_Conductors – Ansermet

Albeniz / Turina – Iberia / Danzas Fantasticas

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find
  • Listen to the plucked basses – clear, not smeary, with no sacrifice in richness. Take it from us, the guys that play classical recordings by the score, this is hard for a record to do!
  • Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

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.

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Chabrier / Ansermet – The Best Espana on Record

Ansermet’s performance of Espana is still our favorite — nothing in our experience can touch it, musically or sonically.

We created a special section for recordings of such quality. Classical and orchestral records that we’ve auditioned and found to have the best performances with the highest quality sound can be found here.

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Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Dry Strings on One Side, Fine on the Other

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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My notes for side two on a copy we recently auditioned read:

Could use more tubes.

Strings could be a bit smoother.

Needs a bit more weight down low.

My notes for side one:

Side one had all of this and more!

Some Common Issues with Londons

Many London and Decca pressings lack weight down low, thinning out the sound and washing out the lower strings.

On some sides of some copies the strings are dry, lacking Tubey Magic. This is decidedly not our sound, although it can easily be heard on many London pressings, the kind we’ve played by the hundreds over the years.

If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do.

Our 17Dx is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard. It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do.

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

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? Things like:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them? (Of course, they may in fact be discussing the hell out of them. I rarely read anything they write. But I don’t think they are discussing these things much. If they are, and you read them, please shoot me a link so that I can be a part of the discussion.) (more…)

Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

Pressings that Need to Be Reproduced on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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Recordings that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

More Exceptionally Dynamic Demo Disc Recordings 

The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like practically no other. It’s also tonally correct. It’s not aggressive. It’s not irritating. It’s just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That’s what really caught my ear when I first played the recording.

There is a blast of brass at the end of Catacombs that is so big and real, it makes you forget you’re listening to a recording. You hear every brass instrument, full size, full weight. I still remember the night I was playing that album, good and loud of course, when that part of the work played through. It was truly startling in its power. (Back then I had the Legacy Whisper speaker system, the one with eight 15″ woofers. They moved air like nobody’s business. If you want to reproduce the power of the trombone, the loudest instrument in the orchestra, they’re your man.)
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Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet / Suisse Romande

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the music of Rimsky-Korsakov

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  • This outstanding pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • These copies will go head to head with the hottest Reiner pressing and are guaranteed to blow the doors off of it
  • The top end is natural and sweet – THIS is the way the solo violin in the left channel is supposed to sound
  • Extraordinary Demo Disc sound – the brass has weight and power on that powerful first movement like nothing you’ve ever heard in your life outside of live performance
  • Finding the best sounding pressings of this exceptional recording was a turning point for us – here was sound we had never experienced for the work, and what a THRILL it was

We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet. This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is seven years later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually every area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller-coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way, Ansermet’s performance is the one for me. We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had potential. (more…)

One of the Greatest Beethoven Ninths on Vinyl – Ansermet in 1960

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

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

The legendary Ansermet recording from 1960 shown above is the best sounding Beethoven 9th we have ever had the pleasure to audition here at Better Records.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall we know of.

Both sides are big, rich and clear, and both were showing us pretty much everything that’s good about a vintage symphonic recording.

To get the chorus to play cleanly right to the very end is difficult for any vinyl pressing and this one is no exception. The chorus should play mostly without distortion or congestion even in the loudest parts, but we can’t say there won’t be a trace of one or both. (more…)

Does Anybody (Other than Us) Ever Talk About the Dry String Tone of Some London Pressings?

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Not that we know of. If audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them are listening critically to these famous recordings on high quality equipment, why do they never talk about this problem?

Here is what we noticed when we played a big batch of Nutcracker recordings on London and Decca:

On some copies of this album the strings are dry, lacking in that wonderful quality we like to call Tubey Magic. Dry is decidedly not our sound, although it can often be heard on the hundreds of London pressings we’ve played over the years.

And we imagined that this might be the culprit:

If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange, the one that so many moving coils have these days, you may not notice this tonality issue nearly as often as we do.

Our Dynavector 17Dx Karat is ruler flat and quite tonally unforgiving in this regard. It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do.

We discussed the issue in a commentary entitled Hi-Fi Beats My-Fi If You Are At All Serious about Audio.

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

Can we really be hearing all these things that nobody else seems to be hearing? Things like:

Not to mention the fact that we have played a lot of these kinds of records:

If audiophiles and audiophile reviewers are hearing these things on the records they review, in magazines and audiophile forums, why aren’t they discussing them?

Case in Point

We occasionally take the time to create a little “test” to see if audiophiles — customers or just visitors to the blog, makes no difference to us — can hear a specific quality we’d noticed when auditioning a record. Normally this would be a quality that jumped out at us when playing the record, and we were just curious as to whether it jumped out at anybody else.

On this version of Sweet Baby James we heard something that took us by surprise, an artifact we subsequently dubbed an “EQ Anomaly.” We put the question of what this anomaly might be to our readers and waited for someone to spot it. And here is what we got in return. (more…)

Albeniz / Turina – Iberia / Danzas Fantasticas – Another Knockout Recording Conducted by Ernst Ansermet

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • We have some good sounding reissues with condition issues, but they do not win shootouts the way the right originals do
  • A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find
  • Listen to the plucked basses – clear, not smeary, with no sacrifice in richness. Take it from us, the guys that play classical recordings by the score, this is hard for a record to do!
  • Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

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.

Victoria Hall

These sessions were recorded in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. Released in 1960, CS 6194 is yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, perhaps of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound that goes beyond all the other recordings we have played, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Iberia

Evocation
El Corpus En Sevilla
Triana
El Puerto
El Albiein
Navarra

Side Two

Danzas Fantasticas

Exaltacion
Ensueno
Orgia

Iberia

Description by “Blue” Gene Tyranny

As a piano series in four books, this suite is Albéniz’s outstanding accomplishment, featuring complex playing techniques, bright modern harmonies, and imitations of instruments such as the guitar and castanets. In this transcription of five of the 12 “impressions” for orchestra by E. Fernández Arbós, many fascinating timbral elements are added to and amplified from the piano score.

“Evocación” (Evocation, 1906) opens with a bright Spanish chord consisting of a guitar-like string pizzicato, timbales, triangle, and high winds. Transposed to the key of A minor from the original A flat minor (intonation and certain figures are considerably easier for the orchestra in A minor), a plaintive English horn delivers the sad, haunting triple meter melody before it is passed on to other woodwind instruments. The expansive high strings are supported by pulsing horns and rich arpeggios which completely realizes something at which the pianist can only hint. Arbós adds new Debussy-inspired textures with tremolo strings and fast runs.

“La Fête Dieu à Séville” (“El Corpus en Sevilla”/Corpus Christi in Seville, 1906) is a celebratory minor-key tune that builds to fiery emotion. Arbós brilliantly accomplishes the difficult transfer of the unique piano figures to the orchestra (for example, quick two-hand alterations are reinterpreted by repeated pedal point on the open A string, or by tremolos in the violins). This makes for some exciting, brightly sparkling impressionist textures. Calmer and slower English horn and flute melodies are then accompanied by softly undulating muted Debussyian string timbres. The final Vivo section re-ignites the energy in triple meter. The ending has bell-like sounds bringing back a religious aspect following the celebration.

“Triana” (1906) is a dance with a graceful, spirited, lilting rhythm with daring harmonic modulations and combinations which calls for an expanded percussion section including timbales, triangle, Basque drum (Pandereta), cymbals, small tambour, tubular bells, and celesta, and like the typical Debussy orchestra, calls for two harps and an expanded wind section.

“El Puerto” (The Port, 1906), in a joyous 6/8 meter, contrasts brusque punctuations with a happy folk dance melody and with “subtle and caressing” sighing figures. Arbós adds many glissandi, quick trills and turns, and mid-range wind and brass sustains (replacing some of the sustaining pedal and resonance capabilities of the piano).

“El Albaicín” (1907), the name of a gypsy quarter in Granada, unfolds in a lively angular dance rhythm with a melancholy sweetness and bold harmonies.

Danzas Fantásticas

Description by Joseph Stevenson

In contrast to his friend and fellow composer Manuel de Falla (six years older), Turina was less interested in mainstream European music and continued to write in the rich, colorful Andalusian style which most often is associated with Spanish music. Danzas fantásticas is a brilliant, wholly Spanish piece and Turina’s best-known work (there is also a piano version).

Ravel / Honnegger / Dukas – Works by Ravel, Honegger and Dukas / Ansermet

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – here you will find some of the best orchestral Hot Stamper sound we offer
  • With so many quiet passages, records that play better than Mint Minus Minus are tough to come by in this world – this one is exceptional indeed
  • The sound of the orchestra is dramatically richer and sweeter than you will hear on most pressings — what else would you expect from Decca’s engineers and the Suisse Romande?

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have ever heard. These recordings may just be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made. (more…)

Bartok & Beethoven – Music For Strings Percussion And Celeste / Grosse Fuge / Ansermet

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

More of the music of Bela Bartok (1881-1945)

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’ve never been a fan of the Grosse Fugue, but the Bartok piece on side two earned a Nearly White Hot stamper grade, and it is one of the best on record
  • Clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Vintage Decca natural and relaxed sound, with wonderfully textured string tone – it’s all here and more
  • “… one of the best-known compositions by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.”

NOTE: our cover does not have the tear in the upper right corner shown in the picture. (more…)