_Composers – Massenet

Massenet / Le Cid – This Blueback Was Awful

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842-1912)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Sonic Grade: F

Don’t buy into that record collector/audiophile canard that the originals are always the best sounding pressings.

This original Blueback pressing — true, we only had the one, so take it for what it’s worth — was a complete disaster: shrill, with no top or bottom to speak of, the very definition of boxy sound.

Our current favorite for sound and performance is the one Fremaux conducted for EMI in 1971.

It had been on the TAS List for some time, but we confess we didn’t bother finding out how good it was until about five years ago when it became clear to us what a wonderful conductor Louis Fremaux could be.

Here are some other Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that we like.

Back to London

The sound of the London original you see above was much too unpleasant to be played on high quality modern equipment. There are quite a number of others that we’ve run into over the years with similar shortcomings.

A stereo that looks like the console below — or one that sounds like an old console even though it has new components, there are plenty of those out there in audiophile land — is perfect for all your Bad Sounding Golden Age Recordings.

Or you could get that old console sound by powering your system with the Mac 30s you see below. They are very good at hiding the faults of old records (and plenty of new ones too).

Our Pledge of Service to You, the Discriminating Audiophile 

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a free public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this album in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (Some records in the Hall of Shame have sound that was passable but the music was not up to our standards, or some combination of the two.  These are also records that audiophiles can safely avoid.)

Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult

  • This rich, sweet and full-bodied UK pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Side one gives you not only a wonderful Clair De Lune, but a number of shorter works by Faure, Massenet and Elgar as well, with side two highlighted by meditative pieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky and others
  • We can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound – this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
  • It’s the same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included
  • The other main difference between the Living Stereo pressing on our Decca here is that the Decca has better sound

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

The 1959 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

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Bizet / Saint-Saens / Gounod, et al. – Ballet Highlights From French Opera

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

    • With top grades on both sides, this original Mercury stereo pressing of these renowned ballet works features some of the BEST sound we’ve heard from Paray
    • Listen to the lush strings and the overall weighty, rich sound on the Massenet piece on side two – that is the sound of a Shootout Winning pressing
    • The Ballet Music from Faust may just give the impossibly rare RCA (LSC 2449) a run for its money in terms of sound and performance
    • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
    • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
    • If you’re a fan of delightful orchestral showpieces such as these ballet highlights, this LP from 1961 belongs in your collection
    • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Massenet / Le Cid – Sonic Pros and Cons

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

About ten years ago we reviewed a copy of the album that had a sub-optimal side two, a side two that suffered from screechy string tone. Since that time we’ve made a number of improvements to our cleaning regimen and playback system, and the result has been that our last couple of shootouts went off without a hitch, showing us string tone that was virtually free of screechiness. (The Greensleeves reissues never had much of a screechy strings problem as they tend to be mastered on the smooth side. They are more forgiving of second-rate playback in that respect, but they can also never win shootouts with that overly smooth sound.)

Problem solved! The records were fine, we just could not play them back then as well as we can now. In 2012, ten years ago, I had been selling records to audiophiles professionally for 25 years. I had owned a State of the Art system for 37 years.

But I knew I still had plenty to learn, and I kept at it. After a decade’s worth of tweaking and tuning, the strings of this recording started to sound the way Stuart Eltham and his fellow engineers surely wanted them to.

A True Super Disc

This is a record that clearly belongs on a Super Disc list. If Harry hadn’t already put it there we certainly would have.

We would love to compile a Super Disc list of our own, but unless you have just the right copy of whatever title you find on the list, you may not have anything like Super Disc sound quality, so why a list at all? It creates more problems for audiophiles than it solves.

Both sides of this TAS List disc contain audiophile Must Own Demonstration pieces, full of Tubey Magic, powerful dynamics, real depth, lifelike ambience, and uncannily accurate instrumental timbres, especially from the woodwinds. Add explosive dynamics and deep bass and you have yourself a genuine audiophile recording.

The sound is so rich you will not believe you are listening to an EMI. If more EMI records sounded like this we would be putting them on the site left and right. Unfortunately, in our experience the majority are thin, shrill and vague. Not so here!

Side One – Le Cid

A+++, so much bigger and livelier than the other copies we played. Huge size and scope, with an extended top, good texture to the strings, and lower strings that are rich and rosiny in the best tradition of vintage Deccas and RCAs.

As it stands it is clearly a Demo Disc of real power. It’s smooth and natural, which means you can really turn it up if you want that front row center seat.

Side Two – Scenes Pittoresques / The Last Sleep of the Virgin

A+ to A++, good, just clearly not as good as this amazing side one. It’s big, rich and spacious — 3-D in fact — but the string tone is not as warm and textured as it should be.

Which means it has some of that typically screechy EMI String Sound one hears on their recordings.

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Debussy / Clair de Lune – Compare and Contrast Sides One and Two

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

This Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, if what you’re demonstrating is not a Hi-Fi spectacular, but rather a sublime presentation of an exceptionally sweet and natural string section in an orchestra, presented here on analog disc pressed more than sixty years ago.  

I can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound. This record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers were able to capture on tape, and the RCA mastering engineers were able to master from that tape.

Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it’s a superb example of Living Stereo Tubey Magic at its best. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the space, transparency, sweetness and richness of the sound here.

Side Two

A++ to A+++ or better! Without more copies in hand it’s hard to know how good the sound can get, but we found it Hard To Fault (HTF).

This side has more extension up top and down low and more texture to the strings.

Side One

A++, although it starts out a bit weaker than that and only really gets good a few minutes into the side. (We hear this effect fairly often on the records we play. Noticing things like this is what we do for a living.)

There is some smear and it is slightly opaque as well.

You will hear what we mean when you flip it over and those two problems disappear.

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Massenet / Le Cid Ballet Music / Fremaux

More of the music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This shockingly well recorded orchestral recording returns to the site on vintage British EMI import vinyl with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • So much bigger and livelier than the other copies we played, with an extended top, rosiny texture to the strings, and lower strings that are rich and vibrant in the best tradition of vintage Deccas and RCAs
  • A Demo Disc of real power with huge size and scope – it’s smooth and natural, which means you can really turn it up if you want that front row center seat
  • Let’s give credit where credit is due – Stuart Eltham is an immensely talented recording engineer and this is unquestionably some of his finest work
  • This Orchestral Spectacular should be part of any serious Classical Collection
  • Others that belong in that category can be found here

This is a record that clearly belongs on a Super Disc list; if Harry hadn’t already put it there we certainly would have. (We would love to compile a Super Disc list of our own, but unless you have just the right copy of whatever title you find on the list, you may not have anything like Super Disc sound quality, so why a list at all? It creates more problems for audiophiles than it solves.)

Both sides of this TAS List disc contain audiophile Must Own Demonstration pieces, full of Tubey Magic, powerful dynamics, real depth, lifelike ambience, and uncannily accurate instrumental timbres, especially from the woodwinds. Add explosive dynamics and deep bass and you have yourself a genuine audiophile recording.

The sound is so rich you will not believe you are listening to an EMI. If more EMI records sounded like this we would be putting them on the site left and right. Unfortunately, in our experience the majority are thin, shrill and vague. Not so here!

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Rabin / The Magic Bow – Another TAS List Oversight?

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

This original Capitol record with Michael Rabin is ONE OF THE VERY BEST VIOLIN RECORDINGS we have ever played here at Better Records. The sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The immediacy of the violin tone is unbelievable — Rabin is in the room with you throughout the entirety of the record in a way that few recordings in our experience could hope to equal.

What more can we say, other than the music is every bit as good as the sound. If you love the Classical Romantic period, and who doesn’t?, these selections will have you in a world of sound and music rarely matched by anything but the best in live performance.

Another TAS List Oversight

This is another record that is not on the TAS List, but would certainly take top honors in a head to head shootout with any of the violin works to be found there.

TAS List Super Discs with Hot Stampers

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

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Massenet on Klavier – Now With Added Smile Curve

Klavier Is a Label Audiophiles Should Avoid at Any Price

This Is yet Another Pressing Perfectly Suited to the Stereos of the Past

Sonic Grade: F

This hi-fi-ish Doug Sax/ Acoustic Sounds butchering of Fremaux’s performance from 1971 is insufferable.

Can this possibly be the sound that EMI engineer Stuart Eltham was after?

Back in the day, audiophiles in droves bought this pressing from all the major mail order audiophile record dealers (you know who I’m talking about), apparently not noticing the overblown bass and spark-spark-sparkling top end. 

Perhaps the same audiophiles who think that Mobile Fidelity makes good sounding records? It would not surprise me. Same wine, different bottle.

The Smile Curve

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you should know by now that many audiophile records sound worse than the typical CD. The typical CD does not have an equalization curve resembling a smile. The classic smile curve starts up high on the left, gets low in the middle, and rises again at the end, resulting in boosted bass, boosted top end, and a sucked out midrange — the Mobile Fidelity formula in a nutshell.

If your system needs boosted bass and highs, perhaps because your speakers are too small, well, I suppose you could try this Klavier pressing.

Here’s a better idea. Fix your stereo so you won’t need phony audiophile records like this one to make it sound good.

FURTHER READING

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Either of the two records shown will be dramatically better sounding than the Klavier pressing.

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Massenet / Le Cid Ballet – A Good Speakers Corner Decca

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds.

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

Finally a version of Le Cid that we can enjoy! Superb sound with a performance to match!

No more suffering through the hi-fi-ish Doug Sax/ Acoustic Sounds rebutchering of the Fremaux on Klavier.  

Audiophiles in droves bought into that one, apparently not noticing the overblown bass and spark-spark-sparkling top end. Thankfully we now have this Decca from Speakers Corner to demonstrate proper orchestral balance.

If your system needs boosted bass and highs, keep the Klavier. If it doesn’t this Decca will allow you to forget about the sound and enjoy this lovely music.

Massenet / Le Cid / Martinon – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Superb Super Hot Stamper sound for Les Patineurs, and the Le Cid is just a step behind at A+ to A++. We had a copy of the famous Greeensleeves pressing for our shootout, along with a number of Londons, and this Stereo Treasury had the highest overall sonic grades of all of them. The original Blueback pressing — true, we only had the one, so take it for what it’s worth — was a complete disaster: shrill, with no top or bottom to speak of.

Both these pieces are audiophile Must Own Demonstration pieces, full of depth, ambience, and wonderfully correct instrumental timbres, especially from the woodwinds. Add explosive dynamics and deep bass and you have yourself a genuine audiophile recording.   (more…)