_Composers – Chopin

Chopin / Concerto No. 1 / Rubinstein / Skrowaczewski

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this Shaded Dog pressing is the best sounding Chopin First Piano Concerto we have ever heard
  • So big and transparent, with weight and heft to the brass like no other, we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording (unless you already one of our White Hot Stamper LPs)
  • The secret to the superior sound of this particular Rubinstein recording over so many others is the engineering by Kenneth Wilkinson – the glorious hall the London Symphony plays in doesn’t hurt either
  • Chopin, according to Arthur Hedley, “had the rare gift of a very personal melody, expressive of heart-felt emotion, and his music is penetrated by a poetic feeling that has an almost universal appeal…”

“Present-day evaluation places him among the immortals of music by reason of his insight into the secret places of the heart and because of his awareness of the magical new sonorities to be drawn from the piano.”

We heard dramatically more layered depth and more hall than we were accustomed to from the dozen or so RCA Rubinstein recordings that we’ve auditioned over the years. This is a closer approximation of live music than we were expecting, and in that sense it came as an exceedingly pleasant surprise. The shootout has been years in the making, with some copies waiting for their day in the spotlight over ten years.

The strings have lovely Living Stereo (Decca-engineered) texture as well. As befits a Wilkinson recording from 1961, there is no shortage of clarity to balance out the Tubey Magical warmth and richness.

(We have lately been surveying some of his recordings from the late-’60s and ’70s to our great disappointment. The All Tube Recording Chain was gone. Opacity and lack of warmth prevented us from proceeding with any shootouts we might have attempted.)

And for those who prefer original pressings to reissues, here is the record that makes your case. None of the White Dogs or Red Seal reissues could hold a candle to the real Shaded Dog label LPs. They are in a league of their own.

We love the huge, Tubey Magical sound of this recording. The piano is solid and powerful — like a real piano.

Tremendous hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. (more…)

Chopin – Piano Concerto No. 2 – Rubinstein / Wallenstein

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The original version of LSC 2265 as pictured is known as The Rubinstein Story. It comes with a deluxe gatefold cover and a lovely illustrated booklet tucked into an inner flap with biographical information about Rubinstein and commentary about the music of Chopin.

Of course we Hot Stamper aficionados want to know how it sounds, and the good news here is that side one is WONDERFUL. We awarded it the Super Hot grade of A++. The piano just sounds more REAL on this side than it does on the later pressing we played. It’s clear, solid and present, and the tonality is perfection.

Those of you who know your shaded dogs no doubt have had a few problems with your Rubinstein pressings in the past being too midrangy and forward, a sound that Rubinstein supposedly insisted on for his records. Not so on this side one I am happy to report. The sound is overflowing with Tubey Magic.

Ah, but side two is much more like the typical Rubinstein record, and in this case that means a letdown, with a too-hard sounding piano, the result of an upper-midrange boost. It’s spacious and the vinyl is quiet but the piano does not sound like it does on side one, oh well. One good side is pretty hard to find so consider this one a minor victory.

Chopin and Delibes / Les Sylphides / Maag / PCO – Reviewed in 2005

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

A dynamic and excellent pressing. This record has lovely string tone. Lots of tubey magic. Not one of the rarest Londons, but certainly one of the most enjoyable.

[This is a very old commentary so take it for what it’s worth.]

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – Classic Records Repress – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: C or Better 

Probably a fairly good Classic Records album. When I played this record years ago I thought it was one of the better Classic RCA titles. You can be sure it won’t sound like the original — [almost] no Classic record does — but it might be pretty good all things considered (since the original sells for well over a thousand dollars!). Ansermet is the king of the ballet here and the Decca engineers do him proud. (more…)

Chopin / Various Works / Badura-Skoda – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)  

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

TWO SUPER HOT SIDES for this collection of solo piano works by one of the instrument’s foremost composers. Big, clear and solid on both sides, this is superb music performed and captured with honesty.

If you can handle a bit of noise, this is an excellent way to hear some of the finest piano music ever written, beautifully laid out on a big soundstage. (more…)

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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

This is a QUIET RCA Soria Shaded Dog Box Set with some of the BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this music on Disc One. This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND if what you are demonstrating is not the merely Hi-Fi, but the relaxed beauty and naturalness of what many consider to be the finest example of Living Stereo Magic brought to the greatest performances of ballet music ever committed to tape.

Allow me to paraphrase some commentary from another Shaded Dog (8972307) we currently have up on the site: 

This record shows off Living Stereo sound at its best. 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.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record any 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 pretty much as good as it gets, folks.

All of which is true. The interesting thing about the Royal Gala Ballet Box is how FEW of them sound as good as their press would have you think. And the little shootout we conducted for this set was more evidence of this very fact. (more…)

Philippe Entremont – Chopin: The Favorite Polonaises

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

Phillipe Entremont

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  • This superb 1970 release from master pianist (and Chopin expert) Phillipe Entremont arrives with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl from first note to last
  • The transparency and clarity of this vintage pressing are wonderful – sound this good makes it easy to appreciate the subtlety of the Entremont’s remarkable virtuosity 
  • So big, rich and real – we guarantee this will become one of the best sounding solo piano recordings in your collection, and, of course, the performances are beyond reproach

This vintage CBS Masterworks pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the artist, and feeling as if you are sitting in the concert hall with Mr. Entremont, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Chopin / Ashkenazy in Concert – Reviewed in 2009

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

Superb sounding Decca British Import LP!

This live recording has very natural sound. I normally do not care for Ashkenazy’s playing, but here he plays with a conviction that is usually lacking. Check out the 2nd movement on the sonata. (more…)

Various / Heart of the Piano Concerto – Rubinstein – Reviewed in 2008

More Living Stereo

Various / Heart of the Piano Concerto

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

This is an EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD SOUNDING Shaded Dog pressing with fairly quiet vinyl. What’s surprising about this is how transparent and low distortion it is. Just as with Destination Stereo (LSC 2307), the excerpts here frequently sound better than they do on the original complete performances. Rubinstein’s piano is solid and clear sounding, which is rarely the case, especially for his Beethoven concertos. Those almost never sound good, but the excerpt here for Concerto #3 is excellent. 

Chopin – Scherzo #2 – Auer – Direct to Disc

More Chopin

More Scherzo #2 – Auer

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

This is an IMMACULATE RCA Direct-to-Disc LP with SUPERB SOUND! This recording is every bit as good as the famous RCA Beethoven Direct Disc and ten times as rare. You will have a very hard time finding a better sounding solo piano recording.  [Or so we thought in 2008.]