_Composers – Handel

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. 

Handel / Water Music / Leppard – Our Favorite Performance with Top Quality Sound

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A distinguished member of our The Better Records Hall of Fame for Orchestral Music.

The performance here by the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Raymond Leppard is currently my favorite, owing in large part to the fact that it has the kind of sound I find the most natural and enjoyable. This pressing boasts the biggest hall, the most transparency, and it has more clearly layered depth and more space than any other pressing we played. With White Hot stampers on side two and a Super Hot side one, this copy is right up there with the best Water Music we’ve heard. 

In a way this may not be quite fair to other equally well-known, well-respected performances. We went through an elimination round for the work a few weeks back, winnowing the recordings down to those that had the best sound, regardless of performance — perhaps some of the discarded records had even better performances than Leppard’s. At this late stage who can say?

We audiophiles want the music we play to sound its best, a requirement which more often than not involves compromises of one kind or another. We are happy to report that that does not appear to be the case with The Water Music (keeping in mind the caveat above).

We managed to find three (!) recordings that had both superb sound and top quality performances. This then is my favorite of the three, though not by much; on the best pressings all were Demo Disc quality, and most were pressed on very quiet vinyl. (more…)

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, Handel, Chopin – Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist – Reverse Your Polarity!

More Brahms, Handel, Chopin

More Direct to Disc recordings

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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 another 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.