_Composers – Shostakovich

Vintage Vinyl Sound You Won’t Find on Modern LPs and CDs

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

More Recordings from Kingsway Hall

Here is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. 

It’s also proof positive that Decca’s choice of Kingsway Hall as a recording venue was a good one. 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 so consistently unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD and no Heavy Vinyl pressing ever sounded like this in our experience.

The richness of the strings, a signature sound for Decca in the Fifties and Sixties, is on display here 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 (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl).

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 Decca engineers could have recorded this music much better than they dhave here — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

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Rodgers / Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – How is this title not on the TAS List?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars

More Living Stereo Recordings

This copy from years ago was so good on side two it almost left me speechless.

How is this title not on the TAS List?

Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon? Beats the hell out of me.

But wait just one minute. Until a month ago [now years ago] I surely had no idea how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on. Who today is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio?

Looking around I find very few prospects. None in fact. But then again, I’m not looking very hard.

I could care less what any of these people have to say about the sound quality of the records they play.

They all seem to like records that don’t sound very good to us, so why put any faith in their reviews for other records?

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.

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Shostakovich / The Age of Gold – Another “Problematical” Classic Records Reissue

Sonic Grade: D

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as fairly typical of their mediocre-at-best catalog, tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and above all Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original or a VICS reissue that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade to give Classic’s pressing is probably a D: below average.

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood, this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. (I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct.)

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is MINT. If you played it at all, you played it once and put it away on a shelf where it sits to this very day.

You may not have been able to put your finger on exactly what was wrong with it, but on some level, perhaps subconsciously, you knew there was something missing, something “off.” Whatever it was doing, good or bad, it wasn’t a record you felt the need to return to again.

And that’s why it’s mint. It was played once or twice and stored. You kept it perhaps because it filled a hole in your classical collection. Shostakovich Age of Gold? Yes, I have that one, here it is right here, in the S’s.

The world is full of mediocre records. This is not the brilliant insight it appears to be. They are mediocre by definition, since the average record is average. Classic Records made quite a number of them. They were joined in these efforts by lots of other incompetent mastering houses marketing their wares to audiophiles, the self-described “lovers of sound,” the ones that are apparently fooled by fancy packaging, quiet vinyl and a good story. (You, dear reader, are unlikely to be so easily fooled, or you would have stopped reading this post by now.)

Our records don’t come in fancy jackets, they rarely have quiet vinyl, and most people, audiophiles included, don’t think our story of the Hot Stamper records we sell and how we find them is the least bit plausible.

But our records sound good, and we think that ought to count for something.


FURTHER READING

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Rodgers – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue / Fiedler

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A+++) sound throughout this RCA Shaded Dog pressing in Living Stereo – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and have depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • The music flows from the speakers effortlessly. You are there.
  • This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this Living Stereo from 1959 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Years ago we wrote:

This copy was so good it almost left me speechless. Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon? Beats the hell out of me.

But wait just one minute. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found out just how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides those of us here, of course)?

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Shostakovich – Symphony No.1 / The Age Of Gold Ballet Suite / Martinon

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • The Symphony No. 1 concludes for about the first inch on side two and is excellent as well, with many of the same attributes, as rightly befits a true Golden Age Classic from 1959
  • Recorded in Kingsway Hall with the London Symphony, this Decca licensed title has orchestral sound to rival the best you’ve heard
  • “This is an example of what art as recorded sound should strive to be. A triumph for all participants.”

Our Story

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage.  (more…)

Shostakovich / The Age of Gold – If You Own This Pressing, My Guess Is It’s Pristine

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Recordings Available Now

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood many years ago — apparently they had run into some financial trouble — this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct on that point. Whatever the price, it was cheap.

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is pristine.

If you played it at all, you played it once and put it away on a shelf where it probably sits to this very day. Good records get played and bad records don’t. If you have lots of pristine records on your shelves, ask yourself this question: Why don’t I want to play them?

You may not like the implications of the answer: They aren’t any good.

And that means you should never have bought them in the first place. But we all make mistakes. Owning up to them may be hard, but it is the only way to make any real progress in this hobby.

The One Out of Ten Rule

If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a more manageable size, pick a composer and play half a dozen of his works. Most classical records display an irredeemable mediocrity right from the start; it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

If you’re after the best sound, it’s the rare record that will have it, which makes clearing shelf space a lot easier than you might imagine. If you keep more than one out of ten you’re probably setting the bar too low, if our experience is any guide.

If you want nothing but amazing sounding classical records, we typically have quite a selection.


Shostakovich / Symphony No.1 – Lucky for Us the First Copy We Played Was Good

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. 

Classic Records Release on Heavy Vinyl

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as fairly typical of their mediocre-at-best catalog, tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and above all Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original or a VICS reissue that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade to give Classic’s pressing is probably a D: below average.

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood, this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct.

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is MINT. If you played it, you played it once and put it away.

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Shostakovich – Symphonies Nos. 6 and 11 / Berglund

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

  • This stunning double album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR sides of this original EMI pressing
  • The notes on every side say practically the same things – big, solid, weighty, punchy, dynamic, clear, musical, balanced
  • We don’t always hear those qualities on the TAS List Super Disc records we play in our shootouts, but we sure heard them on this one! (It has been off the list for a long time now, but back in the ’80s this is the pressing audiophiles were after.)
  • With sound this good, your ability to suspend disbelief will require practically no effort at all

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Shostakovich / Symphony No. 5 – Kertesz

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • This stunning classical release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this early London UK pressing
  • 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 here is glorious, full of all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving

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Shostakovitch / Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 2 – Another Amazing Piano Concerto Discovery

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

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

  • This stunning classical release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Westminster is not a label that we typically associate with top quality sonics, but I knew from the moment I dropped the needle on an audition copy that the sound of this Hidden Gem could not be faulted
  • What made this the clear winner was not complicated – it’s solid and weighty like no other, with virtually no smear, situated in the biggest space, with the most energetic performances
  • Clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling, this is a sound that the modern reissue, of any music, from any era, fails to reproduce utterly
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too

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