_Conductors – Monteux

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 6 / Monteux on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

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.

Keep in mind the Shaded Dog originals of this recording are awful too, as we make clear below.

We’ve played at least three Shaded Dogs of LSC 1901 since 2011 and all three were AWFUL. A recent reissue showed us the light.

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 (note: their heavy vinyl reissue is awful). (more…)

Letter of the Week – Rite of Spring – “This copy should go in the Smithsonian, but I’m never going to part with it so they’re out of luck”

Rite of Spring

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

Hey Tom, 

I don’t know where you dug up this copy, but I am stunned. I have been looking for 50 years for a decent sounding copy of the best performance ever. When you have a brilliant performance, one that actually birthed the music, coupled with great sound, this is a life changing experience. This copy should go in the Smithsonian, but I’m never going to part with it so they’re out of luck. You are a wizard, although I know that a lot of hard work went into this discovery. I can now eschew all the other pontificating releases that stimulated my appetite but never delivered that quintessential magic. (more…)

Sibelius / Symphony #2 on Shaded Dog – Reviewed in 2013

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Back in 2013 we liked this versioni, but recently when we played a copy or two it did not impress us as 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 Barbarolli on Readers Digest. The Mackerras on London reissue or RCA Victrola are both good too.

(more…)

Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring / Monteux – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The ULTIMATE Rite of Spring has arrived. This early pressing takes the sound of the recording to a place we never thought it could go. With Four Pluses (A++++) it’s more than a full grade better than any copy to ever make it to the site. After hearing this copy we had to lower the grade on our supposedly White Hot (but too noisy to sell) reference LP. 

The space and dynamic power of the sound of this side one were something we had never heard before on Stravinsky’s groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not one Rite of Spring in a hundred can do what this record can! (more…)

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Monteux / Vienna Phil

More of the music of Hector Berlioz 

More Symphonie Fantastique / Monteux / Vienna Phil 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

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.

One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork debuts on the site in spectacular fashion, with Super Hot Stamper 1960 Living Stereo sound on both sides. The vinyl is lightly ticky, typical for RCA from this era, with no scratches and no Inner Groove Distortion.

This is a piece that’s difficult to squeeze onto two sides of a single LP, clocking in as it does 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. (more…)

Beethoven – Symphony #6 / Monteux – Reviewed in 2005

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Beethoven – Symphony #6 / Monteux 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

1S/ 6S Immaculate looking RCA Shaded Dog.

This is a lovely sounding 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.

 

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

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

Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

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, Gold 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. (more…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2011

More Elgar

More Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This famous Shaded Dog, containing two superb performances by Monteux and the LSO, has many of the Golden Age strengths and weaknesses we know well here at Better Records, having played literally hundreds upon hundreds of these vintage pressings over the last twenty years or so. 

Both sides earned sonic grades of at least A+ to A++ (with side one being just a bit better than that but maybe not quite A++). The sound is rich and sweet and full of Living Stereo Magic!  

The wonderful sounding tube compressors that were used back in the day result in quieter passages that are positively swimming in ambience and low-level orchestral detail. Tube compression is, in large part, what we mean when we use the term Tubey Magic. (If you want to know what Zero Tubey Magic sounds like, play some Telarcs or Reference Recordings from the ’70s. Or a modern digital recording on CD.)

But all that sweet and rich Tubey Magic comes at a price when it’s time for the orchestra to get loud. It either can’t, or the louder passages simply distort from compressor overload. Fortunately on this copy the orchestra does not distort, it simply never gets as loud as it would have in a real concert hall, clearly the lesser and more preferable of the two evils. (more…)

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

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

Daphnis et Chloé / Monteux / LSO

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.  

Nearly White Hot Stamper sound on this superb London Blueback pressing make it 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 ever heard.

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…)

Dvorak/ Symphony No. 7 / Monteux/ LSO – Reviewed in 2008

More Antonin Dvorak

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This fairly quiet (M-) Plum Label Victrola has LOVELY, SPACIOUS, tonally correct sound. Monteux and LSO are wonderful here, so this one gets a top recommendation from Better Records.