_Composers – Prokofiev

’70s EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

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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 as a label the way they did back the day. 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 limitations of the equipment we were using, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — 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 are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, 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. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

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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 as a label the way they did back the day. 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 limitations of the equipment, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — 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 are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, 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. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper pressing (on BOTH sides!) contains one of my favorite performances of the Classical Symphony, and it also carries the distinction of having the best combination of sonics and performance that we have ever heard on vinyl. (There is a recording by Previn and the LA Phil from 1986 with a performance To Die For; unfortunately it comes with the kind of mid-’80s tear-your-head-off-digital shrillness that makes the CD medium the worn out joke we analog lovers know it to be.) 

The First Symphony happens to be one of my favorite classical works of all time, right up there with The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition. I wouldn’t want to go to a desert island without all three.

This WHS pressing has exceptional transparency and dynamics, allowing the energy and precision of the performance to shine through. Truly a sublime recording that belongs in any music collection, whether you’re a fan of classical music or not.

If I had to choose one piece of classical music that I would never want to live without, it would have to be the Prokofiev’s First Symphony found on this very side one. It’s a work of such joy that I’ve never failed to be uplifted by it — except when the performance is too slow, which it often is.

This is a difficult piece to pull off. Most of the time either the orchestra is not up to the task or the conductor misunderstands the work. Previn has a spritely take on the piece, which is precisely what it needs and, every bit as important, the London Symphony has the chops to bring his vision to life.

What to Listen for

The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label to the extent that they did back the day. I chock it up, as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, to limited equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning (not to mention underdeveloped critical listening skills. Woops, I guess I just mentioned them.).

If you had Old School vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I had an Audio Research D-75a and later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record would not be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing the record on a much more revealing modern system.

Which is the only kind of system that can tell you what’s really on the record. That’s the kind of stereo we need to do our job; you, of course, have the option of hearing it any way you like on your system. Here is what we heard on this copy. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1957 is our single favorite recording of the work. This copy is a DEMO DISC of the highest order, suitable for permanently destroying the rationale for every audiophile record ever made, simply on the grounds that none of them sound remotely as good as this one does.  

The immediacy and unerringly realistic presentation of the solo instruments — bassoon, oboe, flute, etc. (each of which serves to represent a character in the story) — are so lifelike that I defy anyone to name a recording to challenge our assertion that this is positively As Good As It Gets.

  • Our favorite performance, with wonderful narration by no less than film legend Boris Karloff
  • With WHITE HOT Stamper sound, this copy is a DEMO DISC of the highest order
  • Tubey Magically rich, yet realistic, which is of course an impossibility
  • And it plays Mint Minus – an exceptionally quiet Vanguard pressing

And did I mention that it was made in 1957? You couldn’t even buy it on stereo disc back then! (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein – Reviewed in 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Bernstein and the NY Phil’s performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1961 is one of our favorite recordings of the work here at Better Records, and with better than Super Hot Stamper sound, this copy really brings Prokofiev’s charming musical fable to life.

We had a whole stack of these pressings to play, and this copy came out pretty close to the top. You will have a very hard time finding this piece of music recorded, mastered and pressed with better sound than on this very side one. (more…)

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite / Dorati – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F 

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked. 

Dreadful sound. The Mercury series on Classic is a complete disaster. 

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs but is has since been replaced by another Heavy Vinyl reissue.

“Whether you prefer the fabulous bass dynamics and savage paganism of the Scythian Suite, the colorful and captivating sound-portrait of the fairy tale Love for Three Oranges Suite, Dorati’s super-charged readings of these scores are unsurpassed. Acclaimed by critics and audiophiles alike as among the very best of the best Mercury’s, this dramatic and riveting combination of Prokofiev, Dorati and Mercury Living Presence is a sure winner.” – Classic Records   

Prokofiev / Scythian Suite & The Prodigal Son – Ansermet – Reviewed in 2006

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Scythian Suite & The Prodigal Son – Ansermet

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a London Whiteback LP with SUPERB SOUND on both sides. It’s immediate, dynamic, very low distortion, spacious, and relatively sweet.

The bass deserves special mention here. You rarely hear recordings from the ’50s and early ’60s, the kind of LPs that were mastered with tubes of course, having this kind of truly deep punchy bass. As this album was recorded in ’67 and mastered relatively soon thereafter, the cutting equipment capable of inscribing deep bass onto a slab of vinyl was widely available. For this piece of music it’s almost mandatory to get good solid low end.  (more…)

Prokofiev / Violin Con. #1 & Lalo / Symphonie Espagnole – Milstein – Reviewed in 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Milstein record has exquisite violin tone and of course the performance is magical. These comments only apply to the Lalo on side two. (Side one never sounds good on this album.) 

Prokofiev / Piano Concerto #3 – Graffman – Reviewed in 2008

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Piano Concerto #3 – Graffman

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Plum Label Original pressing is one of the TOP TOP VICTROLA TITLES! The sound is excellent, with real weight to the orchestra, powerful dynamics, deep bass, and solid piano tone. Add to that a wonderful performance by Gary Graffman and the San Francisco Symphony, and you have one truly OUTSTANDING record. (If you can add 1 or 2 db to the top end, it’s even better.)