Performers

Chopin, Rachmaninoff et al. / Richter – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

  • This original White Dog Stereo pressing (just missed the cutoff for “Living Stereo” but the sound is awesome anyway) boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • A WONDERFUL collection of solo piano works performed by one of our favorite pianists, Sviatoslav Richter
  • The piano is present and clear, with no practically no smear whatsoever – both sides are dynamic and open with plenty of weight
  • Recorded live in concert on December 26, 1960, at Carnegie Hall in New York, and December 28, 1960, at Mosque Hall in Newark
  • If you’re a fan of piano showpieces such as these, this recording from 1965 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This vintage RCA Victor Red Seal pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

The Piano

On the transparent and tonally correct copies it is clear and full-bodied. The piano in a solo recording such as this often makes for a good test.

How easily can you see it and how much like a real piano does it sound? 

If you have full-range speakers some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead, the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn-out stampers and bad vinyl and five-gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to reproduce the full spectrum of the piano’s wide range on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we simply cannot find any other way.

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Saint-Saens / Piano Concerto No. 2 / Rubinstein – Living Stereo Magic

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This superb TAS List Piano Concerto recording finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and vinyl that’s about as quiet and scratch-free as we can find it
  • With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • If you love this famous piano concerto as much as we do, this is surely a classic from 1958 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Harry Pearson put this recording on his TAS List of Super Disc LPs, and with good reason — the sound is wonderfully relaxed and natural. This Shaded Dog pressing is exceptionally lively and dynamic. The sound is BIG and BOLD, enough to fill up your listening room and then some. The piano is clean and clear, and the strings are rich and textured.

The great Artur Rubinstein’s performance of these wonderful works is superb.

Our Shaded Dog pressing here offers plenty of Living Stereo Magic. This wonderful record boasts a natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone. It also presents the listener with a correctly-sized piano, which is fairly unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings. (more…)

Sibelius – Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjelstad

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • This Sibelius Violin Concerto has top sonics and a performance to match
  • It’s some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, right up there with our longtime favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2435)
  • One of the truly great 1958 All Tube recordings from Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty by Alan Reeve & Gordon Parry on this very disc
  • “In the easier and looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann I have not met a more original, a more masterly, and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ricci’s (as are we), this is a Must Own from 1958 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The best Shaded Dog pressings of the Heifetz performance on RCA (LSC 2435) are the equal of this London. RCA presents the violin more immediately in the soundfield. Decca’s engineers integrated the violinist into the orchestra, which of course is the way it would be heard in the concert hall. To our ears, both approaches work exceptionally well — when you have at your disposal exceptional pressings of each. We had copies of both that were Hard to Fault, which made for a very enjoyable shootout.

Note that it has been close to ten years since our last big shootout for the work. That’s how long it takes to find enough clean London, Decca and RCA pressings for recordings such as these. Noisy, second-rate copies are everywhere. Top quality early pressings in clean condition come our way less than once a year. There are literally thousands of clean, vintage classical pressing sitting in our stockroom, waiting for a few more copies to come our way so that we can finally do a shootout.

With engineering in the legendary Kingsway Hall, there is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not being lost on us.

It’s also as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is, of course, all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record any better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their unforgiveable mediocrity.)

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Philippe Entremont – Ritual Fire Dance

More Columbia Classical Recordings

More Classical “Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

  • Philippe Entremont’s delightful 1967 release returns with superb sound on both sides
  • It’s solid and weighty like no other, with less smear, situated in the biggest space, with the most energetic performances
  • These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully present piano and plenty of 3-D space around it
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • Dynamic, huge, lively, transparent and natural – with a record this good, your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all

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Brahms / Violin Concerto – Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1S is also that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that’s just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you’ve played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.

The 1S pressings do not win all that many shootouts around here. Of course, to avoid being biased, the person listening to the record doesn’t know the stamper numbers, and that may help explain why the 1S loses so often.

If you are interested in finding the best sounding pressings, you have to approach the problem scientifically, and that means running Record Experiments.

Practically everything you read on this blog we learned through experimentation. When we experimented with the Classic Records pressing of LSC 1903, we were none too pleased with what we heard.

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Tchaikovsky / Paganini – Violin Concertos / Campoli

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

More of the music of Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840)

  • This superb classical release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound for the Paganini-Kreisler piece one side two
  • This copy showed us the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the violin – not many recordings from this era can do that
  • Campoli brings his warmth, feeling, and technical precision to these classical masterpieces
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof

Side two earned a grade of Double Plus (A++) for the third movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  The second work on that side, Kreisler’s reworking of the first movement of the Paganini Concerto No. 1, earned Three Pluses. It is hard to fault. Pull up some youtube videos to see just how amazing and exciting it is.

A true Demo Disc Violin Recording.

And better than the original London pressing we had of the recording the reissue is actually tubier, with none of the dryness you sometimes hear on London discs, and very dynamic.

(We know a thing or two about Decca recordings with dry strings. We delved into the subject here.)

Higher-rez and more present too.

My notes say HTF – Hard To Fault. That’s what it takes to win a shootout around here. (more…)

Bach / Suites For Solo Cello No. 2 & No. 5 / Starker

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

  • With two Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this copy of Starker’s legendary 1963 recording of suites for solo cello will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The original on the early label has the potential for better sound, and we have no problem with anyone that wants to put forth the effort to find a clean copy at a good price
  • All we can say to such a person is “Good luck!”
  • The muddy, murky, veiled and lifeless sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl remaster is nowhere to be found here
  • I would bet money that whatever version is currently available has plenty of shortcomings along those lines, which may be acceptable to the mid-fi crowd but is positively ruinous on the high-fidelity systems that our customers tend to have (or why would they pay these prices?)

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Letter of the Week – “You’re letting me see what my system is capable of…”

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

Hey Tom, 

I’m the one who purchased Ricci’s Carmen yesterday. I can’t wait to receive it! I was surprised and delighted to read on your blog about the copy that sold on ebay for *even more* than I paid for mine. (I never even look at records on ebay anymore – after getting caught up in a couple of bidding wars, I just don’t feel good buying that way anymore.)

This is my fifth purchase from you. It’s my first white hot stamper, it’s the most I’ve paid so far, and it’s the first time I am purchasing a record that I don’t already have multiple copies of. I’ve been dying to see if my system is up to the task of reproducing violin well, and this beautiful music seems the ideal test case. I’ve been on a spree, but I’m going to have to cool it for a while after this. I’ll keep an eye out for a good copy of Avalon, or Leonard Cohen’s Songs, or maybe if a DSOTM comes back up, I won’t chicken out this time…

Aaron

Aaron,

I hope you like the record as much as we did. It is indeed a very special album, and I hope it sounds like six hundred dollars worth of music and sound to you. The Heifetz recordings have especially good violin reproduction if you want to keep going in that direction.

Take your time on picking up hot stampers, most of them come around again eventually, no since going broke!

Thanks for your letter.

TP

Thanks Tom! I’m having a lot of fun with my records from you, but yes, now it’s time to delight in what I’ve got for a while. I’ll probably go back to being a lurker/drooler on your site, the way I was for several years until recently. 

I upgraded to a Soundsmith Sussurro cartridge during the pandemic, and now, some records absolutely JUMP out of my speakers. Including all of yours. It’s a thrill. You’re letting me see what my system is capable of, and instead of that new amp I thought I needed, I’m buying some records from you instead. 
Plus, when a cartridge/system gets the *tone* of instruments right, there’s no mistaking it, and you didn’t even realize you were missing anything. It’s easy to think a recording and system are accurate, but then you hear accurate reproduction and you just say “oh.”
Aaron
Aaron,
You make a good point. If I could get more audiophiles to try a Hot Stamper pressing, and simply take the time to compare it to whatever Heavy Vinyl LP they might have been listening to, I think there would be a lot of them saying “Oh.”
How will they ever know what they are missing if they won’t try a different approach?
I think you know the answer as well as anyone. You were a lurker, and now, having actually heard some Hot Stamper pressings, you are a believer. The records speak for themselves. As I wrote to a customer not long ago, “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.
Thanks for your letter,
TP

FURTHER READING

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Bizet – Saint-Saens – Carmen Fantaisie / Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso / Ricci / Gamba

NEWSFLASH:

We sold this copy last night (10/10), immediately after one had sold in an auction on ebay for $787, a price almost two hundred dollars more than what we were asking. Note that our copy was cleaned and auditioned and found to be both phenomenally good sounding and reasonably quiet. None of these things could be said of the record on ebay of course, but apparently the word is out that this is an amazing recording and the bidding reflected that fact. I have never seen one go for anything like this kind of dough. Now that they do — there were four bidders about $550 — you should not expect to see a Hot Stamper pressing of the album show up on our site again unless we get very lucky locally, and that is highly unlikely. Here is the link to the auction, which will only be up for about 2 weeks.

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — Triple Plus (A+++) on both sides and vinyl that is as quiet as any that can be found from this era
  • This is a spectacular recording, and one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time
  • It is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection. If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.
  • Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout – we know of no better performances of this works than those found on this very record
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater performance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 1 – RCA 1957 Living Stereo Is Hard to Beat

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  • Both sides of this vintage Victrola pressing are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and three-dimensional space around the musicians
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • I used to think that the Classic was better than the Victrola, but that was a long time ago, and I hear a lot of midrange magic on this LP that I don’t think you can find on practically any modern remaster, by Classic Records or anyone else
  • The Classic will be quieter though – we had a devil of a time finding Vics pressings with audiophile quality vinyl

I highly recommend this one, musically and sonically. Everybody loves Rachmaninoff, especially when Byron Janis is at the keyboard, and the Strauss piece is engaging on its own as well.

1957 stereo, can you imagine?

Here is a complete list of Living Stereo Classical titles we have available on the site at this time. On our blog you can find reviews for the hundreds of others we’ve auditioned over the years.

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