_Composers – Rachmaninoff

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

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  • 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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Rachmaninoff / Concerto No. 2 – Katchen / Solti

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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  • An outstanding reissue pressing of this superb recording with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • I’ve known how good this reissue can sound for more than twenty years – it is guaranteed to beat any and every pressing you have of the work or your money back
  • Big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound that simply does not exist except in the world of the properly cleaned, properly pressed vintage LP
  • On both of these sides you’ll hear rich strings, clear horns, a piano that is full-bodied and natural, with a solid low end (the kind you rarely hear on record but is nonetheless strikingly obvious in the presence of the real instrument)
  • “Is the pulse even, building in steady crescendo, or do those famous opening measures find some subtle phrase within? Most settle for the former; not so, Katchen and Solti – and that pretty much describes the attitude of these artists in this piece altogether: searching for and finding the phrase within the obvious.”

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Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances / Johanos

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Rachmaninoff’s Music 

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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  • You’ll find STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on this famous TAS List orchestral spectacular (with some condition issues)
  • It’s an extraordinary recording, and so amazing on this pressing that after playing it, you may agree with us that few other classical Demo Discs are in its league
  • The bottom end of this record is powerful and solid like no other classical LP we’ve played in a very long time – this is the way to record tympani!
  • On a pressing this good, the sound is dynamic, lively and BIG – jumping out of the speakers and bringing not only the power but the vibrant colors of the symphony right into your listening room

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Rachmaninoff and Liszt / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario on Capitol

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Records We’ve Discovered

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White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this solo piano recording. It’s big, rich and above all REAL sounding, with natural studio space. The legendary soloist Leonard Pennario is presented here at the height of his powers. Superb choice of material, from Clair De Lune to Liebestraum to the Hungarian Rhapsody No . 2.

On the rare Stereo pressing of course — we want to hear all that studio space reproduced, just as your two ears would have heard it (more or less).

Side One

Graded Super Hot for the huge, solid-sounding piano, played with such verve and skill. The musical power on this side is stupendous. 

Side Two

Even better! No smear, with incredible clarity, and no sacrifice in weight or richness. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 – Speakers Corner Remasters a Classic Mercury, Part One

More Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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This commentary was written in 2004. We carried Heavy Vinyl back then, and for that I would like to apologize. Like the audiophiles of today, at the time I thought I knew a great deal more about records and their proper reproduction than I actually did.

Yes, I admit it: I suffered from the Dunning-Kruger effect. There is one very powerful benefit that I gained from being so mistaken. Having experienced it myself, the signs that you think you know more than you do are very easy to spot in others.  If you want to see the effect firsthand, go to any audiophile forum and start reading any thread you find there. It would be hard to miss.

Some thoughts on the new 180 gram Mercury reissues by Speakers Corner and a bunch of other record related stuff.

The Absolute Sound weighed in with their view of the series:

Speakers Corner has given these recordings the respect they deserve. The packaging is gorgeous: a black album titled “The Living Presence of 20th Century Music” and displaying the Mercury logo holds the three records with their original covers and liner notes. In addition, there are informative annotations on the music and Dorati, and a history of Mercury Living Presence…They sound at least as good and in some ways better than the originals…There are no negatives and not enough superlatives to describe these magnificent reissues. It’s rare that performance, sound, and musical value combine at this level in a recording.

Arthur B. Lintgen, The Absolute Sound, February/March 2004

Let me start by saying that I have not listened to a single one of the new Mercury titles.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me state for the record that the chances of the above statements as quoted in TAS being true are so close to zero that they cannot be calculated by anything but the latest Cray computer.

Has Speakers Corner produced a single classical record that’s better than a good original pressing? One or two. Maybe. So what are the chances they did so with these? Almost none I would say. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto No. 1 / Concert Fantasia / Katin / Boult

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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

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  • This superb classical release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The orchestra is big, rich and tubey here, yet the dynamics and transparency are first rate
  • 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

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Rachmaninoff – The Complete Piano Concertos / Wild / Horenstein

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

More TAS Super Disc Recordings

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  • A KILLER copy of this wonderful original 4 LP Box Set with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) orchestral sound or very close to it on 6 sides and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on the remaining two – 20.5 pluses out of a possible 24 across these 8 magical sides
  • The vinyl is as quiet as we can find it – like most Shaded Dogs and Mercs, Mint Minus Minus is about the best you can hope for (and no marks are audible, which is always nice)
  • We have been readying this shootout for probably twenty years – we had 8 box sets, all in excellent condition, and this set represents some of the best sound we uncovered for these famous TAS List recordings
  • Wild’s playing of the Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini here is one of our favorites on vinyl
  • 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
  • “Rachmaninoff’s music . . . changes as the composer goes along, moving from Romantic to a tentative Modernism in such works as the fourth piano concerto and the Symphonic Dances. In this sense, he walks a path similar to Puccini’s, incorporating new approaches to extend that [which was] already essentially his. Certainly, the works here show these changes, as the composer picks up more experience, both in writing and in hearing music.”

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Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis / Dorati

The music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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  • Stunning sound for this classic Byron Janis Mercury album with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The piano is huge and weighty, the strings rich and highly resolving, and the overall presentation is powerful, balanced, dynamic and exciting like few other piano concerto recordings we have ever had the pleasure to audition
  • Not only is this the consistently best sounding copy we have had to offer in years, but we are happy to report that the vinyl is especially quiet for a vintage Plum Label Mercury stereo pressing

Fine and Cozart

The piano is huge and powerful, yet the percussive and lighter qualities of the instrument are heard clearly and in proper relation to the orchestra as a whole.

I simply cannot criticize the work that Fine and Cozart have achieved with this recording, and believe me, there are very few records in this world about which I could not find something to criiticize. It is, after all, our job, and we like to set VERY high standards for the work we do. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with Katchen and Solti

More Rachmaninoff

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,

Saturday morning 06.15 waking up, checking messages, news and of course your site. Actually a daily routine.

Finding there Rachmaninov 2. For so many, as for me, an astonishing work.

So once again excited. Then checking reviews on the performance (you just take it for granted what an amazing thing this internet is). Searching, finding and reading about this specific performance is fun, thrilling in a way and in the process you learn more about the composer and piece.

The reviews show the performance as a stand out; for some brusque and maybe too fast leaving out the drama, but for many an exhilarating benchmark.

Afterwords going back to the better-record site to read about the recording. What a great story about Wilkie and the Decca tree.

And then of course being able to actually buy that record. What a privilege!
A big big thank you. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis/ Dorati – Years Ago We Liked a Mono Pressing

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CBFR-1/CBFR-2. This Mono pressing sounds SUPERB, much smoother and more natural than I remember the Stereo pressings sounding. What’s interesting about these Monos is they’re not mastered by Robert Fine. They are mastered by someone with the initials J.J., who apparently does all the Mono mastering. The reason Mercury Monos can sound as good as they do is because they have their own separate microphone feed and their own separate Mono tape recorder dedicated all to themselves. (London did the same thing and that’s why so many London Monos are amazing sounding.)

I don’t think you can find a better sounding Rachmaninoff 3rd on Mercury than this one. 

[Of course we no longer agree with that.  The best stereo copies are in an entirely different league. The mono can be good, but it cannot be great in the way the stereo pressings can be.] (more…)