_Composers – Brahms

Milstein / Encores / Pommers – Reviewed in 2009

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This original Rainbow Label Capitol pressing has D1 / D1 stampers (!) and the shrink still on the cover — now how rare is that!? Copies in this condition regularly fetch $300-400 on ebay these days, some as much as $450, and it’s highly unlikely that any of those sound as good as this one. (Unless those sellers use the same advanced cleaning fluids and techniques we do and have access to an $8000 record cleaning machine, that is.)

The sound is SUPERB, especially on side two, which we rated A Double Plus. Side two had a bit more presence and transparency than side one and that, along with quieter vniyl, kicked the grade up a notch. The third work on side two, a piece by Fritz Kreisler, is one of the highlights of the entire album.

The sound is smooth and sweet throughout, and of course the playing is superb. We are big fans of Nathan Milstein here at Better Records and it’s records like this that justify our enthusiasm. The album comprises works for violin and piano by Kreisler, Schumann, Szymanowski, Handel, others. 

Brahms / Piano Concerto #1 / Curzon / Szell – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

One of the best of the Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissues. As you may know they have gone way downhill lately. Haven’t played this LP in a while but I remember liking it quite a bit back in the day.

Brahms / Concerto for Violin and Cello – Heifetz / Piatigorsky (LDS 2513)

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This RCA Soria pressing plays about Mint Minus, pretty quiet for a Shaded Dog era pressing.

The orchestra is its typical shrill self. The cello and violin sound wonderful most of the time. When they really get going the sound can be a bit much. At moderate volumes the record is very enjoyable.

If I’m not mistaken, reversing your polarity will help the sound some.

This is a famous recording for having distortion and congestion in the louder orchestral passages. There is no such thing as a copy of this record that doesn’t have that problem. You listen to this record for the wonderful interplay between Heifetz and Piatigorsky and not much else.

Brahms / Concerto for Violin & Cello on Cisco Heavy Vinyl

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[An old review. We would not stand behind what we say here about the superiority of the Cisco pressing over the Shaded Dog.]

180g Cisco LP. The performances here are of course extraordinary, but this has never been one of RCA’s best recordings. The originals have more Tubey Magic; these 180 gram versions more accuracy of presentation, clarity and definition. Much less distortion too. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture / Reiner – The Best Sound Here Is Everything But the 1812

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

The real stars here are NOT the 1812, but the three coupling works, which demonstrate, on this copy at least, The Real Power of the Orchestra. The remarkably rich, Tubey Magical and oh-so-rosiny Living Stereo strings and powerful, dynamic brass make this a real demo quality orchestral heavyweight. Lizst’s Mephisto Waltz, Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture, and the Tragic Overture by Brahms are the Must Own 36 minutes worth of music on the record. (more…)

Brahms – Concerto No. 2- Reiner / Gilels – Cisco Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C+?

Another Heavy Vinyl pressing from Cisco / Impex reviewed.

It’s been quite a while since I played the Cisco pressing, but I remember it as being quite good. At the time we wrote: “The overall sound is smooth and spacious. The piano may lack the full weight of the live instrument, but that’s RCA’s fault, not Cisco’s. If you can look past that you will find this to be one of the better Living Stereo reissues available today.” and we’ll just have to stick with that for now, since we haven’t played the record in more than ten years.

Brahms / Violin Concerto – Milstein / Steinberg

More of the music of Johannes Brahms  

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

Another nice Milstein record with exquisite violin tone. Of course the performance is magical. The massed strings are lovely here. Lots of hall, big spacious sound, and of course a violin to die for.

(This is not the correct cover for the original pressing we were reviewing.)

Brahms / Sonatas #2 & 3 / Rubinstein and Szeryng – Reviewed in 2010

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

3S/ 4S RCA Shaded Dog. The sound is actually quite decent when you INVERT the ABSOLUTE PHASE. If you cannot or will not do that, this record will not sound good — it’s somewhat hard and bright. It will never be a Top Shaded Dog but it is a good one with the absolute phase inverted.

This record is third in a series of masterpieces for violin and piano.

Brahms / Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel / Katchen – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

More Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel / Katchen 

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

Near Mint copy with excellent sound! Superb piano tone for these solo pieces and very quiet vinyl add up to a wonderful listening experience. This surprisingly quiet British vinyl is going to be hard to beat by other Golden Age labels. (Finding solo piano recordings on RCA or Mercury from this era that play quietly is practically impossible.)

Side one is super TRANSPARENT — the piano is so clear! It lacks a bit of weight on the first side; perhaps that’s the way it is actually supposed to sound, who can say? On side two it sounds a little better to my ear, big and dark and very solid. It’s pretty amazing in its own way. And Katchen’s performance is of course superb. All in all a very find piano recording.

This lovely album also includes Variations on a Theme by Paganini. (more…)

Brahms / Sonata #3 in F Minor / Rubinstein – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

More Sonata #3 in F Minor / Rubinstein 

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

This exceptionally rare Shaded Dog pressing has AMAZING sound on side one, A+++, with side two rating a nearly as good sonic grade of A++. I can’t recall the last time I played a solo piano recording that was this transparent and lively. It’s shockingly realistic; this is what a piano sounds like in performance.

Well, almost. Rubinstein’s recordings never manage to convey all the weight of a real concert grand piano — as if any home stereo could anyway — but this recording is still relatively full-bodied. What it is more than anything else is REAL sounding. You will quickly forget that you are listening to a record at all. (more…)