- A stunning copy of this classical masterpiece with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
- By far our favorite performance for the work, and fortunately for us audiophiles, it is also the best sounding recording of the work that we know of
- With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard
- When the brass is the way it is here – rich and clear, not thin and shrill – you have yourself a top quality DG pressing
- Virtually no smear to the strings, horns or piano – this is Golden Age Recording done right!
- Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
- There are about 150 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile vinyl pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality Sound. This record has earned a place on that list.
- More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums –The Core Collection
I don’t know of another recording of the work that gets the sound of the piano better. On the better copies the percussive quality of the instrument really comes through.
Without question this is a phenomenal piano recording in every way.
It’s amazing how many piano recordings have poorly miked pianos. The badly recorded pianos are either too distant, lack proper reproduction of the lower registers, or somehow smear the pounding of the keys into a blurry mess.
Are they badly recorded?
Or is it a mastering issue?
Perhaps a pressing issue?
To be honest, it’s probably all three.
On the best copies the rich texture of the strings is out of this world — you will have a very hard time finding a DG with better string tone. This record does not have the shortcomings of the average DG: it’s not hard, shrill, or sour.
DG made plenty of good records in the ’50s and ’60s, then proceeded to fall apart, like most labels did. This is one of their finest. It proves conclusively that at one time — 1962 to be exact — they clearly knew what they were doing.
- The finest Liszt 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos we know of for their performances, and unquestionably for sonics (when the sonics are this good!)
- The best pressings of this title are more like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording you own (outside of one of our Hot Stamper pressings of course, those can be every bit as good) or your money back
- So big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording (unless you already one of our White Hot copies!)
*NOTE: Unlike Concerto No. 1, The Second Piano Concerto opens very quietly, so there will likely never be a vintage pressing of the album that will get that opening to play like a CD. Expect to hear some random ticks, a small price to pay to hear this wonderful performance on top quality analog.
Richter and Kondrashin deliver the finest Liszt 1st & 2nd Piano Concertos I know of, musically, sonically and in every other way. Richter’s performance here is alternately energetic and lyrical, precisely as the work demands. The recording itself is explosively dynamic. The brass is unbelievably full, rich and powerful. You won’t find a better recording of this music anywhere, and this pressing just cannot be beat.
Big and rich (always a problem with piano recordings: you want to hear the percussive qualities of the instrument, but few copies can pull it off without sounding thin). We love the BIG, FAT, Tubey Magical sound of this recording! The piano is solid and powerful — like a real piano.
Huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. (more…)
Classical music is unquestionably the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge set-up. The Liszt recording you see pictured is a superb choice for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like.
One of the reasons $10,000+ front ends exist is to play large scale, complex, difficult-to-reproduce music such as Liszt’s two piano concertos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you choose to, it would surely be the kind of record that can show you the sound your tens of thousands of dollars has paid for.
It has been my experience that cheap tables more often than not collapse completely under the weight of a mighty record such as this.
- 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 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.
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.
Sonic Grade: F
This recording was released through Mercury after Philips bought the label. It was recorded by Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart, mastered by George Piros, the legendary Mercury team of renown. It is instructive to note that the Philips mastering is dramatically superior to the mediocre Mercury mastering, which may strike you as counterintuitive, but is nonetheless a fact. It’s precisely the reason we play records all day here at Better Records. You can’t judge a record by its credentials. The only way to know how it sounds is to play it, and to really know how it sounds you must play it against a sizeable number of other copies.
Then, and only then, can you talk knowledgeably about the sound. (Note to forum posters: this means you.)
The potentially right pressing comes in a cover very much like this one:
- This stunning vintage RCA Living Stereo pressing boasts wonderful Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, with vinyl that is as quiet as any Shaded Dog from 1961 is ever going to play
- This pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades, but unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings, Richter, the brilliant soloist featured here, is not overly spotlighted, hence the much more natural “concert hall” sound
- The piano is part of the orchestra, and properly sized, allowing the contributions of the other musicians in the orchestra to be heard more clearly, laid out as they are so elegantly across a huge and deep Boston Symphony Hall stage
This fairly quiet Large Tulips early DG pressing in the heavy cardboard outer sleeve has THE BEST SOUND we have ever heard for this recording! Believe me, they don’t all sound like this! This copy is airy and sweet; just listen to the flutes — you can really hear the air moving through them. There is still some congestion in the loudest passages, but that’s unfortunately not something we can do anything about. Since it’s on every copy we’ve ever played we just have to assume it’s part of the recording.
Of the twenty or so clean copies we’ve auditioned over the last year or two, this one is clearly in a league of its own, with a price to match.
THE Tchaikovsky First
Since this is the best performance of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto of all time, the minor shortcomings in the sound are easy to overlook. The piano sounds solid and full bodied. I don’t know of another performance of this work that gets the sound of the piano better. You can really hear the percussive quality of the instrument. It’s amazing how many piano recordings have poorly mic’ed pianos. They’re either too distant, lack proper reproduction of the lower registers, or somehow smear the pounding of the keys into a blurry mess. The piano sound is what first impressed me when a friend of mine brought the record over for me to hear. Of course I bought it on the spot.
And the texture of the strings is out of this world — you won’t find a DG that gets with better string tone, and 99% of them are worse. This record does not sound like your typical DG: hard, shrill, and sour. DG made good records in the ’50s and ’60s and then proceeded to fall apart, like most labels did. This is one of their finest recordings. It proves that at one time they knew what they were doing.
This recording really only has one shortcoming, which is that in some sections, when it gets loud, it tends to be a bit congested. Other places are very dynamic. I’m guessing somebody dialed in too much compression in those spots, but who’s to say? (more…)
This A++++ Beyond White Hot Stamper 2-pack has sound that must be experienced to be believed! The finest Liszt 1st & 2nd Concertos we know of for performance and unquestionably for sound when they sound like this. More like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording I have played in longer than I care to remember – both sides are so big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto. (more…)
Phil is a long time customer who shares my love for Richter and Karajan’s powerful and exceptionally well-recorded performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto.
He knows full well how bad most copies sound — he has a few of his own to prove it. When he saw this beauty in the mailer he did what any self-respecting record lover would do: he jumped on it. Even at $500 he feels he got his money’s worth, and that’s a lot of money for a Deutsche Grammophon record, the kind that no record store in the world would charge more than ten or twenty dollars for. If only we could find more like it…
You called it exactly right. The opening salvo by the orchestra gave me chills, and I knew I was hearing something extraordinary. In spite of tutti mayhem, the sound and performance is operatic and thrilling. I’m surprised you parted with this one.
Phil, years ago I used to say on the site that the best copies go in my collection, but that hasn’t been true for quite some time now. I have about ten records in my collection that I’m keeping for one reason or another, and everything else goes into the shootouts we do around here. (I may list my own collection on the site one of these days. You could type up the whole list in twenty minutes.)
Good records should be played, and when do I have time to play records for myself? We spin the damn things all day long. Monday through Friday, the VPI is booked. On the weekends I like a little peace and quiet; can you blame me? So better that you have an amazing record like that to play. I’ll just be content with the memory of the sound — until we do the next shootout of course. Then we’ll play it all day long and I’ll have a chance to really get back into again.
The performance on that record is really one for the ages. I hope we find a Hot Stamper that sounds as good as the one you bought. I don’t expect to, but it sure would be nice for someone else to have the chance to hear that recording at its best.