Performers

Rabin / The Magic Bow / Slatkin – Reviewed in 2010

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This original Capitol record with Michael Rabin is ONE OF THE VERY BEST VIOLIN RECORDINGS we have ever played here at Better Records. The sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The immediacy of the violin tone is unbelievable — Rabin is in the room with you throughout the entirety of the record in a way that few recordings in our experience could hope to equal.

What more can we say, other than the music is every bit as good as the sound. If you love the Classical Romantic period, and who doesn’t, these selections will have you in a world of sound and music rarely matched by anything but the best in live performance.

Another TAS List Oversight

This is another record that is not on the TAS List, but would certainly take top honors in a head to head shootout with any of the violin works to be found there. (more…)

Brahms / Piano Concerto #1 / Curzon / Szell – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

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 when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

One of the best of the Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissues. As you may know they have gone way downhill lately. Haven’t played this LP in a while but I remember liking it quite a bit back in the day.

Grieg / Piano Concerto – Curzon / Boult – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

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.

One of the best Deccas — superb sound and music that belongs in your life!

This performance also includes Franck’s “Variations Symphoniques” and Litolff”s “Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique, Op. 102”.

Liszt / Sonata in B Minor / Curzon – A Speakers Corner Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

More vinyl dreck from Speakers Corner and a Hall of Shame pressing if there ever was one. Pure mud. (more…)

Vivaldi / Four Concerti For Two Violins and Orchestra / Stern & Oistrakh – Ormandy

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This Columbia 360 label pressing (MS 6204) has an especially lovely side two. The extended tape hiss is a dead giveaway that this copy has the high frequencies that are going to let the violin harmonics come through beautifully, and they do! The sound is mid-hall on both sides, but side two is richer than side one, less edgy and more relaxed, which is all to the good.

Both sides feature virtuoso playing, with plenty of rosiny texture to the violins. The vinyl is also very quiet, mostly mint minus. (more…)

Prokofiev / Concerto #3 / Hendl – An Old Review of the TAS List Favorite

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Good piano tone and dynamic too. Side two is not as good. It’s more compressed and smeared, but not too badly. If side one gets a 10, side two gets a 7 or so.

Performed by Van Cliburn, pianist, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Hendl. This performance also includes MacDowell’s ”Concerto #2”.

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Szeryng – Munch

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A decent reissue, a record worth buying at the right price but no Demo Disc by any means.

This plum label original Victrola pressing is actually better than most pressings of the rare Shaded Dog that we’ve played, LSC 2363. The violin tone is lovely on side one, but the orchestra is not what it should be.

Side two has Tartini’s Devil’s Trill which takes up about half the side and has the best sound here, earning a grade of A+ to A++.

Szeryng is excellent throughout.

Brahms / Concerto for Violin and Cello – Heifetz / Piatigorsky (LDS 2513)

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This RCA Soria pressing plays about Mint Minus, pretty quiet for a Shaded Dog era pressing.

The orchestra is its typical shrill self. The cello and violin sound wonderful most of the time. When they really get going the sound can be a bit much. At moderate volumes the record is very enjoyable.

If I’m not mistaken, reversing your polarity will help the sound some.

This is a famous recording for having distortion and congestion in the louder orchestral passages. There is no such thing as a copy of this record that doesn’t have that problem. You listen to this record for the wonderful interplay between Heifetz and Piatigorsky and not much else.

Schumann / Piano Concerto / LSO / Ashkenazy

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M-. DEMO QUALITY. Stunning sound. A fabulous, warm reading of this Schumann concerto. This has a similar sonic magic to the EMI Glazunov Concerto. The hall ambience is palpable. The tonal balance is almost perfect.

It’s simply hard to fault music and sound of this caliber.

Grieg / Piano Concerto – Curzon

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This is a WONDERFUL London Whiteback pressing of works by Grieg and Franck, with some of the most natural piano concerto sound we’ve heard around here in quite a while. We had a couple of copies of this one — two to be exact — and this was clearly the better sounding of the two.

The recording has a mid-hall perspective, more like the sound of live music than the famous Rubinstein recording for RCA, just to take one example. The piano is warm and full-bodied, the strings rich and sweet — who can ask for more?

Transparency and an extended top end were both key to the better sounding copies. You really hear into the soundfield with the best pressings, and all the harmonics are clear and right when the top end is correct. (more…)