_Composers – Strauss, Richard

Deodato – Prelude

A Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

CTI – A Label We Love

  • This killer pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The brass and percussion are amazing on 2001 (and every other track), thanks to RVG, a many who knew how to do these kinds of big jazz productions better than practically anyone alive in 1973
  • We had no idea there was space this huge in the recording until we played some of the best copies
  • 4 stars: “Though overshadowed by ‘2001,’ the other tracks also hold up well today, being mostly medium-tempo, sometimes lushly orchestrated, conga-accented affairs that provide velvety showcases for Deodato’s lyrical electric piano solos… it still makes enjoyable listening.”
  • This title from 1973 is clearly Deodato’s best album, and his best recording
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Both sides are surprisingly sweet and Tubey Magical, nice qualities for a CTI record to have since so many of them are aggressive and edgy to the point of distraction.

Listen to the trumpet on the second track on side one — it’s so immediate, it’s practically JUMPING out of the soundfield, just bursting with energy. Rudy can really pull off these big productions on occasion, and this session was clearly one of them. If you have the kind of stereo that’s right for this music (the bigger the better) you could easily find yourself using this record as a demonstration disc. It’s very unlikely your audiophile friends have ever heard anything like it. (more…)

Strauss / Also Sprach Zarathustra / Mehta

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Richard Strauss

Sonic Grade: C

A very good performance, with passable sonics. But passable sonics are not going to cut it at the prices we charge.

We have never been fans of the recordings Zubin Mehta made with the LA Phil.

They almost always suffer from exactly the same problems that we heard on this album. We had about five copies on hand in preparation for a shootout, some of which I had noted seemed to sound good, but once we listened more critically we started to hear the problems that eventually caused us to abandon our efforts and give away the stock to our good customers for free.

Here is what my notes say:

  • Tonally correct
  • Still opaque
  • Badly needs tubes, space and transparency

By the way, if you do have some of these and want to play them, the 4G side two was the best we played, much better than any 6G side two.

Opacity Vs. Transparency

Note that we have been especially anti-heavy vinyl in our recent commentaries for their consistently opaque character, the opposite of what is necessary in order to hear into the music, deep into the soundstage, to see and hear ALL the instruments, even the ones at the back.

Try that with any Classic Record or Speakers Corner pressing. Our Hot Stamper pressings can show you precisely what you have been missing all these years if you have been collecting and playing releases from those labels and others like them.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three-dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean British copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of British pressings of Classic Rock albums.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

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Strauss – The Sound of this MoFi Pressing Makes My Head Hurt

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

Richard Strauss Recordings We’ve Reviewed

Is the painting on the cover that of a man whose head is hurting from the ridiculously bright string tone of this MoFi?

Doubtful. Impossible actually. But that’s exactly how my head feels when I play one of these awful MoFi classical releases.

Their rock, pop and jazz remasters were hit and miss in the old days, with some real winners hidden amongst the junk, but every one of their classical releases that I ever played was a dog.

One way you know you dealing with bad records and collector mentality? When you find one of these records in your local used record store, it is almost guaranteed to be pristine.

Good records get played. MoFi’s classical releases got collected and sat on a shelf.

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed and found to be yet another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

Can you believe this bright and phony sounding piece of junk was once on the TAS Super Disc List? Sad, isn’t it? At least Harry had the good sense to delete it way back in the ’80s, along with all the rest of the awful MoFi’s that were on it at the time.  

Hey, I sure liked a lot of my MoFi’s in the ’80s too. Thank god I didn’t have my own Super Disc list at the time. It would be every bit as embarrassing as Harry’s list is these days, although it’s really not Harry’s list these days anymore, or at least not exclusively his list. It now has lots of new stuff on there and much of it appears to be of dubious quality, but that’s pure prejudice on my part of course. I have never played most of the records and have no intention of finding out what they sound like. Much of it is music that does not appeal to me, and some of the new additions are on Heavy Vinyl, so why bother?


Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 1 – 1957 Living Stereo Is Hard to Beat

  • Both sides of this vintage Victrola pressing are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and three-dimensional space around the musicians
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • I used to think that the Classic was better than the Victrola, but that was a long time ago, and I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don’t think you can find on practically any modern remaster, by Classic Records or anyone else
  • The Classic will be quieter though – we had a devil of a time finding Vics pressings with audiophile quality vinyl

I highly recommend this one, musically and sonically. Everybody loves Rachmaninoff, especially when Byron Janis is at the keyboard, and the Strauss piece is engaging on its own as well.

1957 stereo, can you imagine?

Here is a complete list of Living Stereo Classical titles we have available on the site at this time. On our blog you can find reviews for the hundreds of others we’ve auditioned over the years.

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London Orchestral Records from the ’70s and the Problem of Opacity

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Records that Are Good for Testing Transparency

The average copy of this 1976 recording has that dry, multi-miked modern sound that the ’70s ushered in for many of the major labels, notably London and RCA. How many Solti records are not ridiculously thick and opaque? One out of ten? If that. We’re extremely wary of records produced 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 constantly criticize, leave a lot to be desired.

Opacity is a real dealbreaker for us. Most of the classical records we play from later eras simply do not have the transparency essential to transporting us from our listening room into the concerto hall.

One thing you can say about live classical music, it is never opaque. Just the opposite. No recording in our experience — our experience being thousands upon thousand of them — can ever be remotely as transparent as live music.

If you have any doubts, next time you come home from the concert hall take a moment to put on a favorite recording of the same music. You may be in for quite a shock.

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Winds In Hi-Fi / Fennell – Another Top Mercury from the TAS List

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

More Recordings Conducted by Frederick Fennel

  • This famous TAS list LP finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • This pressing boasts superb sound on both sides – Mercury knows how to capture the bite of the brass
  • Fennell is a master of this sort of sweet and lyrical Wind Music
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the Mercury sound we love, and that is so hard to find

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

The credit must go to Fennel along with the brilliant engineering team at Mercury. I’ve been told that he was a stickler for making sure everyone was perfectly in tune and playing correctly within the ensemble. That’s exactly what you hear when you play a record like this — it’s practically sonic perfection.

Fennell made a number of band music recordings for Mercury. My favorite is British Band Classics Vol. 2, which was the first Mercury recording I ever heard. I went out and bought a copy of it immediately from my local Tower Records on Golden Import.

Years later when I heard the real thing, and original pressing, I realized the Golden Import was a pretty second rate reissue, fine for the $4.99 I might have paid but a big step down from the early pressings.

Also, if you ever see a clean copy of Vol. 1, only available in Mono, pick it up. If it’s cut right it too is out of this world. (more…)

Deodato / Prelude – A Brilliant Rudy Van Gelder Recording from 1973

Listen to the trumpet on the second track on side one — it’s so immediate, it’s practically JUMPING out of the soundfield, just bursting with energy. Rudy can really pull off these big productions on occasion, and this session was clearly one of them. If you have the kind of stereo that’s right for this music (the bigger the better) you could easily find yourself using this record as a demonstration disc. It’s very unlikely your audiophile friends have ever heard anything like it.

Both sides are especially full and rich. The congas are present in the mix and very full-bodied — this allow them to really drive the rhythmic energy of the music. We know this because the copies with congas that were veiled or thin never seemed to get up go. The bass on these two sides was some of the best we heard as well.

The top is most often the problem with these CTI pressings. Both sides here seem to give you all the top end that was on the tape.

There is wonderful transparency and openness to the soundstage, as well as less congestion in the loudest parts. Also Sprach (2001) is on side one of the album and it is KILLER here.

Both sides are also surprisingly sweet and Tubey Magical, nice qualities for a CTI record to have since so many of them are aggressive and edgy to the point of distraction. (more…)

Strauss / Death and Transfiguration and Till Eulenspiegel / Reiner

This Plum Label Victrola has SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound on side two, the side with Death and Transfiguration. It’s Tubey Magical, rich and sweet in the best Living Stereo tradition of recordings made during the Golden Age, in this case 1958. We had a Shaded Dog pressing of the recording in hand, LSC 2077, and it was better on side one but this Victrola was clearly better on side two.

And Reiner’s performance with the Vienna Phil is outstanding in every way. I have never heard the work performed better or sound better than it does on this very copy.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, nearly White Hot, and with a little more bottom end it would have been.

Clear, transparent, rich, big, spacious, tonally correct, with Tubey Magical textured strings, this record is doing practically everything we want it to.

Side One

A+ to A++, very much like side two but even more bass shy, which may become wearisome over the course of the whole side, depending on how loud you play the record and how full-bodied your system is.

A superb performance of the famous piece, played with verve. (more…)

Strauss / Horn Concertos – Tuckwell / Kertesz – A Top Copy from 2009

More vintage Decca/London recordings currently available

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This is a fairly quiet 1967 Decca British LP with lovely sound. It’s tonally Right On The Money. The strings have lovely texture. The horn has a nice smooth quality, just like the real thing.

A solid record, guaranteed to beat the pants off the Speakers Corner 180 gram pressing, which is not a bad record, just not remotely as good as this one.

FURTHER READING

The sonic signature of the modern Heavy Vinyl Classical Reissue in Four Words: Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Vague 

Strauss / Don Quixote / Reiner on Soria Living Stereo

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

Richard Strauss Records We’ve Reviewed

6S/ 5S. RCA Soria pressing in like new condition, which means it plays about M–, maybe a little better. This is the best sounding copy of this album I have ever heard.

Far from the best RCA Living Stereo has to offer, this copy is not nearly as dreadful as I remember the last one sounded. The quieter passages are especially lovely. The climaxes are strained as usual but I’ve never heard a copy of this record that didn’t have that problem.

The record comes with a gorgeous heavyweight slipcase and the 12-page libretto complete with custom artwork.