_Composers – Chopin

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – on Classic Records

More Reviews of Classic Records Classical Titles

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

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. One thing to consider is that the original in clean condition sells for many thousands of dollars!

Here are a few commentaries you may care to read about Bernie Grundman‘s work as a mastering engineer, good and bad.


FURTHER READING

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners

Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist – Reverse Your Polarity!

Hot Stamper Pressings of Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

This IMMACULATE Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign Of Play (VLSOP) is one of the best Sheffields. Lincoln Mayorga is an accomplished classical pianist: this is arguably his best work. (I had a chance to see him perform at a recital of Chopin’s works early in 2010 and he played superbly — for close to two hours without the aid of sheet music I might add.) 

You might want to try reversing the phase when playing this LP; it definitely helps the sound, a subject we discuss below.

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

Reversing the absolute phase on this record recently was quite interesting. The sound of the piano itself was already very good. With the phase reversed what really changed with the sense of space surrounding it, which immediately became much more palpable. The piano, though tonally similar to the way it sounded with the phase left alone, came to life more — more solid and punchy and percussive.

How do you change the absolute phase you ask? You must either switch the positive and negative at the speaker, the amp, or at the head shell leads, or you must have a switch that inverts phase on your preamp or phono stage. (The EAR 324p we use has just such a switch and let me tell you, it comes in very handy in situations like these.) If you can’t do any of those, or are unwilling to do any of those, this record will still sound good. It just won’t sound as good.

Chopin / Philippe Entremont / The Chopin I Love

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

  • This original Columbia Masterworks copy boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Performed with consummate skill and deep feeling by the legendary Philippe Entremont, a man who knows his Chopin
  • Both musically and sonically this record is stunning – who knew Columbia could record a piano this well as late as 1971?
  • There aren’t many solo piano recordings that sound this right – when you hear one it’s shocking how good it can be
  • Don’t waste your time with the any of the piano concertos Entremont recorded for Columbia– we’ve played plenty of them and never heard a good one
  • If you’re a fan of Entremont’s playing, this title from 1971 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is an undiscovered Columbia gem from 1971. Both musically and sonically this record is stunning. Who knew Columbia could record a piano this well? You could play fifty vintage piano recordings and not find one as good as this! We know, we’ve played plenty, including a number of Entremont’s Columbia records that don’t sound too good to us. Maybe we need to find a Hot Stamper of some of the weaker titles, but it hasn’t happened yet. A word of advice: avoid the piano concertos. We have yet to hear a good one. Those steely Columbia strings are far from our idea of good sound.

These solo piano pieces are performed with consummate skill and deep feeling by the legendary Philippe Entremont. His liner notes are beautifully written and insightful as well — well worth reading.

Fortunately this record has no strings, just a solid, clear piano in a big hall.

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Chopin, Rachmaninoff et al. / Richter

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

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

  • This original White Dog Stereo pressing (just missed the cutoff for “Living Stereo” but the sound is awesome anyway) boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • A WONDERFUL collection of solo piano works performed by one of our favorite pianists, Sviatoslav Richter
  • The piano is present and clear, with no practically no smear whatsoever – both sides are dynamic and open with plenty of weight
  • Recorded live in concert on December 26, 1960, at Carnegie Hall in New York, and December 28, 1960, at Mosque Hall in Newark
  • If you’re a fan of piano showpieces such as these, this recording from 1965 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This vintage RCA pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

The Piano

On the transparent and tonally correct copies it is clear and full-bodied. The piano in a solo recording such as this often makes for a good test.

How easily can you see it and how much like a real piano does it sound? 

If you have full-range speakers some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead, the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn-out stampers and bad vinyl and five-gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to reproduce the full spectrum of the piano’s wide range on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we simply cannot find any other way.

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A Simple Test for Polarity – Listen to the Solo Violin

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

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

Both sides are reversed.

On side two, the Chopin side, notice how vague the solo violin is with the polarity wrong.

As soon as it is switched, a solid, real, natural, palpable violin pops into view.

That’s how you know when your polarity is correct, folks!

This Heavy Vinyl pressing is also quite vague, but you can reverse your polarity until the cows come home, it ain’t gettin’ any better.

Here are some other Records that Are Good for Testing Vague Imaging


The top end of this record is clear, clean and correct. No other copy sounded like this one on the first side. When you hear all the percussion instruments — the tambourines, triangles, wood blocks and what-have-you — you know instantly that they sound RIGHT.

The overall sound is very different from many of the other recordings of the work that we have offered in the past. Rather than smooth, rich and sweet, the sound here is big and bold and clear like nothing we have ever played.

This is Front Row Center sound for those whose systems can reproduce it.

And this is truly a top performance by Fistoulari and the Royal Philharmonic. I know of none better. For music and sound this is the one!

Chopin / 24 Etudes / Vasary – A Demo Disc for Solo Piano on DG

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings with Demo Disc Sound

  • This stunning album of some of Chopin’s greatest piano pieces has superb sound, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This magnificent sounding (and surprisingly hard to find) pressing is yet another example of a classical “sleeper,” one that can hold its own with practically any solo piano recording you have ever heard
  • As expected, Vasary performs with consummate skill, bringing out nuances in the work that may have escaped others – the results are captivating
  • “… an extraordinarily impassioned work, belying its technical utility.”

I had wanted to do big shootout for this title from the moment I heard a killer copy that a friend sold me. You will have a hard time finding a better sounding solo piano record, I can tell you that.

I managed to get a couple more copies, but then my luck ran out. For more than a year I could not find the record at a good price — one has to assume that at least some of the copies will not sound good enough to sell and will end up being total losses — and some came in too noisy.

Eventually I gave up and just played the three or four I had.

Here we present the winner! Absolutely amazing piano reproduction. (more…)

Milstein Miniatures – Milstein / Pommers

More Violin Recordings

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to sound better than any vintage pressing of violin pieces you’ve heard, and it plays as quietly as any copy ever will (and far better than most)
  • We are big fans of Nathan Milstein here at Better Records and it’s records like this that justify our enthusiasm
  • Works for violin and piano by Chopin, Vivaldi, Smetana, Brahms, Stravinsky and others – and each is played with the feeling and skill as would be expected from one of the greatest performers of his generation
  • The appeal for the casual listener may not warrant the expense, but those who seek out these kinds of vintage ’50s pressings should find much to like here

A wonderful batch of short violin pieces with piano accompaniment: Previously we had written: (more…)

Rachmaninoff and Liszt / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario on Capitol

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Records We’ve Discovered

White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this solo piano recording. It’s big, rich and above all REAL sounding, with natural studio space. The legendary soloist Leonard Pennario is presented here at the height of his powers. Superb choice of material, from Clair De Lune to Liebestraum to the Hungarian Rhapsody No . 2.

On the rare Stereo pressing of course — we want to hear all that studio space reproduced, just as your two ears would have heard it (more or less).

Side One

Graded Super Hot for the huge, solid-sounding piano, played with such verve and skill. The musical power on this side is stupendous. 

Side Two

Even better! No smear, with incredible clarity, and no sacrifice in weight or richness. (more…)

Chopin / Fantasy-Impromptu – Entremont

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

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • A superb Columbia Masterworks pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Performed with consummate skill and deep feeling by the legendary Philippe Entremont
  • Side one of this copy blew our minds with its Nearly White Hot Stamper sound – musically and sonically, it is nothing short of amazing.
  • A true undiscovered gem – who knew Columbia could record a piano this well?

The subtitle of the album reads Philippe Entremont Plays Best-Loved Piano Pieces. After hearing this one as well as another exceptionally good sounding copy, we would like to amend that to Philippe Entremont Plays the Hell Out of These Best-Loved Piano Pieces.

Side one of this copy blew our minds with its Nearly White Hot Stamper sound. Musically and sonically this record is nothing short of amazing. Who knew Columbia could record a piano this well? You could play fifty vintage piano recordings and not find one as good as this!

Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Debussy, Gershwin — these shorter pieces and excerpts were composed by those with the greatest gift for melody, men who have produced works that stand the test of time, enchanting audiences over the centuries with works of great beauty and charm.

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