_Performers – Curzon

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…)

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…)

Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon / Vienna Octet – Original Versus Reissue

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This unusual 2-pack combines two very different pressings from very different eras to create a complete performance of The “Trout” Quintet with SUPERB Super Hot Stamper (or better) on both sides. One pressing, the one shown, is from the early ’60s; the other is from 1982. How could an imported budget late reissue beat a superb Golden Age pressing on any side you ask? Well, the answer to that question is provided by the records we will send you. 

Side one of this London Whiteback pressing is dark and opaque, with a serious lack of both top end and clarity. Side two however is GORGEOUS: so big, rich, clear and lively, it earned a sonic grade of A++ to A+++! In our shootouts the person reviewing the records (in this case me) never knows which pressing is being critiqued. Imagine my surprise when the late London handily beat the early one.

Actually it’s easy to imagine my surprise, because there was simply no surprise to imagine. In our shootouts here at Better Records late pressings beat early pressings regularly. We let the records speak for themselves, and that’s what they told us, at least on side one of The “Trout”. The reason the late pressing even made it into our shootout was that in a preliminary round it showed us that it had very good sound on side one. Side two didn’t hold up, but any record with good sound on any side is going to go in the shootout, regardless of the “incorrectness” of its label or country of origin.

On the earlier pressing (CS 6090) the sound is rich and sweet; some might say it’s too rich, but for this music it works. The piano and the strings have that Golden Age Tubey Magical sound we love. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to play this record; most copies are just too beat up to bother with, so I was glad to find this one in such minty condition. (more…)

Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon – Speakers Corner – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: B?

We were impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing when it came out back in the day. We’ve come to learn that it is such an exceptional recording that even their second rate remastering of it was still capable of producing a very good sounding record.

One of the ways you can tell how great a recording this is is simply this: as soon as the needle hits the groove you are immediately involved in the music, listening to each of the lines created by the five preternaturally gifted players, all the while marveling at Schubert’s compositional skills.

That’s what a good record is supposed to do. That’s supposedly why we’ve dumped so much money into all this fancy equipment. Because if you have records like this, and the equipment (fancy or otherwise) to play them, you will find yourself being transported to the musical space of the performance in a way that other recordings (read: Heavy Vinyl) simply will not allow you to be. (more…)

Liszt / Sonata in B Minor & Other Pieces / Curzon – Reviewed in 2011

More Franz Liszt’s music

Sonata in B Minor & Other Pieces / Curzon

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

This Super Hot Stamper solo piano record is 1963 Decca recording technology at its finest (or would be if we had ten copies to shoot out and could find the White Hot Stamper pressing hidden among them). As it is, we are happy to have found this one, Super Hot on both sides, an amazingly realistic representation of a piano. You will have a hard time finding better. 

And the music, especially on side two, is compelling and wonderful. This is classical music that will engage you at the deepest and most serious level. Widely considered Liszt’s masterpiece, in Curzon’s forceful hands it is not hard to understand why.

Side One

A++ Super Hot Stamper sound, with a clear piano surrounded in space. Present and dynamic, there is little to fault here, save a touch of smear and a slight lack of weight. (Real pianos in live recitals have weight that I have never heard reproduced by any stereo system, so “real weight” is a relative term, one that applies more to recordings than to the live instrument itself). (more…)

Brahms / Piano Concerto #1 / Curzon / Szell – Reviewed in 2006

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

More Piano Concerto #1 / Curzon / Szell 

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

This is a Near Mint London Whiteback Import LP with an excellent side one. Side one sounds about as good as this record can sound — smooth and sweet with a natural top end and plenty of deep bass. Side two is not quite as magical.

Live Sound Versus Chesky Sound

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Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon

What I hear on this pressing is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording.

A few years back I had a chance to see a piano trio play locally; they even performed a piece by Schubert. The one thing I noticed immediately during their performance was how smooth and natural the top end was. I was no more than ten feet from the performers in a fairly reverberant room, and yet the sound I heard was the opposite of what passes in some circles for Hi-Fidelity.

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

This is the OPPOSITE of those echo-drenched recordings that some audiophiles seem to like, with microphones placed twenty feet away from the performers so that they are awash in “ambience.” If you know anything about us, you know that this is not our sound.

I have never heard live music sound like that and that should settle the question. It does in my mind anyway. The CHESKY label (just to choose one awful audiophile label to pick on) is a joke and always will be. How anyone buys into that phony sound is beyond me, but any audio show will prove to you that there is no shortage of audiophiles who love the Chesky “sound”, and probably never will be. (more…)