_Composers – Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture / Marche Slave / Alwyn

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • Outstanding sound from start to finish – this Decca recording of the 1812 from 1958 is the only one we know of that can show you the power of Live Music for this important work
  • This UK pressing is BIG, lively, clear, open and resolving of musical information like no copy of the 1812 you’ve heard
  • The two coupling pieces, Marche Slave and the Capriccio Italien, also have rich, powerful, weighty brass and lower strings
  • The most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of – we encourage you to compare this to the best orchestral recording in your collection and let the chips fall where they may
  •  When you hear how good this record sounds, you may have a hard time believing that it’s a budget reissue from 1970, but that’s precisely what it is. Even more extraordinary, the right copies are the ones that win shootouts
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this recording certainly deserve a place on that list.

There is some noticeable low frequency rumble under the quietest passages of the music for those of you with the big woofers to hear it!

The lower strings are rich and surrounded by lovely hall space. This is not a sound one hears on record often enough and it is glorious when a pressing as good as this one can help make that sound clear to you.

The string sections from top to bottom are shockingly rich and sweet — this pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago.

The 1958 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.

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / Sleeping Beauty / Ansermet

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This vintage London pressing of Tchaikovsky’s complete Sleeping Beauty boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) Demo Disc sound on all SIX sides
  • 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
  • Ansermet is of course a master of the ballet and the performance here by the Suisse Romande is outstanding, perhaps even definitive
  • If you’re a fan of Ansermet’s performances of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballets, this superb All Tube Recording from 1959 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Big Decca sound! Powerful deep bass. Beautiful string tone and sharply articulated brass sound. This is a wonderful record.

Ansermet is surely the man for this music, and the famously huge hall he recorded in just as surely contributes much to the wonderful sound here.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “Today, sitting at home, I felt like I was at a concert.”

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. The bolding has been added by us.)

Hi Tom,

I finally had a chance to listen to the Super Hot of Beethoven’s 5th I bought from you last month.

Tom, I am feeling really grateful to you. With your guidance, and your records, I have something I simply assumed I could never have – a stereo that can do full justice to orchestral music.

I picked this record, along with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, as my first foray into full orchestral music on my reworked stereo assembled following your recommendations – Dynavector cartridge, EAR phono stage, Legacy speakers.

Today, sitting at home, I felt like I was at a concert.

This is saying something. I had come to believe this was just not possible. I still remember the sound and the feeling of hearing Beethoven’s 5th performed by the SF Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, about 20 years ago. Seeing it performed for the first time, I was struck by what a small number of musicians the piece calls for. Nobody needed a score, MTT didn’t hold a baton – the whole performance just had a sense of mastery, control, and passion for the music. The sound from that relatively small orchestra was overwhelming. It is this sound I’ve been longing to hear at home. Today, I heard it.

About four years ago I had the opportunity to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play Tchaikovsky’s 5th from a really good seat. Hearing orchestral music performed unamplified in a venue with good acoustics has always led me to believe that it’s not possible to create that on a stereo.

I had come to believe that all stereos distort. When live orchestral music gets loud, it coheres. The sound of a symphony at full volume is just something no stereo or recording can provide. Or so I thought. I figured it was just one of the realities of musical reproduction.

Second, I assumed a full sound field just isn’t possible from a pair of speakers. When you’re a few rows back from an orchestra in a great hall, the entire space is filled, smoothly and cohesively. It makes you realize there’s always an empty space between two speakers. One of those things that you don’t even notice until it’s gone.

Today, listening to this record of Solti performing Beethoven’s 5th overturned both of those beliefs for me. When it got loud, the music hung together with no hint of distortion. Also, the sound field has the most cohesion and depth of anything I’ve heard so far on my Legacys. Most important though is the tone of the instruments on this record. The strings were distinct and differentiated.

The mastery of the performance from the Vienna Philharmonic is just breathtaking. I’m simply so grateful this performance is captured on record, and glad that I have a phenomenal copy of it. This music demands all of your focus. Even if I only listen to it a handful of times, I will be glad to be able to do so.

And, this record is “only” a super hot! I can’t wait to see what a white hot stamper of orchestral music is going to sound like on this stereo. Also, I haven’t played with azimuth or VTA at all, or even broken in the Dynavector yet. It will be wonderful to see if this cartridge can reveal even more.

So, thank you, Tom. I now have something I’ve always wanted, that I assumed I could never attain – the ability to hear orchestral music at home, the way I know it can sound in person.

Aaron

Aaron,

This is great news, a milestone to mark your success, musically and sonically.

With the right equipment playing the right record, the suspension of disbelief is not only possible, it’s practically guaranteed. Once the sound achieves escape velocity, assuming the music is of the highest caliber, it isn’t long before your critical listening faculties shut down and the music starts to live and breathe from moment to moment just as it would in the concert hall.

You experienced it for yourself. You were finally able to prove your theory false by having an experience that showed you how wrong your thinking was.

But it took better equipment and better records than you previously had access to, and this is key.

How many audiophiles have equipment that can do what yours did? How many have pressings of such quality? My guess is not many.

The theories of such audiophiles, very much like your old theories, are based on faulty data, the data that comes from inadequate systems, bad electricity, bad rooms and second-tier recordings. Think of all the audiophiles that own Heavy Vinyl pressings, or CDs, or stream digitally, or who knows what else. Will they ever have the experience you had? Will they ever agree with you about the quality of the sound of orchestral music you’ve achieved?

More than likely they will just assume you don’t know what you are talking about. They deny the experience you had because they’ve never had it themselves.

I wrote to you about classical music before you bought the two records you talk about above. When I told you I could play classical music at home at live levels with amazing fidelity to the live event, you were skeptical to say the least. Oh ye of little faith! Now you see where I was coming from. Experience is a great teacher.

Recently you’ve acquired some top quality equipment, equipment that has made the appreciation of classical music on vintage vinyl possible for you for the first time in your life.

I discovered most of the equipment I currently own — the same stuff I recommended to you — a good twenty or more years ago, and have been tweaking and tuning and experimenting regularly with it for all of that time, to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of hours.

Why did I put so much time and effort into my stereo? Well, for one thing, I got paid to do it.

For another thing, I like doing it because I like to hear my favorite music sound better.

(more…)

Hearing Is All It Should Take, Right?

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Some person on some audiophile forum might feel obligated at some point to explain to you, benighted soul that you are, that the old classical records you and other audiophiles like you revere are so drastically compromised and limited that they just can’t sound any good.

It’s just a fact. It’s science. Technology marches on and those old records belong on the ash heap of history collecting dust, not sitting on the platter of a turntable.

That’s why the audio world was crying out for Bernie Grundman to recut those Living Stereo recordings from the ’50s and ’60s on his modern cutting equipment and have RTI press them on quiet, flat, high-resolution 180 gram vinyl, following the best practices of an industry that everybody knows has been constantly improving for decades.

But for those of us who actually play these records, there is little evidence to support any of these statements of “fact.”

However, the above sentence only makes sense if the following four conditions have been met by the person judging the new pressings against the old ones:

  1. He or she has a good stereo,
  2. A good record cleaning system, and
  3. Knows how to do shootouts using his or her
  4. Well developed critical listening skills

If you have spent much time on this blog, you have probably read by now that the first three on this list are what allow you to develop the fourth.

Compromises?

The best classical recordings of the ’50s and ’60s, similar to the one you see pictured here, were compromised in every imaginable way.

Yet somehow they still stand sonically and musically head and shoulders above virtually anything that has come after them, now that we have high quality equipment on which to play them

The music lives and breathes on those old LPs. When playing them you find yourself in the Living Presence of the musicians. You become lost in the music and the quality of the performance.

Whatever the limitations of the medium, they seem to fade quickly from consciousness. What remains is the rapture of the musical experience.

That’s what happens when a good record meets a good turntable.

(more…)

Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult

  • This rich, sweet and full-bodied UK pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Side one gives you not only a wonderful Clair De Lune, but a number of shorter works by Faure, Massenet and Elgar as well, with side two highlighted by meditative pieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky and others
  • We can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the program and the sound – this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
  • It’s the same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included
  • The other main difference between the Living Stereo pressing and our Decca here is that the Decca has better sound

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

The 1959 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.

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

Our catalog from the ’90s recommended this Heavy Vinyl Decca pressing from Speakers Corner.

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

Excellent, one of the best of the Deccas. Better sound by far than the Classic with Reiner, although of course the original of that record is quite good [actually it is not].

You may get better results if you reverse your polarity when playing this record. It’s been a while since I did it so better to check it yourself and see how you like it each way. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture on London

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

More than ten years ago, 2010 or thereabouts I’m guessing, we felt we were ready to do a shootout for Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 Overture, music that surely belongs in any serious audiophile record collection.

On a well-known work such as this, we started by pulling out every performance on every label we had in our backroom and playing them one after the other. Most never made it to the half-minute mark. Compressor distortion or inner groove overcutting at the huge climax of the work? Forget it. On the trade-in pile you go.

A few days went by while we were cleaning and listening to the hopefuls. We then proceeded to track down more of the pressings we had liked in our preliminary round of listening. At the end we had a good-sized pile of LPs that we thought shootout-worthy, pressings that included various RCA, Decca and London LPs.

The London you see above did not impress us. We much preferred the Decca Budget Reissue cut from the same tapes.

There are a number of other Deccas and Londons that we’ve played over the years that were disappointing, and they can be found here.


Music Background

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto No. 1 – Our Favorite Performance and Sound By Far

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

More Classical Music

  • A stunning copy of this classical masterpiece with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • By far our favorite performance for the work, and fortunately for us audiophiles, it is also the best sounding recording of the work that we know of
  • With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard
  • When the brass is the way it is here – rich and clear, not thin and shrill – you have yourself a top quality DG pressing
  • Virtually no smear to the strings, horns or piano – this is Golden Age Recording done right!
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile vinyl pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality SoundThis record has earned a place on that list.
  • More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums –The Core Collection

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 – What Does It Sound Like Now?

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Years ago we wrote:

This is a 1s/5s Shaded Dog. TAS List (or at least it used to be). Probably the reason HP likes this LP so much is that it has a very wide soundstage. It also has good solid weight. A little soft on top, but that comes with the territory.

This is a very old review, probably from about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could recommend this record today. It probably belongs on this list, but I cannot truthfully say that it does one way or another. As I recall, the copies I’ve played more recently were not impressive.

If I played it today, would I find it to be as bad as this Living Stereo pressing? Who knows? That experiment has not been run.

Classic Records remastered a version of the album in 1995. In another listing we mentioned that Classic had the habit of  equalizing their classical records to make them all but intolerable on a modern hi-fidelity system:

Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grainier and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain).

Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it’s hard to ignore, and I hear it on practically every Classic Record I play. This commentary has more on the subject.

RCA is more famous for its string tone than anything else. If the strings on the Classic Records LPs don’t bother you, you can save yourself a lot of money by not buying vintage RCA pressings, and get a lot quieter vinyl to boot.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Another label you are no doubt familiar with used to make ridiculously bright classical records. Here is one of their worst.

If you would like to see other records with string tone we found to be too bright, click here.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky’s performances of the later symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, and may in fact not be findable, so we have never actually done a shootout for any of them.

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto – Another Dubious RCA

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Our Favorite Performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

1S/1S Shaded Dog. Ooh, let the drooling begin. 

Here is our admittedly very old review for exactly the one copy we had on hand to play, although, to be fair, we have played more than one copy of the album over the years, and it never sounded especially good to us.

The violin is very immediate sounding on this recording, maybe too much so.

Either way, the sound of the orchestra is where this record falls short.

It’s congested, thin and shrill in places. The right copy of Heifetz’s performance on LSC 1992 is a much better record overall. Some may prefer Szeryng’s way with this famous piece, which, as a matter of taste, is fine by us of course.

If you’re listening for just the performance and the sound of the violin, you may find this record to be more acceptable.


Reviews and Commentaries for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

We have a section for Living Stereo records that, like this one, we were hoping would have better sound, and we call it:

RCA Shaded Dogs with Dubious Sound Quality


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

What to Listen For on Classical Records

(more…)