_Composers – Sibelius

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras on VICS 1069 – A $50 Hot Stamper from 2004(!)

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DEMO QUALITY SOUND and quiet surfaces too.

I don’t know when I’ve heard this album with better sound. This one may be better than the best Shaded Dog for all I know — it’s that good.

You’ll notice that there is a copy of this very same record on the website for $1.99. That one sounds dull. I don’t think you’ll be able to find a better sounding copy of this record than the pressing we are selling here, because it really is an exceptionally good sounding record. If it weren’t, it would be more like $1.99.

[Yes, we used to sell some records for $1.99. Probably should have donated them to the Goodwill. Most of our run-of-the-mill classical goes there now. The local record stores don’t want them anymore. That ship has sailed.]

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras – Reviewed in 2015

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A shocking Stereo Treasury sleeper with a superb Shaded-Dog-beating side one. Side one is nearly White Hot – it’s exceptionally transparent and dynamic. Real Demo Disc sound and music on side one – spectacular works played with feeling.

This is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1960 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1970, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

One of the quietest pressings we played in our shootout, if not the quietest.

Side One

More spacious than practically any other copy we heard thanks to an extended, correct top end.

This side was also very dynamic, and it gets loud in the right way, never harsh or screechy.

Correct from top to bottom, and there are not many records we can say that about. So natural in every way.

The brass is HUGE and POWERFUL on this side. Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Mackerras is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)

The brass is big and clear and weighty, just the way it should be, as that is precisely the sound you hear in the concert hall, especially that part about being clear: live music is more than anything else completely clear. We should all strive for that sound in our reproduction of orchestral music.

Side Two

Good clarity and top extension, with full-bodied, textured strings. Gets a little hot at its loudest but manages to stay under control and enjoyable throughout.

The opening track on side two, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music. Mackerras and the London Proms make it magical.

Two Things

You can be pretty sure of two things when you hear a record of this quality: one, the original probably won’t sound as good, likely having been cut on cruder equipment.

And two, no modern recutting of the tapes (by the likes of Speakers Corner for example, but you can substitute any company you care to name) could begin to capture this kind of naturalistic orchestral sound.

I have never heard a Heavy Vinyl pressing begin to do what this record is doing. The Decca we have here may be a budget reissue pressing, but it was mastered by real Decca engineers (a few different ones in fact), pressed in England on high quality vinyl, and made from fairly fresh tapes (nine years old, not fifty years old!), then mastered about as well as a record can be mastered.

The sound is, above all, REAL and BELIEVABLE.

The brass has weight, the top extends beautifully for those glorious cymbal crashes, the hall is huge and the staging very three-dimensional — there is little to fault in the sound on either side. (more…)

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras / London Proms

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – a superb Shaded-Dog-beating Finlandia
  • Both sides are big, clear, transparent and dynamic – no Heavy Vinyl pressing can do what this record is doing
  • Yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago
  • Demo Disc sound and music – spectacular works played with feeling

Yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1961 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from the early-’70s, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.

The brass is HUGE and POWERFUL. Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Mackerras is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)

The opening track on side two, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music. Mackerras and the London Proms make it magical. (more…)

Sibelius / Symphony #2 on Shaded Dog – Reviewed in 2013

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Back in 2013 we liked this versioni, but recently when we played a copy or two it did not impress us as much. Our system was very different in 2013, and, of course, the copies of the record we have now are not the same as the ones we played all those years ago.

We currently prefer the Barbarolli on Readers Digest. The Mackerras on London reissue or RCA Victrola are both good too.

(more…)

Sibelius/ The Popular Sibelius – Berglund – Reviewed in 2005

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This Minty looking EMI Promenade Series LP is a real SLEEPER!

BIG, EXCITING SOUND! With a spirited performance to match from Berglund, a man well known for his Sibelius work. This is not one of those vague, washed out EMIs

This record is ALIVE. Recorded by Stuart Eltham in 1972, you will be hard pressed to find more immediacy in an EMI. The sound may even be a bit over the top on some selections — whether it is or not will probably depend on your tastes and playback system. But one listen to the third track on side one should convince you that you’re in the presence of a superb recording.

This record includes Finlandia, Valse Triste, Karelia – Intermezzo, The Swan Of Tuonela, Lemminkaines’s Return, King Christian II – Elegy, Musette & Nocturne.

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic remastered this title in the ’90s — of course they did, it’s clearly one of the better Heifetz recordings.

As expected, their version was awful, as bad as LSC 1903, 1992, 2129 and others too numerous to list.  

It’s both aggressive and lacking in texture at the same time, the worst of both worlds. Bernie’s cutting system is what I would call Low Resolution — the harmonics and subtleties of the sound simply disappear. If you have the Classic, do your own shootout. We guarantee any Hot Stamper pressing will murder theirs. (more…)

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Violin Concerto / Heifetz

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This TAS List Shaded Dog has AMAZINGLY NATURAL violin tone, especially on side two, which earned a seriously good grade of A++. This side two will show you exactly what Living Stereo Magic is all about. The violin is very well recorded, and with a side two as good as this one you hear just how big and rich it can sound.

Side one is actually even more Tubey Magical, but it’s a classic case of too much of a good thing, with more tube smear than we would like. It’s musical when the violin solos but a bit much when the orchestra comes in. (more…)

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjeldstad – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjelstad

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

This is a wonderful sounding London Stereo Treasury pressing featuring one of our favorite violinists, Ruggiero Ricci, performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor. The tone of the violin on side one is just right — every nuance of Ricci’s bowing can clearly be heard!   

While the violin sounds amazing on side one, the orchestra lacks a bit of weight. This side is also not quite as tubey magical as it could be. In our opinion, however, the violin tone and the incredible dynamics are more than enough to award this an A++ grade.

Side two actually has a bit more fullness, but this also seems to rob the violin of some of its presence. We gave this side an A+.

Sibelius / Finlandia and Karelia Suite / Kord – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A few months back we stumbled upon the London pressing of this relatively rare record — never heard of it before, and who on earth is Kazimierz Kord? — and were shocked to hear how good the random copy of this unknown-to-us recording sounded. The brass was incredibly solid and powerful; I don’t think I had ever heard Finlandia with the kind of heavy brass that this record was able to reproduce. We had to know more! 

We started by pulling out every performance on every label we had in our backroom and playing them one after another. Most never made it to the half-minute mark. Sour or thin brass on the opening salvo of Finlandia? Forget it; on to the trade-in pile you go.

(If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a 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.) (more…)

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras – Classic Records Debunked

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Finlandia / Mackerras

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and anothe Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic Records, as expected, ruined this album. Their version is dramatically more smeared and low-rez than our good pressings, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance. In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at anything other than a nominal price.

Classic Records — Let’s Try and Forget The (Dreadful) Sound

If you’re tempted to pick one up for a few bucks to hear how badly mastered their version is, go for it. If you actually want a record to play for enjoyment, don’t bother — it’s a complete waste of money. (more…)