good] Stereo Sound

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings by Decca

[Written a very long time ago!]

INSANELY GOOD vintage Decca sound from 1958 — bigger, richer and more Tubey Magical than 9 out of 10 (or more!) records we’ve ever played from the pre-’60s early stereo Golden Age. How they got this one so right is beyond me.

We were sorely tempted to grade it White Hot, but chose instead to err on the side of modesty and call it A++ to A+++ or better (which is practically White Hot when you think about it).

Can it be that THIS was the first stereophonic sound music lovers of the world were exposed to on LP? (Stereo tapes may have existed in 1954, but they had to wait until 1958 to be transferred to vinyl.)

Could we possibly have fallen so far in only fifty years?

Judging by the quality of the sound on this copy — dramatically better than others we’ve played, and quieter too — the answer can only be a resounding yes. If you like your sound BIG and LUSH, this record is guaranteed to blow your mind.

Chabrier’s Espana with Argenta gets things off to an amazing start — when have you heard it sound better?!

Capriccio Espagnol (Rimsky-Korsakov), Mozart’s Concerto Piano Concerto No. 27 and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring are included here as well, all with audiophile sound to die for.

Both Sides are KILLER

A++ to A+++, big, spacious, Tubey Magically Rich, as well as tonally Right On The Money (ROTM), the sound here is Hard To Fault (HTF) — IF one is willing to accept the euphonic colorations of the equipment used at the time. We know the sound isn’t real — one would never hear it sound this way in the concert hall — but we love it anyway!

Heavy Vinyl

Rather surprisingly there is a Heavy Vinyl import reissue of this album available, at a cost of $50, not cheap by any means and undoubtedly a pale shadow of this London Blueback LP. There is simply no chance in the world that a recording of this fidelity could be mastered and pressed properly these days — we sure haven’t heard one, and we’ve played them by the hundreds. We implore anyone who made the mistake of buying such a modern record to pick this one up and hear what they couldn’t possibly know they were missing, but is nevertheless clearly audible on this very pressing for all to enjoy. (more…)

Ravel, Falla, Weber & Berlioz – Alborado…, Bolero, more – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

Side two here has a SUPERB sounding Bolero, and an EVEN BETTER Alborado del Gracioso, possibly the best we have ever heard. Truly A Triple Plus sound.

As you probably know, Bolero is very hard to find on vinyl properly performed with audiophile quality sound. The sound of Bolero here is excellent: very natural, not harsh at the end where the trombones comes in, and the not too compressed. (This is probably the biggest problem with most recordings of the work. Compression makes the quieter parts ravishingly open and clear, and positively ruins the climax with distorted compressor overload.) 

Alborado… has some of the best sound we have heard on London. It’s spacious, dynamic and clear. With an extended top end the strings and horns sound harmonically correct. The orchestra from top to bottom is tonally correct as well. (more…)

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Fourestier – Reviewed in 2010

This obscure French label stereo reissue of an original Omega recording from the ’60s is SUPERB SOUNDING, without a doubt the best sound I have ever heard for the work. [The stereo is much better these days than it was years ago when we auditioned other pressings, so comparisons with those other, older records are practically pointless.]

And the performance is Top Notch as well; I know of none better.

This is a piece that is difficult to fit onto a single LP, clocking in at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter the deep bass. Fortunately it seems that none of those approaches were taken by the engineer who cut this record in the early ’80s — there’s plenty of punchy deep bass, as well as powerful dynamics, and the levels seem fine. How he do it? Beats me. Glad he did though!

Side One

A++ Super Hot Stamper sound from top to bottom. The strings are BIG, sweet, clear and textured — the kind of strings that one might hear on maybe one out of thirty or forty classical recordings.

We might prefer them a bit richer, and they can get a bit shrill when at their loudest, but considering how important the strings are to the success of this work, one must be thankful that they are as good as they are.

Side Two

Side two manages to convey more of that richness we were looking for in the strings on side one, but is a bit more recessed and not quite as wide in its soundstaging as we heard there. The sound is clear and open and wonderfully smooth.

And the bottom is BIG — the tympani and lower strings are powerful and dynamic. You will have a hard time finding better sound in the lower registers for this work, most of the pressings we’ve played were simply too anemic to take seriously. (Let’s face it: the average classical LP is hardly listenable.)

Super Hot Stampers again — a great Symphonie Fantastique played to perfection.

Symphonie Fantastique

Symphonie Fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’un Artiste…en cinq parties (Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts), Op. 14, is a Program symphony written by the French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is one of the most important and representative pieces of the early Romantic period, and is still very popular with concert audiences worldwide. The first performance took place at the Paris Conservatoire in December 1830. The work was repeatedly revised between 1831 and 1845 and subsequently became a favourite in Paris.

The symphony is a piece of program music which tells the story of “an artist gifted with a lively imagination” who has “poisoned himself with opium” in the “depths of despair” because of “hopeless love.” Berlioz provided his own program notes for each movement of the work (see below). He prefaces his notes with the following instructions:[1]

The composer’s intention has been to develop various episodes in the life of an artist, in so far as they lend themselves to musical treatment. As the work cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the instrumental drama needs to be set out in advance. The following programme must therefore be considered as the spoken text of an opera, which serves to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and expression.

There are five movements, instead of the four movements which were conventional for symphonies at the time:

Rêveries – Passions (Daydreams – Passions)

Un bal (A ball)

Scène aux champs (Scene in the Country)

Marche au supplice (March to the Scaffold)

Songe d’une nuit de sabbat (Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath)

Wikipedia