_Composers – Rimsky-Korsakov

Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet – Not the Sound or the Performance You Want

More Recordings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

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In our experience this is not the recording of the work to buy, on either Decca or London. Of the two recordings by Ansermet, we much prefer the one made with the Suisse Romande to that of the Paris Conservatoire.

We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had shown potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet.

This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is a year later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually any area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way Ansermet’s performance is the one for me. (more…)

London Records Takes You on A Journey Into [Potentially Very Good] Stereo Sound

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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[Written a very long time ago!]

INSANELY GOOD vintage Decca sound from 1958 — bigger, richer and more Tubey Magical than 9 out of 10 (or more!) records we’ve ever played from the pre-’60s early stereo Golden Age. How they got this one so right is beyond me. We were sorely tempted to grade it White Hot, but chose instead to err on the side of modesty and call it A++ to A+++ or better (which is practically White Hot when you think about it).

Can it be that THIS was the first stereophonic sound music lovers of the world were exposed to on LP? (Stereo tapes may have existed in 1954, but they had to wait until 1958 to be transferred to vinyl.) Could we possibly have fallen so far in only fifty years? Judging by the quality of the sound on this copy — dramatically better than others we’ve played, and quieter too — the answer can only be a resounding yes. If you like your sound BIG and LUSH, this record is guaranteed to blow your mind.

Chabrier’s Espana with Argenta gets things off to an amazing start — when have you heard it sound better?!

Capriccio Espagnol (Rimsky-Korsakov), Mozart’s Concerto Piano Concerto No. 27 and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring are included here as well, all with audiophile sound to die for.

Both Sides are KILLER

A++ to A+++, big, spacious, Tubey Magically Rich, as well as tonally Right On The Money (ROTM), the sound here is Hard To Fault (HTF) — IF one is willing to accept the euphonic colorations of the equipment used at the time. We know the sound isn’t real — one would never hear it sound this way in the concert hall — but we love it anyway!

Heavy Vinyl

Rather surprisingly there is a Heavy Vinyl import reissue of this album available, at a cost of $50, not cheap by any means and undoubtedly a pale shadow of this London Blueback LP. There is simply no chance in the world that a recording of this fidelity could be mastered and pressed properly these days — we sure haven’t heard one, and we’ve played them by the hundreds. We implore anyone who made the mistake of buying such a modern record to pick this one up and hear what they couldn’t possibly know they were missing, but is nevertheless clearly audible on this very pressing for all to enjoy. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol & Enesco, Smetana, et al.

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

We just did a new shootout for this title, so expect to see killer copies of record number 8 from the set on the site soon!

Credit must go to my good audiophile friend Robert Pincus for turning me on to the Readers Digest sets in general and this set in particular. Most of it is no better than decent, but the best records in the set are superb, as you can read in our older review below.

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound


A SUPERB White Hot side one coupled with a better than Super Hot (A++ to A+++) side two, back to back on one disc, is a surprise indeed.This is only the second time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re continuing with more exciting orchestral music — Capriccio Espagnol (side two) and the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 (side one) are the two longest pieces on record 8 of the set, and both of them are knockouts on this pressing.

This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Records do not get much more spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Kenneth Wilkinson was the man behind the board for many of these RDG recordings, this very one in fact, and as you will hear, he was pretty much in a league of his own as a recording engineer in the early days of stereo. This record should provide you with all the proof you need.

Play it up against the best of the RCAs, Londons and Mercs from the period and you will see what I mean. And of course it will completely DESTROY any pressing you may have on Heavy Vinyl, from any label, at any playback speed, of any music. (more…)

Holiday For Strings / Fiedler / Boston Pops

More Music Conducted by Arthur Fiedler

More Living Stereo Recordings

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  • Holiday For Strings finally arrives on the site with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • This is a true Demo Disc quality recording, with lovely Living Stereo strings – close your eyes and the three-dimensional soundstaging will make your speakers disappear
  • This is a sweetheart of a recording – big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and will surely put to shame most of the Living Stereo pressings you own (unless you bought them from us)
  • “Nowhere in the world is there a surer guarantee of more richly varied musical delights than that promised by this conductor’s precise baton, his infallible ear and memory, the prodigious range of his taste, his interpretative verve.”

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The Tale of Tsar Saltan and Our Rare Four Plus Grade

See all of our Rimsky-Korsakov albums in stock

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

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

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  • This AMAZING side one with the complete Tsar Saltan was so good we gave it our rare 4+ grade
  • We freaked out when we heard this side – it took the sound beyond anything we had ever experienced for the work
  • It’s so rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings – wow!
  • We figure about one out of a hundred sides earn our Four Plus grade – you can’t get much more rare than that

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.

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Ansermet’s Scheherazade – Yes, Sometimes There Is Only One Set of Magic Stampers

More Scheherazade

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In 2015 we wrote:

There are certain stampers that seem to have a consistently brighter-than-it-should-be top end. They are tolerable most of the time, but the real magic can only be found on the copies that have a correct or even slightly duller top. Live classical music is never “bright” the way recordings of it so often are.

It’s rarely “rich” and “romantic” the way many vintage recordings are — even those we rave about — but that’s another story for another day.

We recently did the shootout again, and now with a much more clear, accurate upper midrange and an even more extended top end, the stampers that we used to find “brighter than they should be” are almost always just too damn bright, period. We will never buy another copy with those stampers.

We was wrong and we don’t mind admitting it.

Which leaves one and only one stamper that can win a shootout. Another stamper we like well enough to offer to our discriminating customers, but after that it is all downhill, and steeply.

Of course the right stampers are the hardest ones to find too. All of which explains why you rarely see a copy of the album for sale on our site.

Reviews and Commentaries for the music of Rimsky-Korsakov

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Tchaikovsky – Capriccio Italien / Ormandy

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  • This classical masterpiece returns to the site with Shootut Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a vintage pressing as well
  • 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.”

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…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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Rabin / The Magic Bow / Slatkin – Reviewed in 2010

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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. (more…)

Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – In 1959 Columbia Let Leonard Bernstein Record an Awful Version of Scheherazade

More Scheherazade

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The performance here is far too slow to be taken seriously.

Another recording that we auditioned and found wanting.  A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.