_Performers – Ricci

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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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…)

Bizet / Carmen Fantaisie on Speakers Corner Vinyl

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

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

Sonic Grade: C

Speakers Corner remastered this title back in the ’90s and did a decent enough job. I would guess my grade would be about a “C.” We carried it and recommended it at the time. I doubt if I would have very many kind things to say about it now. We’ve played an enormous number of superb classical records in the last ten years or so, raising the bar dramatically higher than it used to be.

To illustrate what we don’t like about these Heavy Vinyl pressings, even when they’re good, we have reproduced our review for the Speakers Corner pressing of The Tale of the Tsar Saltan which we played in a recent shootout against the vintage Londons we had on hand.

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing in order to see how it would fare up against our wonderful sounding Londons. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. Similar and even more problematical losses can be heard in the area of top end extension. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.

This particular Heavy Vinyl reissue is more or less tonally correct, which is not something you can say about many reissues these days. In that respect it’s tolerable and even enjoyable. I guess for thirty bucks that’s about the most you can hope for.

But… when I hear this kind of sound only one word comes to mind, a terrible word, a word that makes us recoil in shock and horror. That word is DUB. This reissue is made from copy tapes.

Copies in analog or copies in digital, who is to say, but it sure ain’t the master tape we’re hearing, of that we can be fairly certain. How else to explain such mediocrity of sound?

Yes, the cutting systems being used to master these vintage recordings aren’t very good; that seems safe to say. Are the tapes too old and worn? Is the vinyl of today simply not capable of storing the kind of magical sound we find so often in pressings from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s?

To all these questions and more we have but one answer: we don’t know. We know we don’t like the sound of very many of these modern reissues and I guess that’s probably all that we need to know about them. If someone ever figures out how to make a good sounding modern reissue we’ll ask them how they did it. Until then it seems the question is moot.

Back in 2011 we stopped carrying Heavy Vinyl and other Audiophile LPs of all kinds. So many of them don’t even sound this good, and this sound bores us to tears. (more…)

An Extraordinary Recording of the Carmen Fantasie – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

 

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This London Whiteback LP has DEMO DISC sound like you will not believe, especially on side two, which earned our coveted A Triple Plus rating. The sound is warm, sweet and transparent; in short, absolutely GORGEOUS. We call it AGAIG — As Good As It Gets!

As this is one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time, it is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophle’s collection. (If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.) Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout.

And side one was just a step below the second side in terms of sound quality, with very solid A++ sound. To find two sides of this caliber, on quiet vinyl no less, is no mean feat. You could easily go through ten copies without finding one as consistently good sounding as this one.

A True Demo Disc, Or Was It?

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

Which is why I’ve had a copy of this record in my own collection for about fifteen years marked “My Demo Disc”. But this copy KILLED it. How could that be?

It just goes to show: No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that’s better, and often surprisingly better. Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of records. Nothing else works. If you’re not doing shootouts (or buying the winners of shootouts from us) you simply don’t have top quality copies in your collection, except in the rare instances where you just got lucky. In the world of records luck can only take you so far. The rest of the journey requires effort. (more…)

Mendelssohn and Bruch / Violin Concertos / Ricci / Gamba

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Mendelssohn Violin Concerto sound remotely as good as it does here, and the Bruch Violin Concerto on the second side is every bit as good
  • With sonic grades like these, you can be sure this pressing will beat all comers for sound, including the performances by Heifetz, Rybar, and others we’ve been enamored with in the past
  • The violin is so sweet and present, so rich, natural and real, you will forget you’re listening to a record at all
  • The glorious sound of these truly great 1958 All Tube “Decca Tree” recordings from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place 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. (more…)

Paganini / Caprices / Ricci

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This London White Hot Stamper pressing has DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side two! Sound of this calibre is nothing less than SHOCKING. If you like the sound of solo violin — and who doesn’t — you will have a VERY hard time finding a better sounding recording of it than this. That’s assuming you can get your Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) dead on the money, not something every audiophile can manage. If you can, lookout — you are in for a sonic treat.

And when one side of a record sounds this good, what are the chances that the other side will also be as good? Slim is the flip answer, but flip or not, it’s no less true. Although quite good in many respects, side one is clearly a step down. The statistical law of “regression toward the mean” would tell us it almost had to be. Side two is simply an outlier in the world of violin records. I would not expect to hear many that sound as good in my lifetime, or at least in my audio lifetime. (more…)

Paganini / Violin Concerto 1 & 2 / Ricci (LL 1215) – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Niccolò Paganini

Violin Concerto 1 & 2 / Ricci (LL 1215)

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

This is one of the MOST AMAZING VIOLIN RECORDINGS in the history of the world. For sheer violin virtuosity it doesn’t get any better than this. Ricci and London in the early ’50s cannot be beat! This is a true Demo Disc with music of the highest caliber, and I’m betting whoever takes this one home will be THRILLED. 

Both sides are dynamic, full-bodied, lively and sweet. This is a vintage London mono recording of the ’50s and consequently has some limitations in terms of bandwidth and of course soundstage, but the luscious midrange more than makes up for both. The violin is REAL in a way that few other recordings manage to make it.

Since this is a particularly thick piece of vinyl, you’ll get the best sound from this one by adjusting your VTA a bit as if it were a modern Heavy Vinyl release. Of course, I don’t think there’s any modern Heavy Vinyl out there that could hold a candle to a record like this! And when the VTA locks in perfectly on this record you will know it — the tonality is Right On The Money. (more…)

Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Ricci – Fjeldstad – Reviewed in 2011

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

This is a wonderful sounding London Stereo Treasury pressing featuring one of our favorite violinists, Ruggiero Ricci, performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor. The tone of the violin on side one is just right — every nuance of Ricci’s bowing can clearly be heard!   

While the violin sounds amazing on side one, the orchestra lacks a bit of weight. This side is also not quite as tubey magical as it could be. In our opinion, however, the violin tone and the incredible dynamics are more than enough to award this an A++ grade.

Side two actually has a bit more fullness, but this also seems to rob the violin of some of its presence. We gave this side an A+.

Ruggiero Ricci / Solo Recital – Reviewed in 2011

More Performances by Ruggiero Ricci

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EXCELLENT SOUND and quiet vinyl on both sides of this London LP featuring the great Ruggiero Ricci performing solo violin pieces!

Side two in particular has a sweet, clear top end that really shows you the detail in the violin.

Side one is transparent and tonally correct but a bit dark, without all the clarity and sweetness of side two.

Violin sonatas by Stravinsky, Bartok, Prokofiev and Hindemith.

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