_Composers – Ravel

Ravel / Piano Concertos / Haas – A Real Sleeper on Philips

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do them again. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more

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This Philips recording from 1970 on exceptionally quiet Dutch vinyl has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one for one of Ravel’s best known piano works, the Piano Concerto in G. Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. (In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the ’70s and ’80s.)

Dropping the needle on this pressing, however, was a pleasant surprise. It’s big and spacious on side one, with zero smear on a piano that is both full and clear.

This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, and the kind of sound we do not hesitate to praise highly here at Better Records.

To us it sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can really work its magic. (more…)

Debussy / Iberia on Classic Records – What, Specifically, Are Its Shortcomings?

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic of LSC 2222 is all but unlistenable on a highly resolving, properly set-up hi-fidelity system.

The opacity, transient smear and loss of harmonic information and ambience found on Classic’s pressing was enough to drive us right up the wall. Who can sit through a record that sounds like that? Way back in 1994, long before we had anything like the system we do now, we were finding fault with the “Classic Records Sound” and said as much in our catalogs.

With each passing year — 26 and counting — we like that sound less.  The Classic may be on Harry’s TAS list — sad but true — but that certainly has no bearing on the fact that it’s not a very good record.

MORE RECORDS GOOD FOR JUDGING THESE QUALITIES

Ambience, Size and Space

Smear

String Tone and Texture

Transparency Vs Opacity

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

More Living Stereo Recordings

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Side one is 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. 

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*. (more…)

Saint-Saens – The Best Danse Macabre on Record

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

More of the music of Paul Dukas (1865-1935)

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894)

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This White Hot EMI pressing has some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard. Man, this copy sure has it going on: it’s super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, with all of the weight of the orchestra down low on both sides.

If you want a classical record to TEST your system, if you want a classical record to DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy.

Debussy – Prelude A L’apres-midi D’un Faune is excellent here as well – it’s a piece we rarely have on the site. (more…)

Ravel / Concerto in G – Munch/ Boston Symphony

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

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DEMO QUALITY SOUND!

Boy does this record ever sound good! It’s alive. Dynamic and immediate, like a good Mercury but with plenty of ambience and sweet strings — the best of both worlds.

This is one of the great RCAs. Classic Records did a passable job with this title, which is about the best they ever do. It’s a far cry from the sound heard here but for those of you who do not want to spend the money, or insist on quiet surfaces, check that one out.

The performance is excellent as well, and of course the Ravel Concerto is a piece of music that belongs in any serious collection. (more…)

Ravel / Karajan Conducts Ravel – Karajan / Orchestre de Paris

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Minty looking EMI LP with quiet vinyl (for EMI anyway) and EXCELLENT SOUND!

I recently purchased a large number of EMI classical pressings from the ’70s, many of which had disappointing sonics. Without paying any attention to this particular record, I threw it on and was pleasantly surprised — it really sounded good! Checking the back of the cover (the old fold-over flap kind) I noted that this recording was from 1963 — of course it sounds great! EMI from that period is often AMAZING. It’s only later, when they got into quadraphonic, that their sound becomes vague, diffuse, hard and even sour. Some of the EMI records on the TAS List can sound that way, which is a real scandal in my opinion.

As for the performances, they are wonderful. This is not a german orchestra. The french know how to play their own music!

This record includes alborada de gracioso, rapsodie espagnole, valses nobles et sentimentales and more.

Satie, Ravel, Debussy / The Impressionists / Herrmann – Phase 4, its Strengths and Shortcomings

More Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

More Recordings on the London Phase IV Label

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Presenting an exceptionally rare and very good sounding Decca Phase IV pressing (with the textured cover, ooh!), the first to ever hit the site. We have been on the lookout for this album for years and somehow cannot find any clean copies, other than this one of course.

Not to worry; this one will do nicely. Three of the six works here have SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound. We went through them one by one and were rather surprised that the sound quality varied so much from track to track.

One might conclude from the variation in the sound that the album must be a compilation — so many of Herrmann’s albums are — but that is not the case, assuming the liner notes are to be believed.

Here’s what we heard, taken directly from our notes.

Side One

Satie / Gympnopedies I & II

A++ or better. Rich, smooth, sweet, big, natural, clear and very ANALOG. I don’t know when I’ve heard these famous works sounding better than they do here.

Debussy / Clair de Lune

A+, rich but a bit smeary, strings need more texture.

Debussy / Valse ‘la Plus Que Lente

No grade – Too murky.

Ravel / Five O’Clock Fox-Trot

A++ to A+++, with Demo Disc sound! So lively and clear, the sound will jump out of your speakers when you play this track! (more…)

Mussorgsky / Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti – performance overview?

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti

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

This White Hot Stamper EMI Two-Pak gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition and the Firebird Suite with TOP PERFORMANCES and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last. It took two separate discs to make it happen, but we managed to find the two copies with sides that matched up in order to bring both of these works to LIFE. 

Much like Steinberg and the BSO’s performance of The Planets, he finds the music in the work that no one else can. (more…)

Mussorgsky & Ravel – Pictures at an Exhibition

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  • An outstanding pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Our favorite performance by far, with BIG, BOLD and POWERFUL sonics like no other recording we know
  • The brass clarity, the dynamics, the deep bass and the sheer power of the orchestra are almost hard to believe
  • No vintage recording of these works compares with Muti’s – and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite is an extra special added bonus on side two

This EMI pressing gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition with a TOP PERFORMANCE and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last.

As this is my All Time Favorite performance of Pictures, this record naturally comes very highly recommended. Pictures is a piece of music that has been recorded countless times, and I’ve played scores of different recordings, but the only one that truly satisfies is this one, Muti’s 1979 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Much like Previn and the LSO’s performance of The Planets, he finds the music in the work that no one else seems to. (more…)

Piano Works of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel / Ivan Moravec – The Only Good Record Athena Ever Made

Athena, not a label we have ever associated with good sound!

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But they did a great job on this album (or at least I thought so many years ago when I played it last. For purposes of this commentary, let’s assume the sound still holds up).

This is how to make a good audiophile record. Yes, there is such a thing. They may be rare but they do exist.

Take a good tape, hire someone who knows his way around a normal-speed cutting lathe (with 5800+ credits on Discogs I would hope he knows what he’s doing) as well as classical music (he cut a huge number of records for Nonesuch back in the day, which means he also can work fast and cheap), press it on good vinyl and let the audiophiles of the world enjoy it.

The Connoisseur Society original may in fact be better, but where are you going to find one?

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