_Composers – Rimsky-Korsakov

Tchaikovsky / Capriccio Italien / Ormandy

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

  • Dynamic, huge, lively, transparent and natural – with a record this good, your ability to suspend disbelief will require practically no effort at all
  • “Tchaikovsky possessed a remarkable talent for instrumentation, instinctively scoring his works to obtain a maximum variety of color and the widest possible range of tonal effects. His “Capriccio Italien”, vibrant with the raw colors of its Italian song and dance rhythms, is one of his most popular works and shows the composer’s complete mastery of orchestration.”
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this is a Columbia from 1966 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We’ve had copies of the album in the past, but they sure never sounded like this! From both an audiophile and music lover’s perspective, you would have a hard time finding a record that holds this much appeal to both groups.

The orchestra is big and rich, and there is lovely sheen to the strings. The piano is surrounded by plenty of space, with great depth to the hall. The weight and bite of the brass are near perfection. The top is extended and open. And the loud passages are big and stay smooth, with very little congestion even at the climax of the work. So LIFELIKE this way. (more…)

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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Rimsky-Korsakov / Espana / Argenta – We Crown a New King of Espana

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

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectacular Recordings

  • This vintage London LP features Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • For the longest time we thought that Ansermet’s Espana could not be beat, but here is a performance that can go head to head with his and might even come out on top
  • The Capriccio Espagnol is easily one of the best on record – I always thought it was the best reason to own this album, but now I see that both sides are practically as good as it gets for orchestral showpieces
  • This is a spectacular recording – it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this London from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Rabin / The Magic Bow – Another TAS List Oversight?

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

This original Capitol record with Michael Rabin is ONE OF THE VERY BEST VIOLIN RECORDINGS we have ever played here at Better Records. The sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The immediacy of the violin tone is unbelievable — Rabin is in the room with you throughout the entirety of the record in a way that few recordings in our experience could hope to equal.

What more can we say, other than the music is every bit as good as the sound. If you love the Classical Romantic period, and who doesn’t?, these selections will have you in a world of sound and music rarely matched by anything but the best in live performance.

Another TAS List Oversight

This is another record that is not on the TAS List, but would certainly take top honors in a head to head shootout with any of the violin works to be found there.

TAS List Super Discs with Hot Stampers

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

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A Simple Listening Test Makes It Easy to Judge Pressings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice on What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 2446 is a disaster for many reasons, but it does have one specific failing that is easy to recognize and worth further discussion and analysis.

As I noted for some of the Classic Heifetz titles a while back, for all I know the CDs for his Living Stereo recordings may have better sound. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s rather poor track record regarding the remastering of his music.

Case in point: The Living Stereo CD I own (both the CD and the SACD) of Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who don’t notice what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to get hold of a nice RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up. (They could even find one that’s not so nice and listen through the surface noise. The difference would still be obvious.)

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should have no trouble recognizing that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings, including the Analogue Productions pressing, is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you might be sitting.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

The violin on these Heavy Vinyl pressings is dark, it’s veiled, and it’s overly rich, as well as lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound anything like that.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them, no matter where you sit.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the musical voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big, rich and powerful the opening brass may be.

If you think your Heavy Vinyl pressings are doing justice to the sound of classical music, please attend a live concert as soon as possible in order to disabuse yourself of that notion.

Once you hear how unfaithful your classical records are to the sound of the live performance, you can begin to collect records of higher fidelity.

Would Adjusting the VTA for the Heavier Weight Vinyl Fix the Problem?

Probably not. VTA is all about balance. You can get the violin to be brighter and clearer by changing the VTA, but now listen for the weight of the opening brass. When the VTA is wrong, the brass won’t sound right. Neither will the percussion. Neither will the space of the hall be right. Neither will the orchestral perspective.

Adjusting for all these elements involve tradeoffs. When all the elements sound close to their best, and none of them are “wrong,” the VTA is pretty much right.

And that solo violin will not be much better. It is what it is, it sounds the way it sounds, because the mastering engineer got it wrong. You cannot fix bad mastering by changing the VTA.

Tea for the Tillerman?

Back in the ’80s, when I first got into the audiophile record business, I had a customer tell me how much he liked the UHQR of Tea for the Tillerman. This was a record I was selling sealed for $25. And you could buy as many as you liked at that price! I was paying $9 for them and could order them by the hundreds if I’d wanted to. (Yes, I admit I had no shame.)

I replied to this fellow that “the MoFi is awfully bright, don’t you think?”

“Oh no, you just adjust your VTA until the sound is tonally correct.”

At the time I could not adjust my VTA, so I filed that bit of information away for a later time.

When I finally did get a tonearm with adjustable VTA, I quickly learned that trying to correct the tonality of a record with VTA adjustments was a fool’s game.

The tonality might be better, but the bass would get wonky and weird, the deepest notes would disappear or become boosted, the highs would sound artificial, various elements of the recording would randomly become louder and softer, wreaking havoc with the balance of the mix, and on and on.

In other words, fixing one thing would cause lots of other things to go wrong.

This fellow couldn’t hear it, and like a lot of audiophiles writing about records these days, he simply did not have the critical listening skills to notice all the problems he was creating with his “fix.”

My skills were pretty poor back then too. I have worked very hard for the last 30 years or so to improve them. I did it by experimenting on records, and experimenting with VTA adjustments has taught me a lot.

It showed me that I could get dramatically better sound by playing with the VTA for ten or twenty minutes until I found the ideal setting.

It also taught me that trying to fix a mastering problem by adjusting the VTA will only work if you haven’t developed much in the way of critical listing skills.

Comparing the way the violin sounds on various pressings of Scheherazade will help you to develop these skills, as long as you know what this music should sound like in performance. You need both, and doing one without the other won’t get you very far. I spent my first twenty years in audio “in the wilderness,” so to speak, so I believe I am on solid ground with this advice.


A PUBLIC SERVICE

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Bose Salutes the Sound Of Mercury Records (Along with Some Audio Lessons I Learned Long Ago)

This Bose / Mercury Demonstration LP is autographed by none other than Amar G. Bose. The autograph reads “To EMI, with regards and best wishes, Amar G. Bose.”

Bose may not have ever made very good speakers, but they sure knew good recordings when they heard them. This LP has excerpts from some of the top Mercury titles, including music by Copland (El Salon Mexico), Kodaly (Hary Janos Suite), Mussorgsky/ Ravel (Pictures At An Exhibition), and Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian Easter Overture).I played one of these Bose records years ago and was surprised at how good it sounded. The transfers of the Mercury tapes were excellent! I guess that makes sense — if you want to show off your speakers you better use a well-mastered record for the demonstration.

I was duped into buying my first real audiophile speaker, Infinity Monitors, when the clever salesman played Sheffield’s S9 through them. I bought them on the spot. It was only later when I got home that none of my other records sounded as good, or even good for that matter. That was my first exposure to a Direct to Disc recording. To this day I can still picture the room the Infinity’s were playing in; it really was a watershed moment in my audiophile life.

And of course I couldn’t wait to get rid of them once I heard them in my own system with my own records. I quickly traded them in for a pair of RTR 280DR’s. Now that was a great speaker! 15 panel RTR Electrostatic unit for the highs; lots of woofers and mids and even a piezo tweeter for the rest. More than 5 feet tall and well over 100 pounds each, that speaker ROCKED.

This was the mid-’70s, 40+ years ago, and I am proud to say I have never owned a “small” speaker since. I’ve heard a lot of them — some good, most of them not so good — but that’s a sound I personally could never live with. Especially if you are trying to play large orchestral works like those found on this LP. Small speakers just can’t move enough air to bring this music to life in any way that gives meaning to the term Hi-Fidelity.

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In 1959 Columbia Let Leonard Bernstein Record an Awful Version of Scheherazade

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Our Favorite Performance of Scheherazade

Even worse, they released it!

Bernstein’s performance here is far too slow to be taken seriously. This is a record you can find in the bins for five bucks, and for five bucks it’s worth picking up just to hear how awful it is.

Vintage Columbia Pressings with Hot Stampers

Albums We’ve Reviewed on Columbia and Epic

Outstanding Hot Stamper pressings of recordings from 1959 can be found here.

The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Letter of the Week – “This is the best classical recording I have ever heard both musically and sonically.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

One minute into The Tale of Tsar Saltan I knew this was a winner of the highest order. I was not prepared for the low end whomp factor as you call it.

The tonal balance of this wonderful recording is off the charts. the triangles just seem to float in the mix with a delicate presence that works so beautifully with the rest of the orchestra.

The strings and brass have this immediacy to them that feels like the orchestra is in the room with you.

This is the best classical recording I have ever heard both musically and sonically. So glad I fortunate to own this masterpiece!

Thanks
Rob

Fantastic news, we liked it too. Thanks for your letter.

BTW, don’t try to play any heavy vinyl classical for a while, it might just be too big a shock to your (nervous, not stereo) system!

TP

Ha! I just never realized how much I have been missing or accepting, until I played this album : )
Rob

Rob,

Nobody does. Nobody can know what they are missing until they hear it. This explains every audiophile forum and every idiotic review by Michael Fremer and his uninformed and misinformed colleagues. These people simply don’t know any better because the approach they have taken to finding and auditioning records produces consistently second-rate results.

We explain — for free! — how anyone can find better records here.

If you want to know what you’re missing, there is only one approach that works, and it involves two things that have made the modern world what it is today: empirical findings based on the use of the scientific method.

Any other approach is doomed, not to failure, but to mediocrity.

We are the only record dealers who use the scientific method, and that one fact, more than any other, explains why we can sell the best sounding pressings in the world. We alone are able to show you what you have been missing. Or, put another way, the second- and third-rate sound you have been living with because you didn’t know anything could be better.

We didn’t know much better either until about twenty-odd years ago.

Before that, we had raved about the Speakers Corner pressing of the Tsar Saltan. Its shortcomings are glaringly obvious to us now, but they weren’t back then. We didn’t have the stereo, we didn’t have the cleaning system, and we didn’t have the critical listening skills to be able to recognize its manifold faults.

Then, in the early 2000s, we started doing shootouts.

These “Record Experiments” taught us many important lessons.

The process of playing copy after copy of the same record and cataloging the differences we heard made us better listeners.

We took our critical listening skills and applied them to our stereo in order to get as many colorations and limitations out of it as possible.

Through all this work we came to have a much deeper understanding of The Fundamentals of Record Collecting.

However, without a staff of ten finding, cleaning and playing records for you, you will have a hard duplicating our results.

But you can certainly do a lot better using our approach than any other. It won’t be long before you know more than all the audiophile reviewers and forum posters in the world put together.

You heard the record we sent you soar above all the stuff they’ve been telling you was good, so now you know two things: their approach produced middling-at-best results, and our approach produced the best sounding classical recording you have ever heard. The choice is yours!

That’s the purest expression of the empiricism we champion. Let the best record win.

And ours did!

TP


FURTHER READING

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Half-Speed Mastered Counterparts

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Hot Stamper Pressings of Decca/London Recordings in Stock Now

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

More of the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An INCREDIBLE London stereo copy with Shootout Winning Triple (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • It’s so rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings – wow!
  • Here is the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for
  • The Speakers Corner pressing of Ansermet’s famous recording is mediocre, with many faults, all discussed here
  • We would love to be able to find Ansermet’s Scheherazade on London vinyl, but as you may have read on the blog, the right stampers of that record are almost impossible to find these days, although that has not stopped us from trying

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s 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 weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat not a single one, can 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 you decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)

This London pressing contains a stunningly BEAUTIFUL Tale of the Tsar Saltan Suite. It’s clearly one of the great Demo Disc Quality recordings from the Golden Age (or any age for that matter), with everything that a top Golden Age Orchestral recording should have: all the magic; all the timbral and harmonic subtlety; all the sweetness and warmth; all the Tubey Magical richness.

All that and more. Folks, this is the kind of record that makes you sit up and take notice. Finally, HERE is the kind of sound that can bring an orchestra to life in your very own listening room.

It has the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for. (Unlike some of their recordings — Pictures at an Exhibition comes readily to mind — the tempi here are not too slow. The tempi are in fact just right. We love the sound of Ansermet’s records but when the performance drags it’s hard to enjoy the music. For top quality performances of the work by other conductors — rarely in stock I regret to say — please check the site.)

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We Make the Case that Even CDs Have Better Sound than Classic Records

brahmvioli_1903_debunk

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 is a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.

In these four words we can describe the sound of the average Classic Records Living Stereo pressing.

The best Heifetz records on Classic were, if memory serves, LSC 2734 (Glazunov), LSC 2603 (Bruch) and LSC 2769 (Rozsa).

They aren’t nearly as offensive as the others. If you can pick one up for ten or twenty bucks, you might get your money’s worth depending, I suppose, on how critically you listen to your classical records.

The CDs are better for all I know. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s generally poor track record.

The Living Stereo CD of Reiner’s Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who cannot hear what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to find themselves a nice — even one that’s not so nice — RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up.

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should recognize that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings of the recording is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you sit.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

It is dark and veiled and overly rich, lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound that way.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them clearly.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big and powerful and rich the opening brass may be.
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