_Composers – Herrmann

Herrmann – The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

  • This early British London pressing offers superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, giving you plenty of blockbuster sound for those who can play a record like this good and loud
  • On the best copies, you will hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
  • The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of wall to wall and floor to ceiling spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
  • A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall
  • If like us you’re a fan of Blockbuster Orchestral Recordings, this is a killer album from 1974 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings simply fail to reproduce. The brass here is weighty and powerful, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.

Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice below.) (more…)

Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

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Herrmann – Music From The Great Movie Thrillers

This is a BEAUTIFUL London Phase 4 LP with Very Little Sign of Play. It contains music from Hitchcock classics – “Psycho” “Marnie” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and “The Trouble With Harry”.

Bernard Herrmann released many LPs on London Phase 4, and this is one of the better ones.

Included are new recordings of scores to five Alfred Hitchcock films. Psycho opens the LP, and Herrmann has arranged the music into a 14 minute “Narrative For Orchestra.”

A 10 minute suite from Marnie follows, then the main theme from North by Northwest.

Side 2 starts with three selections from Vertigo and ends with “A Portrait of ‘Hitch,'” based on motifs from the score to The Trouble With Harry.


OLD PHASE 4 NOTES FROM A LONG TIME AGO

[Some of this we still agree with and some we do not, so take it for what it’s worth.]

Phase IV, Are You Serious?

Yes, absolutely. Allow me to make the case this way. Phase 4 has the life, dynamics, and deep articulate bass not found on most Golden Age recordings. There is no compression to speak of on the album, not on the best copies anyway.

Shaded Dogs may have sweeter strings and more Tubey Magic (which, as anyone who listens to live classical music knows, is mostly a euphonic coloration), but this recording sounds dramatically more like live music than most of them in every way other than soundstaging.

There are of course multiple mics being used, and sometimes they call attention to themselves, but for the most part the stage is wide and deep enough, and the mikes far enough from the orchestral sections, to create the illusion of a real orchestra in a hall.

The tympani at the back (along with most of the percussion) are especially convincing in this regard. On the copies with the most correct top ends, the triangles and bells are shockingly lifelike, sounding, to my “mind’s ear” exactly the way they do in the concert hall.


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Herrmann – The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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More Reviews of Soundtrack Music

  • An outstanding recording with a huge three-dimensional stage, open, clear, extended up top and down low — the sound on this pressing is nothing short of amazing
  • 4 stars: “The sound glitters, some of the brightest and richest audio of its period (attested to by the album’s being part of Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo), and the performances have a dignity and intensity that makes the music — drawn from the key parts of Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen-created fantasy films The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts — seem even more serious and profound than it originally did.”
  • If like us you’re a fan of Blockbuster Orchestral Recordings, this is a killer album from 1975 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. Who else but Herrmann could have orchestrated such phantasmagorical goings on?

The Three Worlds Of Gulliver Suite takes up all of side two. The complete score from which the suite is taken can be found on the original Herrmann album The Three Worlds of Gulliver, a long-time and extremely rare member of the TAS Super Disc List.

This vintage London Phase 4 Stereo 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. (more…)

Behind the Scenes of One of My Favorite Recordings – Citizen Kane

More of the Music of Bernard Herrmann in Stock

Bernard Herrmann Albums We’ve Reviewed

Reviews and Commentaries for Citizen Kane

An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. The music by its very nature taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep bass notes; incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some.

Kenneth Wilkinson was the engineer for these sessions in glorious Kingsway Hall.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Recording, in this case extending all the way into the ’70s.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I could not even imagine what exotic instrument could possibly be making the sound I was hearing. The remarkable document pictured below will show you some of them.

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Herrmann – Bernard Herrmann Conducts Jane Eyre And Other Film Scores

Hot Stamper Phase 4 Recordings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Phase 4 Recordings

 [PLEASE NOTE: We no longer give Four Pluses out as a matter of policy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t come across records that deserve them from time to time.]

This Beyond White Hot Stamper Side Two completely blew our minds with Bernard Herrmann orchestral MAGIC. Side two is just OUT OF THIS WORLD. Since side two is where the Three Worlds of Gulliver suite is found — the very same superbly recorded music that is on Harry’s Super Disc List — you can be sure that is this is some of the best sounding Bernard Herrmann music you will ever have the opportunity to hear, if not THE best. The sound is DEMONSTRATION QUALITY of the HIGHEST ORDER. 

When it comes to this side two what we have here is a record that sounds so good, with the needle hits the groove you will feel like you’ve just threaded up the master tape and hit play. The effect is that you’re so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience you forget you’re listening to a record. You’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that. (more…)

Herrmann – Listening in Depth to The Fantasy Film World

More of the Music of Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Recordings We’ve Reviewed

Music like this taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Journey to the Center of the Earth

All those lovely harps! You can practically feel the cool air of the cave as you descend into the blackness.

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Jason and the Argonauts, including the fight with the skeletons that we all remember from our Saturday matinee movie days. Who else could have orchestrated such a film?

Side Two

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Astonishingly powerful deep bass and drum sounds!

Fahrenheit 451

One of our key tests for side two is the string tone on the Fire Engine sequence here. The best copies had wonderfully textured and tonally correct strings, with just the right amount of sheen — not glossy, not gritty, not blurry, but just right.

Any orchestral recording without good string tone is a lost cause. (Almost all Classic Records fail miserably in this regard. They may be on the TAS List but that sure doesn’t mean they sound any good!)

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Herrmann / The Fantasy Film World of… “Did MoFi bother to listen to this before they ruined it?”

More of the Music of Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

Sonic Grade: F

Obviously our customers know by now that a Hot Stamper London or Decca pressing is going to be far better than the Anadisq MoFi cut in the mid ’90s.

How much better?

Words fail me.

Their record was a complete disaster. Perhaps some of the MoFi collectors didn’t notice because they had nothing to compare to it. 

God forbid they would ever lower themselves to buy as common a pressing as a London. Had they done so, what they would have heard is huge amounts of musical information that is simply nowhere to be found on the MoFi.

There is a place on this album, I failed to note exactly where, in which a group of tubas play a descending scale that is somewhat buried in the mix. On the London, they can clearly be heard and recognized as tubas. On the MoFi, I don’t think they can be heard except as some general group of low notes, and anyone thinking that they were tubas would be guessing, the sound is that murky, muddy, and ill-defined.

Robert Pincus once left a Post-It note stuck to the MoFi jacket of a copy he was playgrading for me that rather pithily summed up our thoughts on the quality of their mastering: “Did MoFi bother to listen to this before they ruined it?”

It’s positively shameful. This music is so good! On top of that, it’s custom made for audiophiles. Audiophiles are the ones who can appreciate the new colors Herrmann created, using what a wise man once called the single greatest instrument ever invented: the symphony orchestra.

Was It Even Possible for Harry Pearson to Create a Meaningful Super Disc List?

Hot Stamper Pressings of TAS Super Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Records that Have No Business Being on the TAS List

A customer brought up Harry Pearson in a discussion we were having about the best sounding records, to wit:

You’re as much a pioneer as Harry Pearson ever was, and your authenticity is unchallengeable…

Even I wouldn’t go that far! We make plenty of mistakes, and we learn new things about records all the time, so calling us “unchallengable” is way off the mark. However, we are always up for the challenge, and are happy to put our records up against any and all comers.

As far as Harry Pearson, I had this to say about the man:

Very kind of you to say. I think Harry could have been much better at his job if he had modern record cleaning technology, better playback, and a staff of people playing thousands of records every year help him discover the best sounding pressings.

No one can succeed as a one man show in audio. Audio is too complicated. It takes a team of dedicated professionals with expertise in every area of audio and record collecting to do it right.

He never understood stampers and the like because he didn’t have the research staff to get the data he would have needed to find the stamper patterns.

He was stuck at the level of labels, and also not nearly skeptical enough of the idea that “the original is better,” a myth audiophiles cling to to this very day. That, and the superiority of the Heavy Vinyl remaster, which we both know is a crock of sh*t. (more…)

Satie / Parade – The Eccentric Erik Satie

This contains various works by Satie as performed by Camarata, Bernard Herrmann, London Philharmonic and The London Festival Players.

Obviously these were Phase 4 recordings which have been compiled on this album from 1973. The sound is quite good: very transparent and lively. It does not have the tubey magic that the best of the Golden Age recordings so often have in abundance, but the tonal balance is correct and the overall sound is quite good.

This album contains many of Satie’s most famous works on one LP. I can’t imagine that you will find this music easy to come by on other pressings.