_Composers – Smetana

Smetana and Dvorak – Bohemian Rhapsody

More of the Music of Smetana

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • We can honestly say we have never heard these wonderfully melodic works played with more verve and skill
  • Nor have we heard any performances with better sound – this may be a budget Decca reissue, but as some of you Hot Stamper fans have discovered, it is not unusual for these later Deccas to beat the originals
  • And note that this pressing is no spring chicken — it’s almost 50 years old
  • This copy has many condition issues — if it didn’t sound as amazing as it does we wouldn’t bother listing it, but it does!
  • The original Decca and London pressings are rare and expensive, but if you one, you really owe it to yourself to hear just how good this pressing sounds
  • “The performances of The Bartered Bride extracts have all of the necessary sparkle and verve, while Kertesz’s credentials as a Dvorák conductor are second to none.”
  • Another Must Own Title from 1962. Other recommended titles from 1962 can be found here.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best-sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Grateful Dead music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This record shows off vintage Decca sound at its best. 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 ever sounded like this.

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 cut this record much better — 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. (more…)

Liszt / Rhapsodies / Stokowski – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

Our Favorite Recording of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies

Sonic Grade: F

The lower strings are wonderful on the original — wall to wall, with that rosiny texture we love. I wrote at the time — this is twenty or so years ago — that the Classic pressing took that rich, dark sound and brightened it up, ruining it in the process.

Cellos and double basses just don’t sound like that. On the best pressings of LSC 2471 their timbre is Right On The Money. Of course, that’s the real thing, not some audiophile rebutchering. 

Now if you’re a Classic Records fan, and you like that brighter, more detailed, more aggressive sound, the original is probably not the record for you.

We don’t like that sound and we don’t like most Classic Records. They may be clean and clear but where is the RCA Living Stereo Magic that made people swoon over these recordings in the first place?

Bernie manages to clean that sound right off the record, and that’s just not our idea of hi-fidelity.

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Liszt, Enesco, Smetana / Rhapsodies / Stokowski

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

Our Favorite Recording of the Hungarian Rhapsodies

This RCA Living Stereo LP (LSC 2471) has SUPERB SOUND!

I’m a big fan of this title. The string tone is rich and dark and just wonderful. If you want an exciting record with outstanding Living Stereo sound — dynamic, with strings to die for, and an energetic performance, this is the one!

Don’t let the White Dog fool you. I doubt if the average Shaded Dog is any better.

[I suspect that the Shaded Dog has the potential to be better, but when this review was written I did not.]

This record sounds just right to me. Listen to how clear and correct the triangle is. 

I wonder if the Shaded Dog copies would be cut that clean. Without one here to compare there’s no way to know.

[We have since compared them and our Shaded Dogs were slightly better than any of the White Dogs.]

The Classic version sounds okay until you play it next to the real McCoy. Then you hear how brightening up the strings ruins everything.

Here are some of the other records we’ve discovered that are good for testing string tone and texture.

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Liszt / Smetana / Mussorgsky – Les Préludes / The Moldau / Night On Bald Mountain / Dorati

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

More Recordings on Mercury

  • With seriously good sound on both sides, this copy will show you just how good the Mercury engineers were back in those days
  • Liszt’s Les Preludes on side two has the better sound here, and it is one of the best on record
  • Dorati breathes life into these concert hall favorites as only he can, and the Mercury engineers (Fine and Eberenz) capture the excitement on tape as only they can
  • We have a preference for Dorati’s recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, and a record like this will show you exactly why we do
  • The exciting sound of Mercury lives on through the vintage disc they made all those years ago
  • If you’re a fan of orchestral showpieces such as these, this LP from 1960 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Milstein Miniatures – Milstein / Pommers

More Violin Recordings

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to sound better than any vintage pressing of violin pieces you’ve heard, and it plays as quietly as any copy ever will (and far better than most)
  • We are big fans of Nathan Milstein here at Better Records and it’s records like this that justify our enthusiasm
  • Works for violin and piano by Chopin, Vivaldi, Smetana, Brahms, Stravinsky and others – and each is played with the feeling and skill as would be expected from one of the greatest performers of his generation
  • The appeal for the casual listener may not warrant the expense, but those who seek out these kinds of vintage ’50s pressings should find much to like here

A wonderful batch of short violin pieces with piano accompaniment: Previously we had written: (more…)

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

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings with Demo Disc Sound

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.


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…)

Overtures and Dances / Reiner

More Johann Strauss

This is a very old commentary. Lately every copy of this record that we have auditioned has left us wondering: where is the appeal?

Take this review with a large grain of salt and don’t spend a lot of money on this title unless you can easily return it.

This RCA Pink Label TAS List LP plays Mint Minus. Side one of this record sounds AMAZING, especially the Dvorak piece.

Here are the comments for the copy we recently sold on the site:

Superb string tone. This is one record that deserves to be on the tas list, and you have to give harry credit for going against the audiophile tide and recognizing a cheap, thin pink vic! Side one sounds incredible. I never recall hearing sound like this on this victrola! It’s demonstration quality sound!

Classic Records remastered this record not long ago and ruined it. This is what it’s supposed to sound like. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol & Le Coq D’Or / Danon

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the music of Rimsky-Korsakov

 

  • White Hot Stamper sound for Capriccio Espagnol, with a tremendously exciting performance
  • Big stage, great ENERGY, lots of hall ambience and solid orchestral weight – hard to fault!
  • Orchestral music doesn’t get much more EXCITING or COLORFUL than Capriccio Espagnol
  • If you like Reiner’s Scheherazade – and who doesn’t? – you are sure to be knocked out by this recording

For your listening pleasure, we proudly offer our music loving fans a SUPERB sounding White Hot Capriccio Espagnol, performed with passion and precision by the Royal Philharmonic under the direction of Oscar Danon. This is only the second disc from a Reader’s Digest box set to make it to the site, but what a disc it is — orchestral music doesn’t get much more EXCITING or COLORFUL than Capriccio Espagnol. It’s truly a knockout on this pressing: White Hot Stamper As Good As It Gets sound.

This is what we mean by DEMO DISC sound. Records do not get much more spacious, open, transparent, rich or 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 engineer in the early days of stereo. This record is proof positive of his uncanny recording skills. 

Play it 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…)

Gounod / Borodin / The World of Ballet, Vol. 2 / Gibson / Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

Side one contains one of the most famous and sought-after pieces of music in the entire Living Stereo catalog, the wonderful Faust Ballet Music that takes up side one of LSC 2449. (The Carmen that makes up side two of the original Shaded Dog has never impressed us sonically. There are so many better recordings of the piece, the Ansermet recording on London being one of the best.) 

The hall is HUGE — so spacious and three-dimensional it’s almost shocking, especially if you’ve been playing the kind of dry, multi-miked modern recordings that the ’70s ushered in for the major labels such as London and RCA. (EMI is super spacious but much of that space is weird, coming from out of phase back channels folded in to the stereo mix. And often so mid-hall and distant. Sorry, just not our sound.)

Or maybe you own a batch of dense Londons from the ’70s. How many Solti records are not ridiculously thick and opaque? One out of ten? If that. We’re very wary of records recorded in the ’70s; we’ve been burned too many times.

And to tell you the truth we are not all that thrilled with most of what passes for good sound on Mehta’s London output either. If you have a high-resolution system these recordings, like those on Classic Heavy Vinyl we discuss below, leave a lot to be desired. (The Planets is a favorite whipping boy around here as you may know.)

Opacity is a real dealbreaker for us. Most of the classical records we play from later eras simply do not have the transparency that’s essential to us suspending our disbelief. (more…)