_Conductors – Martinon

Vintage Vinyl Sound You Won’t Find on Modern LPs and CDs

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

More Recordings from Kingsway Hall

Here is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. 

It’s also proof positive that Decca’s choice of Kingsway Hall as a recording venue was a good one. 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 and no Heavy Vinyl pressing ever sounded like this in our experience.

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 recorded this music much better than they dhave here — 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…)

Shostakovich / The Age of Gold – Another “Problematical” Classic Records Reissue

Sonic Grade: D

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as fairly typical of their mediocre-at-best catalog, tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and above all Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original or a VICS reissue that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade to give Classic’s pressing is probably a D: below average.

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood, this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. (I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct.)

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is MINT. If you played it at all, you played it once and put it away on a shelf where it sits to this very day.

You may not have been able to put your finger on exactly what was wrong with it, but on some level, perhaps subconsciously, you knew there was something missing, something “off.” Whatever it was doing, good or bad, it wasn’t a record you felt the need to return to again.

And that’s why it’s mint. It was played once or twice and stored. You kept it perhaps because it filled a hole in your classical collection. Shostakovich Age of Gold? Yes, I have that one, here it is right here, in the S’s.

The world is full of mediocre records. This is not the brilliant insight it appears to be. They are mediocre by definition, since the average record is average. Classic Records made quite a number of them. They were joined in these efforts by lots of other incompetent mastering houses marketing their wares to audiophiles, the self-described “lovers of sound,” the ones that are apparently fooled by fancy packaging, quiet vinyl and a good story. (You, dear reader, are unlikely to be so easily fooled, or you would have stopped reading this post by now.)

Our records don’t come in fancy jackets, they rarely have quiet vinyl, and most people, audiophiles included, don’t think our story of the Hot Stamper records we sell and how we find them is the least bit plausible.

But our records sound good, and we think that ought to count for something.


FURTHER READING

(more…)

Shostakovich – Symphony No.1 / The Age Of Gold Ballet Suite / Martinon

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • The Symphony No. 1 concludes for about the first inch on side two and is excellent as well, with many of the same attributes, as rightly befits a true Golden Age Classic from 1959
  • Recorded in Kingsway Hall with the London Symphony, this Decca licensed title has orchestral sound to rival the best you’ve heard
  • “This is an example of what art as recorded sound should strive to be. A triumph for all participants.”

The second picture you see is the original Living Stereo release.

Our Story

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage.  (more…)

Shostakovich / The Age of Gold – If You Own This Pressing, My Guess Is It’s Pristine

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood many years ago — apparently they had run into some financial trouble — this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct on that point. Whatever the price, it was cheap.

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is pristine.

If you played it at all, you played it once and put it away on a shelf where it probably sits to this very day. Good records get played and bad records don’t. If you have lots of pristine records on your shelves, ask yourself this question: Why don’t I want to play them?

You may not like the implications of the answer: They aren’t any good.

And that means you should never have bought them in the first place. But we all make mistakes. Owning up to them may be hard, but it is the only way to make any real progress in this hobby.

The One Out of Ten Rule

If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a more manageable size, pick a composer and play half a dozen of his works. Most classical records display an irredeemable mediocrity right from the start; it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

If you’re after the best sound, it’s the rare record that will have it, which makes clearing shelf space a lot easier than you might imagine. If you keep more than one out of ten you’re probably setting the bar too low, if our experience is any guide.

If you want nothing but amazing sounding classical records, we typically have quite a selection.


Shostakovich / Symphony No.1 – Lucky for Us the First Copy We Played Was Good

Classical Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

The first copy of the album I got my hands on and needle-dropped blew me away with its big, open, clear, solid orchestral sound. Close to three years later, when we had enough copies to do this shootout, sure enough it won. That rarely happens — in a big pile of records there’s almost always something better than whatever we’ve heard — but it happened this time.

Imagine if I had played one of the bad sounding or noisy ones to start with. It’s unlikely I would have been motivated to pursue the title and consequently the shootout we just did would have never happened. Lucky for us all that that first copy was so good.

These sides are “real” sounding, with a clean bottom and clean lower mids. Little to no smear. The sound is full-bodied and rich, yet clear and clean, and spread out on a huge stage – it’s yet another example of proper Orchestral Reproduction.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. 

Classic Records Release on Heavy Vinyl

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as fairly typical of their mediocre-at-best catalog, tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and above all Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original or a VICS reissue that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade to give Classic’s pressing is probably a D: below average.

When Classic Records was blowing out its unsold inventory through the Tower Records Classical Annex in Hollywood, this was a title you could pick up for under ten bucks. I remember it being $7, but my memory may not be correct.

And even at that price it seemed nobody really wanted it.  Which is as it should be. Heavy Vinyl or no Heavy Vinyl, a bad record is a bad record and not worth the bother of sitting down and listening to it.

If you own this record, my guess is it is MINT. If you played it, you played it once and put it away.

(more…)

Ibert / Divertissement / Martinon – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

This London LP has a very good A+ to A++ side two. Lively and not too bright with nice space and clarity, the Jeux D’Enfants is very enjoyable. Le Rouet D’Omphale (the Spinning Wheel) which follows is even better! Natural and dynamic with rich strings, the tonality is wonderfully balanced. 

Performed with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra under Jean Martinon, this record also features Bizet’s Jeux D’Enfants and Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre and Le Rouet D’Omphale.

Side one, unfortunately, is not up to the same standard. Both sides, of course, have been through our extensive cleaning process and should sound substantially better than average.

Prokofiev / Symphony #5 / Martinon (LSC 2272) – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

xxxxx

This rare Shaded Dog pressing has an absolutely AMAZING side two. It’s transparent, with sweet (yes, for the Prokofiev 5th!), smooth and rich strings. Listen to how natural the woodwinds sound on this side 

Side two here is the fluke, since most of the time this record sounds terrible. But now we know how well engineered it really is. We have the copy right here to prove it! (more…)

Massenet / Le Cid Ballet – A Good Speakers Corner Decca

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

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.

Finally a version of Le Cid that we can enjoy! Superb sound with a performance to match!

No more suffering through the hi-fi-ish Doug Sax/ Acoustic Sounds rebutchering of the Fremaux on Klavier.  

Audiophiles in droves bought into that one, apparently not noticing the overblown bass and spark-spark-sparkling top end. Thankfully we now have this Decca from Speakers Corner to demonstrate proper orchestral balance.

If your system needs boosted bass and highs, keep the Klavier. If it doesn’t this Decca will allow you to forget about the sound and enjoy this lovely music.

Massenet / Le Cid / Martinon – This Blueback Was Awful

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing. Don’t buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals are always the best sounding pressings.

The original Blueback pressing — true, we only had the one, so take it for what it’s worth — was a complete disaster: shrill, with no top or bottom to speak of.  (more…)

Borodin / Symphony No. 2 – Martinon

This Minty looking RCA Living Stereo LP has AMAZING SOUND. It’s everything a Living Stereo record should be — warm and rich with lots of depth and silky highs.

The lower strings on this record are hands down some of the best I’ve ever heard. They’re so rich and textured.

Out of all the Decca recorded RCAs I’ve had the pleasure (or misfortune as the case may be!) of listening to, this is definitely one of the top dogs.

If this record were quiet it would easily fetch $300; unfortunately that ain’t the case. The only reason we’re offering this copy for sale is because the sound — and the music — are OUT OF THIS WORLD!