_Composers – Prokofiev

Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

More on the Subject of Tubes in Audio

xxxxx

What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness.

We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI the way they did back in the ’70s. Harry Pearson loved many of their recordings, but I sure didn’t.  To this day, some of the records on the TAS List seem to me better suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s than the modern systems of today.

I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the four basics:

  • the limitations of the equipment,
  • bad setups,
  • bad rooms, and
  • poor record cleaning

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s such as McIntosh, Marantz, etc. — I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that exist today.

Today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

The more revealing, more accurate systems of today are in fact what make it possible for us to do our job.

We used to not do it as well, and we talk about it in our Live and Learn section.

You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like. They should sound amazing on your system and in your room, and we stand behind that claim with a 100% Money Back Guarantee. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record is correct. All you need to do is play it back properly.

With each improvement you make in your system, the kinds of high quality pressings we sell — we call them Hot Stampers — will continue to reveal better and better sound in their grooves.

This is not true for the Modern Heavy Vinyl reissue. The better a system gets, the more the faults of those pressings come to light.  This typically sad story is one that is all too common with our customers. (more…)

Gresham’s Law and The State of Reviewing As Seen by Us in 2015

More Living Stereo Recordings

xxxxx

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this had better sound than the albums from which they were taken, proof that they were listening critically and comparing pressings.

What happened to reviewers of that caliber?

I can tell you what happened to them: they left audio, driven out according to the principle that underlies Gresham’s Law: bad reviewers drive out good ones. Which leaves you with the type that can’t tell how truly awful most modern Heavy Vinyl Reissues are. A sad state of affairs if you ask me, but one that no longer impacts our business as we simply don’t bother to buy, sell or play most of them.

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.


This reasonably quiet RCA Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND on BOTH sides. It is without a doubt THE best sounding copy we have ever heard*.

White Hot, with some of the best 1959 Living Stereo we’ve ever heard. Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other. When “in -the-know” audiophiles discuss soundstaging and depth, they had better be talking about a record that sounds like this. Shockingly real – proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than we normally assume.  (more…)

Grieg / Piano Concerto and Favorite Encores / Wallenstein

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

xxxxx

More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection available on our site

  • This superb album of Grieg’s piano music returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish on this fairly quiet Shaded Dog pressing
  • These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and plenty of 3-D space around all of the players
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof
  • “But Grieg’s Concerto is much more than a vehicle for pianistic virtuosity. It has been described as a “tone poem for piano and orchestra” in which an array of colors and moods unfolds. From the beginning of the first movement’s first theme, the piano and the instruments of the orchestra enter into an almost constant dialogue.”

This Shaded Dog pressing is exceptionally lively and dynamic. The sound is BIG and BOLD enough to fill up your listening room and then some. The piano is clean and clear, and the strings are rich and textured. Artur Rubinstein’s performance of this wonderful work is superb, as is his performance of the shorter coupling works on side two.

Living Stereo MAGIC. This is wonderfully recorded music. It has a very natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone. It also boasts a correctly-sized piano, which is quite unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings. (more…)

Mendelssohn and Prokofiev – Violin Concertos / Heifetz / Munch

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Superb Recordings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

xxxxx

  • This wonderful Living Stereo pressing makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too
  • These performances by Heifetz and the Boston Symphony under the baton of Charles Munch are some of the best we’ve ever heard – Heifetz is on fire with passion for these exciting pieces

No violin concerto recording can be considered to have the real Living Stereo sound if the violin isn’t right, and fortunately this violin is very very right, with the kind of rosiny texture and immediacy that brings the music to life right in your very own listening room.

The Prokofiev concerto is a longtime member of the TAS Super Disc List. (more…)

Sergei Prokofiev – Scythian Suite and Lt. Kije / Abbado

xxxxx

  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful LP boasts our favorite performances for both of these popular 20th century works
  • Big, clear, present and transparent, with a HUGE bottom end, this is some Demo Disc sound all right
  • When the brass is the way it is here – rich and clear, not thin and shrill – you have yourself a top quality DG pressing

(more…)

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite / Dorati on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

xxxxx

The standard Classic Records failings are as obvious and as irritating on this remaster as they are on practically all of the others.

  • A lack of ambience.
  • Smeary and hard strings.
  • A lack of Tubey Magic.
  • Overall veiled and recessed presentation.

The Bottom line: This is not a good sounding record.

It should go without saying that the real Mercury pressing is none of these things.

It has long been our judgment that Classic Records made very few good records. Why should this one be any different?

These Mercury releases apparently fooled a lot of audiophiles though.  Allow me to quote a writer with his own website devoted to explaining and judging classical recordings of all kinds. His initials are A.S. for those of you who have been to his site.

Classic Records Reissues (both 33 and 45 RPM) – These are, by far, the best sounding Mercury pressings. Unfortunately, only six records were ever released by Classic. Three of them (Ravel, Prokofiev and Stravinsky) are among the very finest sounding records ever made by anyone. Every audiophile (with a turntable) should have these “big three.”

Obviously we could not disagree more. I’ve played all six of the Classic Mercurys. The Ravel and Prokofiev titles are actually even worse than the Stravinsky we reviewed here on the blog.

(more…)

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite / Dorati

xxxxx

Huge hall space, wonderfully textured strings – it’s easy to forget just how REAL a recording like this from 1957 can sound. With almost none of the Mercury nasality on the strings or the brass, we were knocked out by the sound and, of course, the legendary performance.

My notes for side one read:

Big hall!

Transparent!

Zero smear!

Dynamic!

Huge Bass!

Realistic!

If that sounds like the kind of record you would like to play for yourself, here it is.

The Scythian Suite was also very good but it seems to get a bit congested (tape overload? compressor overload?) on the loudest parts. It does sound amazing in the quieter passages. It’s not distorted, just brash. It’s very dynamic of course, as is side one. That’s Mercury’s sound.

This was obviously a record the previous owner did not care for. We acquired a copy of LSC 2449 in the same batch, but unfortunately that was a record the owner must have loved — it’s just plain worn out. (We kept it as a reference copy for a future shootout which, considering how rare the record is, may never come to pass.)

In the heyday of the ’90s, when these records were all the rage, this copy would have sold for at least $1000 and probably more. And the copy that sold for that would have been very unlikely to sound as good as this one, if only for the fact that cleaning technologies have advanced so much over the last ten years or so. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter and the Wolf – Sargent

xxxxx

SUPERB SOUND! This Orange and Black label British pressing has sweet strings, powerful dynamics, plenty of depth and a wide soundstage.

It’s major faults are a lack of deep bass and some congestion during loud passages.

Sir Ralph Richardson makes a wonderful narrator — the sound of his voice is priceless.

But the real attraction is the First Symphony, commonly known as the Classical Symphony. Sargent plays it with VERVE! He brings energy and excitement to this work. The London Symphony is at the top of their game as well; they play with the precision required to bring the work off with aplomb.

It’s hard to find a good Prokofiev First, and since this is my all time favorite piece of classical music, if you don’t have one, this is a good place to start. 

[We prefer the Previn on EMI but this one is very good and easily found in record stores.]

Prokofiev / Concerto #3 / Hendl – An Old Review of the TAS List Favorite

xxxxx

Good piano tone and dynamic too. Side two is not as good. It’s more compressed and smeared, but not too badly. If side one gets a 10, side two gets a 7 or so.

Performed by Van Cliburn, pianist, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Hendl. This performance also includes MacDowell’s ”Concerto #2”.

Prokofiev / Lt. Kije / Abbado (45 RPM) – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

xxxxx

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly.   

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

When a particular pressing we’re auditioning takes the recording to a level significantly higher than our expectations, it gets our attention, big time. This can only happen with a record we know well. We thought we knew how good Lt. Kije on Japanese 45 could sound but we were wrong — this pressing is clearly better than the copy we would be proud to call White Hot, which means this one deserves an impossible sonic rating of eleven on a scale of one to ten.

Forget the logic. It’s not about that, it’s about the sound and the music, and we make no apologies for calling this copy Beyond White Hot. It blew our minds.

This pressing fulfills the promise of the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. We had a pile of these 45s to play through. When we came upon this one halfway through our shootout, it was so big, so clear, so dynamic, so energetic, so extended on the top and bottom, we almost could not believe what we were hearing, especially compared to the others copies we played. There are very few records with dynamics that can compare with these.

With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. Once the needle has dropped you will quickly forget about the sound and simply find yourself in the presence of some of the greatest musicians of their generation captured on some of the greatest analog recordings of all time. (more…)