_Composers – Liszt

Tchaikovsky – Classic Records and the TAS List

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We used to like the Classic Records pressing of LSC 2241 a lot more than we do now. Our system was noticeably darker and apparently far less revealing when we last auditioned the Classic back in the 90s, and those two qualities did most of the heavy lifting needed to disguise its shortcomings. We mistakenly noted:

HP put the Shaded Dog pressing (the only way it comes; there is no RCA reissue to my knowledge) on his TAS List of Super Discs, and with good reason: it’s wonderful!

The rest of our commentary still holds up though:

But for some reason he also put the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl reissue on the list, and that record’s not even passable, let alone wonderful. It’s far too lean and modern sounding, and no original Living Stereo record would ever sound that way, thank goodness. 

If they did few audiophiles would still be paying the top dollar collector prices that the Shaded Dog commands to this day.

Updated Thoughts on the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl Reissue

The Classic on Heavy Vinyl (LSC 2241) is lean and modern sounding. No early Living Stereo pressing sounds like it in our experience, and we can only thank goodness for that. If originals and early reissues did sound more like the Classic pressings, my guess is that few would collect them and practically no one would put much sonic stock in them.

Apparently most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of the quality of a good original pressing (or good ’60s or ’70s reissue). If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and recognized and identified as such by us way back in 1994.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.


Where Cheap Turntables Fall Flat – The Music of Franz Liszt

More Classical and Orchestral Music

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Classical music is unquestionably the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge setup.

The Liszt Piano Concerto record you see pictured is a superb choice for making small adjustments to your setup in order to improve the playback of these very difficult to reproduce orchestral recordings.

Here are some other reviews and commentaries touching on these areas of turntable setup.

One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that could help you see the sound quality your tens of thousands of dollars has bought you.

It has been my experience that cheap tables more often than not collapse completely under the weight of a mighty record such as this.

As for the music, I don’t know of a piano concerto record that more correctly captures the relationship between the piano and the orchestra. The piano here is huge and powerful, yet at the same time, the percussive and lighter qualities are clearly expressed in relation to the entire orchestra. In addition, there are places on this album where the brass is as powerful and dynamic as I’ve ever heard on record.

Many of these would make great test discs.

Lately we have been writing quite a bit about how pianos are good for testing your system, room, tweaks, electricity and all the rest, not to mention turntable setup and adjustment.

  • We like our pianos to sound natural (however one chooses to define the term).
  • We like them to be solidly weighted.
  • We like them to be free of smear, a quality that is rarely mentioned in the audiophile record reviews we read but is easily audible on the smear-free equipment we use.

Skip the Mercury

The title originally came out as a Mercury, the work of Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart, mastered by George Piros, the legendary Mercury team of renown. It is instructive to note that this Philips mastering is clearly superior to the mediocre Mercury mastering, which may be counterintuitive, but is demonstrably true nonetheless.

Which is why we actually listen to the records we sell here at Better Records, because you can’t judge a record by its credentials — you must play it.


Liszt / Smetana / Mussorgsky – Les Préludes / The Moldau / Night On Bald Mountain / Dorati

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

More Recordings on Mercury

  • Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout, this original copy will show you just how good the Mercury engineers were back in those days
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • Dorati breathes life into these concert hall favorites as only he can, and the Mercury engineers (Fine and Eberenz) capture the excitement on tape as only they can
  • We have a preference for Dorati’s recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, and a record like this will show you exactly why we do
  • Smetana’s The Moldau and Mussorgsky’s A Night On Bald Mountain take up all of this Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and are close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winners
  • The exciting sound of Mercury lives on through the vintage disc they made all those years ago – you can forget the idea that anybody will come along and produce sound of this quality
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this LP from 1960 belongs in your collection


Liszt / Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • A vintage Philips import pressing of these Classical Masterpieces that boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, pressed on vinyl that’s about as quiet as we can find it
  • The finest Liszt 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos we know of for their performances, and unquestionably for sonics (when the sonics are this good!)
  • The better pressings of this title are more like live music than any classical recording you own (outside of one of our Hot Stamper pressings, of course; those can be every bit as good) or your money back
  • So big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording

*NOTE: Unlike Concerto No. 1, The Second Piano Concerto opens very quietly, so there will likely never be a vintage pressing of the album that will get that opening to play like a CD. Expect to hear some random ticks, a small price to pay to hear this wonderful performance on top quality analog.

Richter and Kondrashin deliver the finest Liszt 1st & 2nd Piano Concertos I know of, musically, sonically and in every other way. Richter’s performance here is alternately energetic and lyrical, precisely as the work demands. The recording itself is explosively dynamic. The brass is unbelievably full, rich and powerful. You won’t find a better recording of this music anywhere, and this pressing just cannot be beat.

Big and rich (always a problem with piano recordings: you want to hear the percussive qualities of the instrument, but few copies can pull it off without sounding thin). We love the BIG, FAT, Tubey Magical sound of this recording! The piano is solid and powerful — like a real piano.

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

Falla / Ritual Fire Dance – Entremont

More Columbia Classical Recordings

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

  • Philippe Entremont’s delightful 1967 release returns with superb sound on both sides
  • It’s solid and weighty like no other, with less smear, situated in the biggest space, with the most energetic performances
  • These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully present piano and plenty of 3-D space around it
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • Dynamic, huge, lively, transparent and natural – with a record this good, your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all


Witches’ Brew – Our First Shootout Winner in 16 Years

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

  • This original Shaded Dog pressing of the New Symphony Orchestra of London’s performance of these classical warhorses boasts INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound from first first note to last
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • These sides are doing everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and have depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings that Living Stereo made possible in the ’50s and early ’60s is clearly evident throughout these pieces, something that the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern records

Demonstration Quality Sound, of a sort. As I’ve said elsewhere on the site, this is not my idea of natural tonality. It’s not trying to be a realistic recreation of music performed in the concert hall. It’s a blockbuster to be impressive when played on an audio system in your home. On that level is succeeds.

The excerpt on side 1 from Pictures at an Exhibition and the complete A Night on Bare Mountain are both played with a kind of energy and orchestral technical quality that makes these pieces come alive right in your living room.

The entire side 2 is outstanding from start to finish.

Only the Arnold piece on this record is not particularly inspiring, although it does have excellent sound.

All in all, an amazing group of warhorses given a fresh reading by Alexander Gibson and the New Symphony Orchestra of London.


Liszt / Les Preludes / Mehta

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta

This London UK pressing from 1967 has excellent sound on both sides. Some of what we’ve always liked about Decca/London from the period (mid- to late-’60s, in this case 1967) can be heard on this pressing: transparency; the texture on the strings; the natural timbre of the instruments.  

These London pressings are quite hard to find in our experience. The music is wonderful throughout, perhaps the reason that so few of these have found their way to the record bins here in L.A. 

Here Mehta is conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, not to be confused with the recordings he made in Los Angeles with the L.A. Philharmonic in Royce Hall.

A Word about Mehta and the L.A. Phil

Unlike many audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them, we have never been impressed by the recordings Zubin Mehta made with the L.A. Philharmonic.

In a review of another Mehta recording, we noted:

They almost always suffer from exactly the same problems that we heard on this album. We had about five copies on hand in preparation for a shootout, some of which I had noted seemed to sound fine, but once we listened more critically we started to hear the problems that eventually caused us to abandon the shootout and give away the stock to our good customers for free.

The exceptionally rare copy of Mehta’s Planets can sound good, but 90% of them do not — just don’t make the mistake of telling that to the average audiophile who owns one. Harry told him it was the best, he paid good money for it, and until someone tells him different it had better be “the one Planets to own.” (In Harry’s defense, Previn’s recording of the work for EMI is also on the TAS list, just not at the top with the Best of the Bunch.)

We see one of our roles here at Better Records as being the guys who actually will “tell you different,” and, more importantly, can back up our opinions with the records that support our case.

This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.


Witches’ Brew on Classic Records and How Crazy Wrong We Were, Part Two

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Witches’ Brew

As I noted in Part One of this commentary, I promised to find my old blurb for the Classic pressing of Witches’ Brew from the catalog I sent out for years in the mid-’90s.

Well, I found it.

The excerpt from the earlier commentary seen below gets to the heart of the problem with my (embarrassing) review.

“With an Old School Audio System you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled thirty and forty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings, there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it.”


I apparently had one of those systems in the ’90s, because my system sure wasn’t doing a very good job of showing me how awful the Classic pressing of Witches’ Brew was.

Also, my guess that the Classic pressing was 10db more dynamic is risible. That number was clearly plucked out of thin air by someone who didn’t know what he was talking about (10db is a lot).

I will take some solace from my comment that  “90% of the magic of the original is here,” which means that even in 1994 I could hear that Bernie’s cutting system had problems reproducing the Tubey Magical Living Stereo sound that was all the rage at the time, mostly owing to Harry Pearson’s listing so many RCA’s on his Super Disc List.

And, although we still like Gibson’s reading of the work, these days our favorite performance of Danse Macabre is this one on EMI, one we only discovered about five years ago. It’s one advantage to being in the record business. You get to play lots and lots of records, and playing large numbers of records is practically the only way to find the ones that are even better than the ones you know.

Below you will find our old commentary detailing the shortcomings of the Classic Records pressing, a record I liked just fine in 1994, but whose sound I would find intolerable less than ten years later.

Making mistakes is key to making progress. We appear to have made quite a bit of progress after 1994, and in order to do the shootouts we began to undertake seriously starting in 2004, it was clear we needed to. In those early days it was sometimes a struggle, but we worked hard and made many important improvements to the quality of our playback and record cleaning, because we had to.

Admitting to your mistakes is also important, and we’ve done plenty of that in the past as well.

Our Review from Circa 2005

If this isn’t the perfect example of a Pass/Not-Yet record, I don’t know what would be.


Witches’ Brew on Classic Records and How Crazy Wrong We Were, Part One

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Witches’ Brew

Below you will find our review from the 2000-something for the Classic Records’ pressing. Clearly I did not care for it. In my mind I had never liked it.

However, in moving to Georgia this year (2022), I was digging through some old catalogs from the early Nineties, and something I read in one of them chilled me to the bone. There it was in black and white: my rave review for the Classic Witches’ Brew. Here it is on the front page of the catalog, along with at least one other record that I would be embarrassed to sell today: the OJC pressing of Saxophone Colossus.

As soon as I find my review in the old catalog, I will post it. I can hardly believe I wrote it, but I did. I wrote all my catalogs back then, so the extent of my incompetence is undeniable.

Below you will find our old commentary detailing the shortcomings of the Classic, a record I liked just fine in 1994, but whose sound I would find intolerable less than ten years later.

I thought my stereo was awesome in 1994, but it should be obvious to anyone that it was not nearly as awesome as I thought it was. It was better than any system I had heard in a stereo salon, audio show or friend’s house, but that has always been a pretty low bar, and it may even be lower now than it was back then.

I’ve written a bit about the limitations of my ’90s system here.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is real, and I clearly suffered from it. In 1994 I had been a fairly dedicated audiophile for more than twenty years, and a strongly opiniated audiophile record dealer who took pride in his curated offerings for seven of those years. I thought I knew what I was talking about. Looking back, I clearly had a lot to learn. We did our first shootout ten years later, and that’s when our real education began.

Our Old Review

Please to enjoy.

If this isn’t the perfect example of a Pass/Not-Yet record, I don’t know what would be.

I’ve long held that the remastering of this album is nothing less than a crime against music lovers and audiophiles of every stripe. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that Witches’ Brew needed.

At the risk of insulting some of you out there, if you think the Classic Records version of this album sounds good, your system must be some combination of low-rez, dull and bass shy, or you must like really hi-fi-ish sound.

There is no way that that record should ever sound good on a full-range system that’s reasonably revealing and tonally accurate.

I’ve heard this record played by people attempting to demonstrate the brilliant sound of their system, a demonstration which nearly caused blood to run from my ears. All the while they stood there with a big grin on their face, so pleased with the sound.

I don’t understand how anyone can put up with that kind of sound, but obviously people do.  People like lots of things I don’t like, and the Classic record is just one more to add to that list. 

Classic Records pressings may have been mastered by one of the greats, Bernie Grundman, but he was well past his prime, as we explain here.

More Classic Bashing

Classic Records ruined this album, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has played their classical reissues.

Their version is dramatically more aggressive than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played.

The strings are exceptionally shrill and screechy even by Classic’s standards. True, the original is not the smoothest, sweetest recording Decca ever made, but what Classic did was take Decca’s sound and amplify its shortcomings.

(The other poster boy for shrill strings is Classic’s remastering of LSC 1806. A review will be coming eventually.)

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording. If they had, Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases.

We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop buying them in 2007.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you, dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts: because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.


Rachmaninoff / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Records We’ve Discovered

We found 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.

All of which adds up to a top quality piano recording in every way.