_Conductors – Monteux

Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Monteux

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  • This stunning classical masterpiece finally returns with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • A superb pressing, with gorgeous Golden Age Tubey Magical strings and lovely hall acoustics
  • One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork
  • 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?

One of our favorite performances of Berlioz’s masterwork returns to the site in spectacular fashion, with stunning 1960 Living Stereo sound on both sides.

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.

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

(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 smeary, and the hall practically non-existent. We found out just years ago that there was 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.) (more…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations in Living Stereo – Sometimes Tubey Magic Comes at a Price

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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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. 

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 often a large part of 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 and ’80s. 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 in a real concert hall, clearly the lesser and more preferable of the two evils. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #5 / Monteux / BSO

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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Near Demo Quality. This is one of those mid-hall RCA recordings, and if you like that orchestral perspective, a very natural one to my mind, this record is for you. String tone is superb.

What holds this record back is a lack of orchestral weight. But the strings on this copy are very sweet and the vinyl is exceptionally quiet.

It’s a very sweet sounding copy, and dynamic as hell. Monteux’s performance is beyond reproach.

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

More Records that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

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This remastered Victrola version of the original Living Stereo pressing (LSC 1901) is guaranteed to KILL any and all originals — Shaded Dogs, White Dogs, Red Seals — you name it, this pressing will beat the pants off of it, guaranteed. I’ve played many copies of the earlier RCAs and I have surely never heard one sound like this, with so much LIFE and CLARITY. Where is all the old cutter head distortion, congestion and frequency limiting? It’s sure not here!

Side one is Super Hot (A++) and side two is EVEN BETTER, earning our coveted Top Grade of A Triple Plus! You may have noticed that not many vintage RCA recordings make it to the site with stellar grades such as these, so that makes this a very special pressing indeed. (more…)

Debussy / Prelude & Ravel / Rapsodie / Monteux

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  • With two Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this original stereo copy of CS 6248 is hard to beat
  • This copy is HUGE, rich, clear, dynamic, with exceptionally three-dimensional hall space (the snare is WAY back there)
  • Superb 1961 All Tube recordings of groundbreaking masterpieces by Debussy and Ravel
  • The exceptionally natural recording Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun lets you appreciate the wonder of the piece

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. Nearly Triple Plus all the way. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music. (more…)

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

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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 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.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky for the symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, so we have never actually done a shootout for them.

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”

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

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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 No. 2 on Shaded Dog – Reviewed in 2013 and Again More Recently

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

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Back in 2013 we liked this version, 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…)