_Composers – Ravel

Destination Stereo and the State of Reviewing As We See It

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Your Destination — Stereo!

“Your passport to great music in new sound by the world’s greatest artists.”

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*.

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 many assume. 

This record is designed to show off the Living Stereo sound at its best and it succeeds magnificently. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record much better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is as good as it gets, folks.

The State of Reviewing

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this often 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.

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Debussy – Images for Orchestra / Ansermet

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

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

  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this Unboxed Decca Stereo pressing, cut by none other than Ted Burkett
  • These sides are Tubey Magical, full-bodied and three-dimensional, with plenty of space around all the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
  • The London pressing of this recording is also very good, but for those of you who simply must have the original Decca, you will have a hard time finding one that sounds as good and plays as quietly as this copy
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, and for recordings of Debussy, that is quiet indeed

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The Reiner Sound – A Demo Disc for Energy, Dynamics and Top End

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Music Conducted by Fritz Reiner

This review was written in 2010. I don’t think we have found a Reiner Sound as nice as this one since then.

Wow, the first nice Reiner Sound on Shaded Dog to make it to our site. Why? Because the few copies we’ve run across that looked decent enough to clean and play were just too noisy to enjoy. Not many copies have survived the bad turntables of their day with all their top end and inner grooves intact, but we’re proud to say that this one has! 

This former TAS List record really surprised us on two counts. First, you will not believe how DYNAMIC the recording is. Of all the classical recordings we’ve played lately I would have to say this is THE MOST DYNAMIC of them all. 

I really don’t have the wattage to handle the explosively loud sections of these wonderful works, with their huge orchestral effects, dynamic contrasts that are clearly part of the composer’s intentions but ones that rarely make it from the concert hall to vinyl disc the way they do here. 

Second, there is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on this record. Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top. Again, it has to be some of the best I have heard recently.

This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a proper system. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.

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Mark Levinson / Acoustic Recording Series, Volume 2 – Reviewed in 2008

A good sounding audiophile record? Yes, it is possible, we would never deny it.

In fact, we actually sell some of the best ones ourselves.

The sound on the record is excellent. It was engineered by Mark Levinson, on special equipment designed to create virtually noiseless ultra-low-distortion master tapes, without noise-reduction systems. It’s mastered by Robert Ludwig

The first side contains Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales played on the piano by Lois Shapiro.

Side two contains her performance of Haydn’s Sonata No. 49.

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

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Mussorgsky-Ravel / Pictures at an Exhibition – A Couple of Key Tracks to Play

Click Here to See Our Favorite Pictures at an Exhibition

More Reviews and Commentaries for Pictures at an Exhibition

Reviews and Commentaries for Music Conducted by Fritz Reiner

This TAS List record with a Super Hot stamper side one has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the Shaded Dog Reiner/CSO Pictures, and side two, although it starts out a little weak, gets going soon enough and earns a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade as well.

Side one is open and natural in the best Living Stereo tradition, with rich lower strings that have virtually no Golden Age smear.

Turn it up and listen for the big cymbal crashes — that’s the sound we love. It’s so good it even allows me to enjoy Reiner’s performance, never one of my favorites.

Side One

A++, transparent and free from smear, not many copies are going to beat this one! A little more top would have been nice.

Listen to: Samuel Goldenburg und Schmuyle

Superb sound! The brass and strings on this part of the work are as good as it gets. No smearing of the brass — it’s clean and clear like it is in the concert hall. We’re so used to hearing it wrong that it takes a record like this to remind us how good a full brass choir can really sound. (more…)

Ravel / Daphnis et Chloé / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2012

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

More Records with Our Favorite Orchestral Performances and Top Quality Sound

Nearly White Hot Stamper sound on this superb London Blueback pressing make it quite possibly the best complete Daphnis et Chloe we have ever heard.

Both sides here are BIG, with the space and depth of the wonderful hall that the LSO perform in. From my research it appears that John Culshaw may have produced the album, which surely accounts for the huge size and space, not to mention quality, of the recording. The sound is dynamic and tonally correct throughout. Without more copies on hand we feel it’s best to hold back half a plus on the sonic grade. That said, it’s clearly the best Daphnis et Chloe we’ve played to date.

Please note that we should, but often don’t, make a vitally important distinction between two words we tend to use interchangeably. There is a difference between the sound of records that we’ve played and the sound that we’ve heard. The stereo, the listening room, our cleaning technologies and who knows what else are all undergoing constant changes. This means that we may have played a better pressing in the past but couldn’t hear it sound as good as it would now. The regular improvements we make in all areas of playback make sonic comparisons over time all but impossible. (more…)

Debussy & Ravel / String Quartets – Quartetto Italiano

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

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

  • This wonderful classical release has long been a favorite of ours here at Better Records, and this pressing is outstanding, offering Double Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The stereo sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with the kind of three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall that only the best vintage vinyl can offer
  • A rare title and a very difficult one to find with audiophile quality playing surfaces – this is about as quiet as we can find them, folks
  • “From the opening bars, Quartetto Italiano distinguish themselves as eminent interpreters of Debussy… The Ravel quartet also receives an outstanding treatment: atmospheric, rhythmically secure and supple.”

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Mussorgsky / Pictures at an Exhibition – Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like practically no other. It’s also tonally correct. It’s not aggressive. It’s not irritating. It’s just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That’s what really caught my ear when I first played the recording.

There is a blast of brass at the end of Catacombs that is so big and real, it makes you forget you’re listening to a recording. You hear every brass instrument, full size, full weight. I still remember the night I was playing that album, good and loud of course, when that part of the work played through. It was truly startling in its power. (Back then I had the Legacy Whisper speaker system, the one with eight 15″ woofers. They moved air like nobody’s business. If you want to reproduce the power of the trombone, the loudest instrument in the orchestra, they’re your man.)

Pressings that Need to Be Reproduced on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Recordings that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

More Exceptionally Dynamic Demo Disc Recordings  (more…)

Various Composers / The Reiner Sound – Classic Records Reviewed

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

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Sonic Grade: F

There is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on the original pressing we played a while back (reviewed below). Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top.

This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie’s gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies positively guarantees that the Classic Reiner Sound will be all but unplayable on a good system.  

Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that The Reiner Sound needs.

You may have read on the site that, unlike many soi-disant audiophiles who buy into HP’s classical choices, I am not the biggest Reiner fan. On these works, though, I would have to say the performances are Top Drawer, some of the best I have ever heard. The amount of energy he manages to coax from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is nothing less than BREATHTAKING.

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Ravel / Dukas et al. – Works by Ravel, Honegger and Dukas / Ansermet

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – here you will find some of the best orchestral Hot Stamper sound we offer
  • With so many quiet passages, records that play better than Mint Minus Minus are tough to come by in this world – this one is exceptional indeed
  • The sound of the orchestra is dramatically richer and sweeter than you will hear on most pressings — what else would you expect from Decca’s engineers and the Suisse Romande?

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have ever heard. These recordings may just be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made. (more…)