_Conductors – Monteux

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 in Living Stereo – 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.

Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring – The Ultimate Recording of the Work

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

More music conducted by Pierre Monteux

  • An outstanding Shaded Dog pressing with superb sound from start to finish
  • Perhaps the greatest performance ever, certainly our favorite for performance and sound – this is not an easy piece of music to record judging by how many awful sounding versions that exist — we should know, we played them
  • Monteux knows the work as well as anyone, he himself conducted the premier in 1913!
  • Mind boggling in its power to move the listener – a classic Decca Tree recording from 1956 by the master, Mr. Kenneth Wilkinson
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of having the Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this recording certainly deserve a place on that list, close to the top I would think

It takes us three years — and a lot of hard work and a fair amount of luck — to get a shootout like this going.

The tympani and bass drum on this recording have few equals in our experience. This is the way HUGE and POWERFUL drums sound in concert. Those of you who go to classical concerts regularly will recognize that sound immediately. You probably also know that finding Golden Age recordings with this kind of deep bass is unusual to say the least.

The space and dynamic power of these sides are really something to hear on this groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not many copies of Rite of Spring can do what these two sides can.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 4 / Siegfried Idyll / Monteux

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

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This early Plum Label Victrola pressing of these lively and masterful performances earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – all qualities the best vintage vinyl classical pressings have in abundance
  • A top performance of the 4th by Monteux and the LSO, with strings that are tonally correct, rich, and sweet
  • The horns on the Wagner piece are exceptionally well reproduced here as well – how could a Wagner record be any good without good horns?
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality Sound. This record has earned a place on that list.

Both sides of this early Plum Label Victrola pressing are superb, with the kind of string tone only found on the best of the Living Stereo releases and other top quality Golden Age recordings.

Here is the kind of sound that Classic Records could not ignore, even though the original was only ever made available as part of RCA’s budget reissue series, Victrola.

Don’t let its budget status fool you — this pressing puts to shame most of what came out on the full price Living Stereo label. (And handily beats any Classic Records reissue ever made.)

And Monteux is once again superb.

We played a large group of Beethoven’s symphonies this week and this was clearly one of the best, if not THE best. Well recorded Beethoven is hard to come by. The box sets we played were mediocre at best, and that left us with only a handful of clean early pressings. These records just aren’t out there like they used to be.

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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique – Gorgeous Living Stereo Strings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture

Gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings, lovely hall acoustics. The size and power of a large orchestra in Living Stereo sound. One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, as it clocks in at around 45 minutes, which means that the mastering engineer has three options when cutting the record: compress the dynamics, lower the level, or filter out the deep bass. The RCA mastering engineer for this pressing managed to hold on to the powerful dynamics captured by the Decca (as far as I know) recording team, seemingly without doing harm to dynamics, levels or deep bass. How, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous Living Stereo strings and hall acoustics that let us forget about the possibility of compromises occurring in other areas.

So open and spacious, with gorgeous, richly textured strings — this is the VIVID sound we love from the Golden Age!

The hall is huge, the brass solid and powerful, the top and bottom extends properly, the stage is wide and clear — what more can you ask for? 

Classic Records Pressings and Their Abysmal String Tone

Of course this was always the downfall of the Classic Records RCA remasterings. Their records had bass and dynamics, no one could deny it, but the strings were usually shrill and the hall practically non-existent. We found out just today [which was quite a while ago of course] that there is a new series of recuts coming from Acoustic Sounds. Based on their dismal track record I will be very surprised if they are much better than mediocre. We look forward to playing one or two.

Monteux Is The Man

According to the biographical sketch in Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Monteux “was never an ostentatious conductor … [he prepared] his orchestra in often arduous rehearsals and then [used] small but decisive gestures to obtain playing of fine texture, careful detail and powerful rhythmic energy, retaining to the last his extraordinary grasp of musical structure and a faultless ear for sound quality.” – Wikipedia

It’s Records Like This that Give Decca Reissues a Bad Reputation

More of the music of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Hot Stamper Classical Imports on Decca & London

Apparently mastered with no regard to sound quality, this Decca SPA reissue is muddy, dull, congested and full of harmonic distortion in the louder passages.

How do we know that? We go out of our way to play every pressing we can get our hands on, even cheap reissues such as this. That’s our job.  We play everything to find the best sounding records so you don’t have to.

And some of these cheap reissues win shootouts!

But you can’t guess which ones will. You have to play them to find out.

And that’s how we know that some of them are good, some of them are mediocre, and some, like this one, are just awful.

Want to be assured of getting good sounding pressings of the greatest classical recordings of all time?

Step right up and order anything you see here, guaranteed to please:

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

The RCA you see pictured here of the same recording should have very good sound, but we have not played that one in a very long time and it would not surprise us if we did not find it nearly as appealing now as it was back then.

A PUBLIC SERVICE

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, and we tell you about them! It’s yet another public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this Decca in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some Hall of Shame records the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good pressing, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, much less excusable.

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 6 – Reviewed in 2005

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

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Beethoven

This is a lovely sounding RCA Shaded Dog.record, with a smooth, natural top end, the opposite of a hi-fi spectacular. Some may find it dull, but it’s actually correct.

Monteux has a wonderful feel for this symphony. His Beethoven in general is actually quite good. This music belongs in any serious collection. String tone is everything in the Pastoral, and Living Stereo gives you the string tone rarely found elsewhere.

Our favorite Beethoven 6th is of course the Ansermet from 1960. Decca does a pretty good job recording strings too in our opinion.

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Sibelius / Symphony No. 2 – Reviewed in 2013 and Again More Recently

More of the Music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Jean Sibelius

More RCA Shaded Dogs with Questionable Sound Quality

Back in 2013 we liked the performance and the sound of this recording on Living Stereo, but recently when we played a copy or two it did not impress us much.

Our system was very different in 2013, and, of course, the copies of the record we have now are not the same as the ones we played all those years ago.

We currently prefer the performance by Barbarolli on Readers Digest.

The Mackerras reissued on London or RCA Victrola may be good too. We have not played either of them in quite a while, so take this recommendation for what it is, an old memory that may be faulty.

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Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Album Reviews of the music of Tchaikovsky

  • This RCA Gold Seal 1976 re-release features STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Tonally correct from top to bottom and as transparent as practically any vintage recording we’ve heard, the combination of clarity and Tubey Magic here is hard to beat
  • This copy is cut clean, and its dynamics and energy are fully intact, which just goes to show how much better the master tape must be than we’ve been led to believe by the original Shaded Dogs pressings and the awful Bernie Grundman pressing released by Classic Records
  • Not all of these later pressings sound like this one, so if you want to find your own, good luck, you sure aren’t likely to run across one of this quality, and the way we know that is that of all the copies that we played, this one was clearly the best
  • If you’re a classical music aficionado, this recording from the earliest days of stereo in 1955 belongs in your collection.
  • To see Living Stereo titles with Hot Stampers, click here.
  • To see the 200+ Living Stereo titles we’ve reviewed, click here.

Presenting a first for Better Records: a White Hot Stamper copy of this CORRECTLY remastered version of LSC 1901, which just happens to be a recording from the earliest days of stereo, 1955! It’s guaranteed to KILL any and all original Shaded Dogs, as well as the more common reissues; White Dogs, Red Seals, Victrolas, Classic Heavy Vinyl, you name it — this pressing will beat the pants off of it and in the process show you precisely what is wrong with each and every one of them.

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Ravel / Daphnis et Chloé / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2012

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

More Records with Our Favorite Orchestral Performances and Top Quality Sound

Nearly White Hot Stamper sound on this superb London Blueback pressing, quite possibly the best complete Daphnis et Chloe we have ever heard.

Both sides here are BIG, with the space and depth of the wonderful hall that the LSO perform in. From my research it appears that John Culshaw may have produced the album, which surely accounts for the huge size and space, not to mention quality, of the recording. The sound is dynamic and tonally correct throughout. Without more copies on hand we feel it’s best to hold back half a plus on the sonic grade. That said, it’s clearly the best Daphnis et Chloe we’ve played to date.

Please note that we should, but often don’t, make a vitally important distinction between two words we tend to use interchangeably. There is a difference between the sound of records that we’ve played and the sound that we’ve heard. The stereo, the listening room, our cleaning technologies and who knows what else are all undergoing constant changes. This means that we may have played a better pressing in the past but couldn’t hear it sound as good as it would now. The regular improvements we make in all areas of playback make sonic comparisons over time all but impossible. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 – What an Amazing Reissue

More of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Album Reviews of the music of Tchaikovsky

This review and commentary was written in 2011. It still holds up though — wouldn’t change a thing.

Presenting a first for Better Records: a White Hot Stamper copy of this CORRECTLY remastered version of LSC 1901, which just happens to be a recording from the earliest days of stereo, 1955! It’s guaranteed to KILL any and all original Shaded Dogs, as well as the more common reissues; White Dogs, Red Seals, Victrolas, Classic Heavy Vinyl, you name it, this pressing will beat the pants off of it and in the process show you precisely what is wrong with each and every one of them.

Over the past twenty years we’ve played hundreds of early RCAs and we have sure never heard one sound like this, with so much richness, Tubey Magic, LIFE and CLARITY.

Where is the cutter head distortion, congestion and frequency limiting that ruins so many of the early pressings?

Mostly — I’m tempted to say completely — gone. We’ve played at least three Shaded Dogs of LSC 1901 since 2011 and all three were AWFUL.

The size and scope of this recording is enormous, with the orchestral sections clearly staged wide and deep. Where is the old tube smear and compression and opacity? It must not be on the tape, because I hear no trace of it.

This copy is cut clean, its dynamics intact, which just goes to show how much better the master tape must be than we’ve been led to believe by the original Shady Dogs and the hacks at Classic Records.

The lower strings are especially textured and rich. That’s the Living Stereo sound we love!

This was by far one of the most natural sounding classical recordings we’ve played in months. Not many classical White Hot stampers come our way, and fewer still make it to the site. We hope whoever buys this record has a large classical collection so that he can see why we think this pressing belongs in the rarefied stratosphere of the All Time Greats.

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as none-too-impressive, playing into my natural prejudice against early Living Stereo recordings and Classic Records themselves.

But RCA managed to cut this record amazingly well decades after the tape was first recorded, not for audiophiles, but for music lovers. Maybe that’s the secret.

Records For Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records

Of course it is. Records made for audiophiles are rarely any good, so rarely that we are shocked when such a record is even halfway decent. After playing so many bad records for so many years it’s practically a truism here at Better Records.

A record like this is the perfect example of why we pay no attention whatsoever to the bona fides of the disc, but instead make our judgments strictly on the merits of the pressing at hand.

This approach has opened up a world of sound that the typical audiophile — one who believes the hype associated with the typical audiophile pressing — will never be able to experience.

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