_Composers – Schumann

Schumann and Grieg Piano Concertos / Lupu / Previn

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Edvard Grieg

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  • A superb UK Decca pressing of this wonderful classical masterpiece with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides boast full brass and an especially clear, solid, present piano, one with practically no trace of vintage analog tube smear
  • Dynamic, huge, lively, transparent and natural – with a record this good, your ability to suspend disbelief will require practically no effort at all
  • Back in the days when the TAS Super Disc List meant something, this record was on it and deservedly so
  • The London pressings of the same album can be very good in their own right, but they don’t win shootouts – only the best of these Decca pressings do, a subject we discuss in some of these listings
  • Our two favorite recordings of the Grieg Piano Concerto are this one and Rubinstein’s for RCA in 1962
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.

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The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – on Classic Records

More Reviews of Classic Records Classical Titles

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Sonic Grade: C or Better 

Probably a fairly good Classic Records album. When I played this record years ago, I thought it was one of the better Classic RCA titles. You can be sure it won’t sound like the original — [almost] no Classic record does — but it might be pretty good all things considered. One thing to consider is that the original in clean condition sells for many thousands of dollars!

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Grieg / Piano Concerto – With a Correctly Sized Piano for a Change

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Edvard Grieg

This Shaded Dog pressing has exceptionally lively and dynamic sound on side two, which earned an A++ grade and plays quietly to boot! The sound is BIG and BOLD enough to fill up your listening room and then some.

The piano is clean and clear, the strings are rich and textured.

And his performance of this wonderful work is superb, as is his performance of the shorter coupling works on side two (which actually have the best sound here). 

This is wonderfully recorded music. It has a very natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone.

It also boasts a correctly-sized piano, which is quite unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings.

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The Bloated Cello Sound Some Audiophiles Find Appealing

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Claude Debussy

On this pressing we were a bit surprised at how natural the cello sounded — more like the real instrument and less like the typical recording of it. 

Normally when recording the cello, the microphones are placed fairly close to the instrument. This often results in what’s known as the “proximity effect,” which simply describes a boost in the lower frequencies relative to the more linear response of the microphone when placed at a distance.

The famous Starker cello recordings on Mercury — you know the ones, the originals and even the reissues sell for hundreds and hundreds of dollars — suffer from this effect, which audiophiles seem to prefer. (The Mercury heavy vinyl reissues, at least the ones I’ve played, were ridiculously fat and bloated in the bottom.)

Audiophiles did not seem to mind much, judging by the apparently strong sales and the rave reviews I read. Bass shy systems, and that means most of the systems owned by audiophiles, probably benefited from the bass boost.

Systems with lots of large woofers — at least in our case — would of course make the sound of these pressings positively unbearable. That indeed was our experience.

Getting back to the record at hand, it presents a more natural cello if only because the instrument has been miked from a greater distance.

Side two is a bit fuller sounding than side one, and one of them is going to sound more correct on your system than the other. I would not even want to say for sure which one actually is more correct, as the slight difference between them might be subtle enough to play into room and system non-linearities that plague all stereos and rooms.

Both sides here will sound the way these real instruments sound when played in the kinds of rooms that one might hear them in, practice rooms perhaps. That makes this recording unusual in the world of “audiophile recordings,” if I can call this one, and no less refreshing and enjoyable for it.

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Grieg / Piano Concerto and Favorite Encores / Wallenstein

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Edvard Grieg

  • This superb album of Grieg’s piano music returns to the site with outstanding sound on this fairly quiet Shaded Dog pressing
  • These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and plenty of 3-D space around all of the players
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof
  • “But Grieg’s Concerto is much more than a vehicle for pianistic virtuosity. It has been described as a “tone poem for piano and orchestra” in which an array of colors and moods unfolds. From the beginning of the first movement’s first theme, the piano and the instruments of the orchestra enter into an almost constant dialogue.”
  • More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection
  • More Well Recorded Classical Albums Available Now

This Shaded Dog pressing is exceptionally lively and dynamic. The sound is BIG and BOLD enough to fill up your listening room and then some. The piano is clean and clear, and the strings are rich and textured. Artur Rubinstein’s performance of this wonderful work is superb, as is his performance of the shorter coupling works on side two.

Living Stereo MAGIC. This is wonderfully recorded music. It has a very natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone. It also boasts a correctly-sized piano, which is quite unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings.

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Schumann / Concerto in A Minor / Reiner

Side two of this RCA Shaded Dog original pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. It’s rich and smooth, yet it captures the texture and harmonics of the strings beautifully. It’s transparent, high-rez, as well as being open, all signs that the cutting was done on very high quality equipment, properly eq’d and not bandwidth limited or overly compressed.

Side one is not as full as side two; it’s undistorted when loud, which is nice, but does not have all the magic that side two will show you. If you have a nice side one of the album and need a side two to complement it, this is the record for you. Or if you want a record that gets the work mostly right, this might just be the ticket. Finding two good sides for this album is probably not in the cards for us; clean copies are just too rare and expensive these days.

Milstein / Encores / Pommers – Reviewed in 2009

This original Rainbow Label Capitol pressing has D1 / D1 stampers (!) and the shrink still on the cover — now how rare is that!? Copies in this condition regularly fetch $300-400 on ebay these days, some as much as $450, and it’s highly unlikely that any of those sound as good as this one. (Unless those sellers use the same advanced cleaning fluids and techniques we do and have access to an $8000 record cleaning machine, that is.)

The sound is SUPERB, especially on side two, which we rated A Double Plus. Side two had a bit more presence and transparency than side one and that, along with quieter vniyl, kicked the grade up a notch. The third work on side two, a piece by Fritz Kreisler, is one of the highlights of the entire album.

The sound is smooth and sweet throughout, and of course the playing is superb. We are big fans of Nathan Milstein here at Better Records and it’s records like this that justify our enthusiasm. The album comprises works for violin and piano by Kreisler, Schumann, Szymanowski, Handel, others. 

Schumann / Piano Concerto / LSO / Ashkenazy

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DEMO QUALITY. Stunning sound. A fabulous, warm reading of this Schumann concerto. This has a similar sonic magic to the EMI Glazunov Concerto. The hall ambience is palpable. The tonal balance is almost perfect.

It’s simply hard to fault music and sound of this caliber.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

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Various / Ballet Favorites / Ansermet (VICS-1066) – Reviewed in 2011

This RCA Plum Label Victorla has an AMAZING SOUNDING side one — it’s unbelievably spacious and three-dimensional with depth that goes on for DAYS. 

Side one earned its two pluses with the kind of spacious, rich, sweet sound you’ve come to expect from Super Hot Stampers. Note the correct sounding tape hiss — a dead giveaway that the highs are going to be correct. (Funny tape hiss is the hallmark of Classic Records and Mobile Fidelity, a dead giveaway that their highs will be phony and boosted.)

Side two would earn an A++ grade for the Delibes work that starts out the side. The strings are ever so slightly steely compared to side one, but in most respects the two sides sound quite similar. Giselle, the other work on side two, is not as good. It suffers from compressor distortion in the loud passages. It would earn about an A+ grade if we graded the two works separately. (more…)

Britten / Debussy / Schumann / Cello Sonatas / Rostropovich – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

Both sides of this promo London Blueback pressing of piano and cello music have SUPERB sound. If you’re a fan of the cello, the piano, or chamber works in general, you will have a hard time finding a better sounding recording than this.

Notice especially that there is practically no smear on the piano — the notes are clear, with their transients fully intact, something one rarely hears anywhere but in a live setting. The tonality of the piano is also correct from top to bottom.

But the real surprise here is how unusually natural the cello sounds — more like the real instrument and less like the typical recording of it.

Normally when recording the cello the microphones are placed fairly close to the instrument. This often results in what’s known as the “proximity effect”, which simply describes a boost in the lower frequencies relative to the more linear response of the microphone when placed at a distance.

The famous Starker cello recordings on Mercury — you know the ones, the originals and even the reissues sell for hundreds and hundreds of dollars — suffer from this effect, which audiophiles seem to prefer. (The Mercury heavy vinyl reissues, at least the ones I played, were ridiculously fat and bloated in the bottom. Audiophiles did not seem to mind much, judging by the apparently strong sales and the rave reviews I read. Bass shy systems, and that means most of the systems owned by audiophiles, probably benefited from the bass boost. Systems with lots of large woofers — at least in our case — would of course make the sound of these pressings positively unbearable. That indeed was our experience.) (more…)