_Composers – Mendelssohn

Classic Records and Audio Progress

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording reproduced properly. 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.)

UPDATE 8/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started making records back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who are interested.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

Audio Progress

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2011.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing 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.

With an Old School System you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty 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.

One amazing sounding  Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records

Top Quality Classical “Sleeper” Recordings

Best Orchestral Performances with Top Quality Sound

Demo Disc Quality Orchestral Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Mendelssohn and Bruch / The World of the Great Classics, Vol. 3

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • A superb Decca reissue with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • A spectacular Demo Disc Quality Orchestral recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic
  • The violin is so sweet and present, so rich, natural and real, you will forget you’re listening to a record at all
  • The glorious sound of these truly great 1958 All Tube “Decca Tree” recordings from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

(more…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony – Opaque and Crude?

What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

More of the Music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

This is a very old listing, probably from more than ten years ago. With the improved cleaning technologies we currently use, many of these old records sound a whole lot better than they used to.

Still, there are some Deccas and Londons that we cleaned and played recently that were disappointing, and they can be found here.

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca chocolatey, rich, sweet sound. It”s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles. 

The performance here by Maag is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound. If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this London should be right up your alley.

Side One Versus Side Two

With a grade of A+ we felt that the sound was a bit opaque and crude, with some smear to the strings (which in many ways is the classic Decca sound from the era).

For more on the subject of opacity on record, click here and here.

Side two improves on the sound in all these areas.

Side two had less smear and less distortion and congestion than we heard on side one. It’s also even RICHER sounding, if such a thing is possible. More transparent too. A good balance of clarity and richness. 

(more…)

Violin Concertos – Ideal for Testing Table Setup

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

More VTA Advice

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

String Tone

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play, it’s an art that is not being lost on us.

It’s also as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is, of course, all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record any better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many Golden Age records.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay, please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)

VTA and the Violin

This is truly The Perfect Turntable setup disc. When your VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate are correct, this is the record that will make it clear to you that your efforts have paid off.

What to listen for you ask? With the proper adjustment the harmonics of the strings will sound extended and correct, neither hyped up nor dull; the wood body of the instrument will be more audibly “woody”; the fingering at the neck will be noticeable but will not call attention to itself in an unnatural way. In other words, as you adjust your setup, the violin will sound more and more right.

And you can’t really know how right it can sound until you go through hours of experimentation with all the forces that affect the way the needle rides the groove. Without precise VTA adjustment there is almost no way this record will do everything it’s capable of doing. There will be hardness, smear, sourness, thinness — something will be off somewhere. With total control over your arm and cartridge setup, these problems will all but vanish. (Depending on the quality of the equipment of course.)

We harp on all aspects of reproduction for a reason. When you have done the work, records like this sound GLORIOUS.


Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto / Bruch – Scottish Fantasia – Campoli / Boult

More of the music of Max Bruch (1938-1920)

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

  • An excellent London pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • This Stereo Treasury LP may not win shootouts, but it is guaranteed to handily beat the pants off any Heavy Vinyl violin concerto record ever made
  • The Mendelssohn on London (CS 6010) with Ricci is also excellent, but ten times harder to find and quite a bit more expensive if you do
  • The Scottish Fantasy on side two contains some of the best sound we know for the work, close to our favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2603)
  • One of the truly great 1959 All Tube Kenneth Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • Referring to the Mendelssohn, Gramophon noted: “[Campoli’s] virtuosity in the finale are as self-evident as is the excellence of the accompaniment under Sir Adrian Boult. There are many felicitous touches and the distinguished soloist plays magnificently throughout.”
  • If you’re a fan of Campoli’s, this 1959 album belongs in your collection, along with quite a few others, if only we could fine them
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

As can be seen from the grades above, The Scottish Fantasy on side two was not remotely as good sounding as the Mendelssohn on side one. The best pressings for that work came on the London Stereo Treasury label surprisingly enough. As good as those later British pressings were, the best of which earned the full Three Pluses for its side two, none of them had quite the magic of the Mendelssohn found here. (more…)

Mendelssohn and Bruch / Violin Concertos / Ricci

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • With two INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto sound as good as it does here, and the Bruch Concerto on the second side is every bit as good
  • We are fairly strict in our grading for classical records these days – you will have a very hard time finding a vintage pressing that plays this quietly
  • With sonic grades like these, you can be sure this pressing will beat all comers for sound, including the performances by Heifetz, Rybar, and others that have impressed in the past
  • The violin is so sweet and present, so rich, natural and real, you will forget you’re listening to a record at all
  • The glorious sound of these truly great 1958 All Tube “Decca Tree” recordings from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

(more…)

Mendelssohn & Prokofiev / Violin Concertos – On Classic Records

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Sonic Grade: F

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP we found wanting.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

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.)

UPDATE 8/2010

Classic Records has officially gone under. They will not be missed, not by us anyway, except for this reason: to borrow a line from Richard Nixon, I guess we won’t have Classic Records to kick around anymore. We’ve been beating that dead horse since the day they started making records back in 1994. There are scores of commentaries on the site about their awful records for those who are interested.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

Audio Progress

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have somehow managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop carrying them in 2011.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing 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.

With an Old School System you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty 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.

One amazing sounding  Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.

(more…)

Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto / Bruch – Scottish Fantasia – Campoli / Boult

More of the music of Max Bruch (1938-1920)

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

  • This stunning London Blueback LP presents the complete Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work 
  • The Mendelssohn on London (CS 6010) with Ricci is also excellent, but hard to find and expensive if you do
  • The Scottish Fantasy on side two contains some of the best sound we know for the work, close to our favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2603)
  • One of the truly great 1959 All Tube Kenneth Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • Referring to the Mendelssohn, Gramophon noted: “[Campoli’s] virtuosity in the finale are as self-evident as is the excellence of the accompaniment under Sir Adrian Boult. There are many felicitous touches and the distinguished soloist plays magnificently throughout.”
  • If you’re a fan of Campoli’s, this 1959 album belongs in your collection, along with quite a few others, if only we could fine them
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

As can be seen from the grades above, The Scottish Fantasy on side two was not remotely as good sounding as the Mendelssohn on side one. The best pressings for that work came on the London Stereo Treasury label surprisingly enough. As good as those later British pressings were, the best of which earned the full Three Pluses for its side two, none of them had quite the magic of the Mendelssohn found here. (more…)

Mendelssohn / A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Maag

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

  • A spectacular Demo Disc Quality Orchestral recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic
  • The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons simply cannot be equaled
  • Maag’s performance here is famous, and widely considered definitive

Audiophiles have known of this record’s sublime sonic qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly natural recordings such as this one.

Speakers Corner did a reissue of this record on heavy vinyl, which was quite good — too fat in the mid-bass but otherwise acceptable. It sure doesn’t sound like this though!

This is the real thing. You won’t find too many 180 gram records that sound like this one, if you can find any. (more…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony / Maag

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, the equal of the last Blueback pressing we listed (shown in the second picture)
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too
  • There is a rosiny texture to the strings that no record made in the last 30 years can capture, and if you don’t believe me, we offer this pressing as proof

Audiophiles have known of this record’s sublime sonic qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly powerful recordings such as this one.

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca rich, sweet sound. It’s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles.

The performance here by Peter Maag and London Symphony Orchestra is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound.

If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this Decca should be right up your alley. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which Decca recordings are justly famous. (more…)