Our review for the MHS pressing of the famous concerto was entitled:
The Violin That Ate Cincinatti
Yes, it may be oversized, but it’s so REAL and IMMEDIATE and harmonically correct in every way that we felt more than justified in ignoring the fact that the instrument could never sound in the concert hall the way it does on this record — unless you were actually playing it (and even then I doubt if it would be precisely the same sound — big, but surely quite different).
This is where the mindless and all but fetishistic embrace of “the absolute sound” breaks down completely. Recordings that do not conform to the ideal sound of the concert hall are not necessarily bad or wrong. Sometimes — as we think might be the case here — records with this sound can actually be more involving than their more “natural” counterparts.
This is especially true for rock and jazz, but it can also be true — at least to some degree — for classical music as well. If you don’t agree with us that the sound of the violin on side two of this pressing is more musically involving than it is on side one, you may of course return it for a full refund.
MHS remastered the original 1967 Melodiya tape in 1979 in order to produce this record, dramatically improving upon the sound of the version that I knew on Angel, which shouldn’t have been too hard as the Angel is not very good.
Wait a minute. Scratch that. MHS didn’t cut the record, an engineer at a mastering house did. Fortunately for us audiophiles, the job fell to none other than Bill Kipper at Masterdisk.
Once Masterdisk had done their job, MHS proceeded with theirs, pressing it on reasonably quiet vinyl and mailing it out to all their subscribers.
Can you imagine getting a record this good in the mail? It boggles the mind. Of course Reader’s Digest did something very similar in prior decades, and some of their pressings are superb, but I can’t think of a single one that sounds this good or plays this quietly. [That is no longer true, we have played some awfully good ones.]
For a subscription service record label release, this one raises the bar substantially. Hell, for a recording of the work itself this copy raises the bar. It’s without a doubt one of the best recordings of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a score of them if not more.
Depth, Width and the Third Dimension
The violin here is superb — rich, smooth, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound. The Tubey Magical richness is to die for. This record sounds more like 1959 than 1967, or 1979 for that matter.
Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Zero smear, high-rez transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — it takes the sound of this recording beyond what we thought was possible.
As good as any on record. Igor Oistrakh, the son of the legendary David Oistrakh (here conducting), turns this one into a real barn burner. Play it against the recordings of Heifetz, Milstein, Campoli, Grumiaux, Szeryng — all our favorites — and any others you may know and we guarantee this one will hold its own with the best of them.
A Must Own Record
This wonderful violin concerto — one of the greatest ever composed — should be part of any serious Classical Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
One Final Note
Think what a different audio world it would be if we still had Bill Kipper with us today, along with the amazingly accurate and resolving cutting system he used at Masterdisk. There are no records being produced today that sound remotely as good as this budget subscription disc.
Furthermore, to my knowledge no record this good has been cut for more than thirty years. The world is awash in mediocre remastered records and we want nothing to do with any of them, not when there are so many good records still to be discovered and enjoyed.
The likes of Bill Kipper are no longer with us, but we can be thankful that we still have the records he and so many talented others mastered all those years ago, to enjoy now and for countless years to come.
Remember, it’s all but impossible to wear out a record these days with modern, properly set up equipment no matter how often you play it.