_Composers – Saint-Saens

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…)

Saint-Saens / Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso / Friedman

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  • A nearly White Hot side two with the complete Saint-Saens work
  • Side two has explosive dynamics and near-perfect violin reproduction
  • Side one has the first movement of the Paganini Concerto No. 1
  • A Mohr/Layton Living Stereo Shaded Dog pressing from 1962

Side Two – Paganini – 2nd / 3rd Movements / Saint-Saens – Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso 

A++ to A+++, nearly White Hot. Big and lively, and so involving. Huge space, great dynamics, so immediate and engrossing. 

It’s one of the best sounding violin-led orchestral recordings we have played in recent memory, and we’ve played them by the hundreds and hundreds. (Practice makes perfect as they say.)

Side two of this copy easily puts most of the TAS Super Discs to shame. I would venture to say that there’s a very good chance that you have NEVER heard a violin-led orchestral recording as good as this one (that is, unless you own some of our White Hot Stamper violin records).

Side One – Paganini – Concerto No. 1 – First Movement (more…)

Saint-Saëns / Rondo Capriccioso / Chausson / Poeme / Oistrakh

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  • With two Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning sides, this collection of violin showpieces simply could not be beat 
  • This copy was dramatically fuller, richer, tubier and smoother than the others we played, and ALIVE with pyrotechnic fireworks on side one
  • A superb 1963 Living Stereo recording with Tubey Magic to die for, one of the best violin recordings we have ever offered
  • The highlight for us on a collection like this is always going to be The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, “one of Saint-Saëns’ few genuine showpieces.”

The violin here is superb — rich, smooth, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound. The Tubey Magical richness is to die for. This record sounds like a Living Stereo recording from 1963 in all the best ways.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Zero smear, high-rez transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — it takes the sound of this recording beyond what we thought was possible.

The Miracle of Living Stereo

This record shows off Living Stereo sound at its best. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented (on side one; side two is simply violin and piano) 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.

The richness of the strings, a signature sound for RCA in the Living Stereo era, is displayed here beautifully for fans of the classical Golden Age.

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years. It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not lost on us.

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

This is pretty much as good as it gets, folks.

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Mussorgsky et al. / Danse Infernale / Fiedler – Our Favorite Night On Bald Mountain

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides make this the consistently best sounding batch of Orchestral Showpieces we have ever played
  • After a two year hiatus, our favorite performance of Night on Bald Mountain is back, and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind (and maybe a woofer or two)
  • Side one also boasts an excellent Danse Macabre, with a powerful finish that may remind you of the thrill of live orchestral music
  • Side two contains a wonderfully exciting Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Both sides are clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Watch your levels – this pressing is dramatically more DYNAMIC than most Golden Age recordings

If you like Orchestral Spectaculars, have we got the record for you!

This pressing clearly has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — not in every way, but in some important ways. The ENERGY of both the sound and the performances of these barnburning showpieces is truly awesome. Fiedler brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor we have heard.

This pressing boasts relatively rich, sweet strings, especially for a Deutsche Grammophon LP. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy (and the reason it is so hard to find a copy that plays better than Mint Minus Minus. We do have a quieter copy with lower grades if you are interested though.) (more…)

Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari – VICS 1206 – Reviewed in 2013

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

Better than Super Hot Stamper sound on side one of this lovely Victrola reissue from 1960, one of the best in the entire series. Pay attention to the brass — yes, it may have some tubey smear, but listen to how HUGE and POWERFUL it is! Drop the needle on the first side and watch (or listen) as the sound comes jumping out of your speakers. Modern records can’t do that.

These Decca-derived recordings are highly sought after, and with good reason. It’s hard to imagine a more wonderful audiophile disc, both in terms of the programme and the quality of the sound.

This is the precisely the kind of big, bold, lifelike sound Decca engineers were able to capture on tape, and RCA mastering engineers were able to master from that analog tape, fifty or so years ago. (more…)

Paganini – Kreisler / Concerto In One Movement / Campoli – Reviewed in 2019 and 2008

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  • This exceptionally rare early London pressing features Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and includes a wonderful performance of the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3
  • This is a spectacular recording – it’s big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Campoli brings his warmth, feeling, and technical precision to these classical masterpieces
  • The Decca engineers captured the correct amount of detail in the bowing and fingering – it’s not overdone as it is in so many records that many audiophiles prefer, with the mics much too close to the strings

This is a WONDERFUL sounding violin concerto recording. It has TUBEY MAGIC as well as MUSIC to die for. What”s most interesting about the sound is how well the violin is integrated into the orchestra. On most RCAs, just to pick one golden age label to use as an example, the violin is typically hugely oversized and placed far in front of the orchestra. Not so here. The violin is of a whole with the orchestra, which makes for a much more natural and relaxed presentation. (more…)

Saint-Saens on Vinyl – Four that Didn’t Make the Grade

More Saint-Saens

More of that Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings of the music of Saint-Saens that we’ve auditioned and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place on our site, in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.      

Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.    

Ibert / Divertissement / Martinon – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens

More Ibert / Divertissement / Martinon

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

This London LP has a very good A+ to A++ side two. Lively and not too bright with nice space and clarity, the Jeux D’Enfants is very enjoyable. Le Rouet D’Omphale (the Spinning Wheel) which follows is even better! Natural and dynamic with rich strings, the tonality is wonderfully balanced. 

Performed with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra under Jean Martinon, this record also features Bizet’s Jeux D’Enfants and Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre and Le Rouet D’Omphale.

Side one, unfortunately, is not up to the same standard. Both sides, of course, have been through our exensive cleaning process and should sound substantially better than average.

Saint-Saens – Carnival of the Animals – 180g Klavier Debunked

More Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Carnival of the Animals

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing. 

Yet another murky, smeary Audiophile Piece of Trash from the mastering lathe of the formerly brilliant Doug Sax. He used to cut the best sounding records in the world. Then he started working for AP and to my knowledge hasn’t cut a good sounding record since.

For those of us who remember his consistently superb work in the ’70s, we sadly note that he passed away in 2015. I was honored to have met him a few years back at a Chopin concert performed by Lincoln Mayorga. 

I found both he and Lincoln to be gentlemen and artists of the highest caliber. Needless to say, this Klavier is not the kind of record that he would want to be remembered by.

On this record, in Doug’s defense it’s only fair to point out that he had only dub tapes to work with, which is neither here nor there as these pressings are not worth the dime’s worth of vinyl used to make them. (more…)

Saint-Saens / Symphony #3 / Mehta – Reviewed in 2011

More Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Symphony #3 / Mehta

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

This British London pressing is the winner of our recent shootout for this performance. We had three London pressings, all the same stamper numbers if I recall correctly, and this is the only copy to have Super Hot Stamper sound on either side. Side one is actually quite nice, with lovely texture to the strings. The sound is transparent and natural, two qualities that are in short supply on most of the recordings Mehta did with the L.A. Phil. in our experience.

We pulled out all the copies of this famous work we could find in the backroom and most of them were just awful. This is not an easy work to record, incorporating as it does an organ with a large orchestra. (I saw the work performed back in 2009 and it was magical. There is nothing like the sound of violins playing high over organ notes below.) (more…)