_Performers – Rubinstein

Brahms / Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3 / Rubinstein and Szeryng – Reviewed in 2010

More Top Quality Violin Recordings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

3S/ 4S RCA Shaded Dog.

Third in a series of masterpieces for violin and piano.

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

The sound is actually quite decent when you INVERT the ABSOLUTE PHASE. If you cannot or will not do that, this record will not sound good — it’s somewhat hard and bright.

It will never be a Top Shaded Dog but it is a good one with the absolute phase inverted.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


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Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Destination Stereo and the State of Reviewing As We See It

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars Available Now

Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other.

When “in-the-know” audiophiles discuss three-dimensionality, soundstaging and depth, they should be talking about a record that sounds like this.

But are they? The glorious, life-changing sound of one heavy vinyl reissue after another seems to be the only kind of record audiophiles want to discuss these days.

More’s the pity. A record as good as Destination Stereo belongs in every serious audiophile’s collection. Allow me to make the case.

The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy.

If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are so often lacking in many of the qualities prized by audiophiles, all you have to do is put this record on for them. 

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

The State of Reviewing

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this often had better sound than the albums from which they were taken, proof that they were listening critically and comparing pressings. What happened to reviewers of that caliber?

I can tell you what happened to them: they left audio, driven out according to the principle that underlies Gresham’s Law: bad reviewers drive out good ones.

Which leaves you with the type that can’t tell how truly awful most modern Heavy Vinyl Reissues are. A sad state of affairs if you ask me, but one that no longer impacts our business as we simply don’t bother to buy, sell or play most of these records.

(more…)

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…)

Rachmaninoff / De Falla – Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini / Nights In The Gardens Of Spain

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

More Classical Recordings in Living Stereo

  • You’ll find STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound throughout this vintage (but not original) RCA pressing of these wonderful classical compositions
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings the RCA engineers achieved in the ’50s and ’60s is a joy to hear throughout these pieces
  • This is something the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern remastered records the way it does on these vintage pressings
  • The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this copy – if you want to know what kind of sound wins shootouts around these parts, this pressing will show you
  • To see more of the best orchestral recordings with top quality sound we’ve done shootouts for, click here
  • If you’re a fan of Rachmaninoff and/or Rubinstein, this Living Stereo from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Until we heard the right later pressings, we had always been disappointed with this TAS List recording, wondering what all the fuss was about. The original Shaded Dog pressings we had played left a lot to be desired. Like many of the old records we audition, it badly lacked both highs and lows, our definition of boxy sound.

Well, now we know. The early Shaded Dog pressings have consistently worse sound than the reissues we are offering here.

We never offered the record in Hot Stamper form because we didn’t think the sound of the originals was all that impressive, TAS List or no TAS List.

Mystery solved, and truly Hot Stampers have now been made available to the discriminating audiophile.

Harry’s list, as was so often the case, did not provide the information needed to find the pressing that captured all the qualities of the recording the way this one does.

Did Harry have a good later pressing? Did he have an original and simply liked it more than we did? We’ll never know.

(more…)

Destination Stereo – Demo Disc Living Stereo Sound

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

Your Destination — Stereo!

“Your passport to great music in new sound by the world’s greatest artists.”

This reasonably quiet RCA Shaded Dog LP has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND on BOTH sides. It is without a doubt THE best sounding copy we have ever heard*.

Side one is White Hot, with some of the best 1959 Living Stereo we’ve ever heard. Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other. When “in-the-know” audiophiles discuss soundstaging and depth, they had better be talking about a record that sounds like this.

Shockingly real – proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than many might think. 

This record is designed to show off the Living Stereo sound at its best and it succeeds magnificently. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

Just play Gnomus to hear The Power of the Orchestra, Living Stereo style.

The fourth and fifth movements of Capriccio Espagnol, the second track on side one, sound superb, CLEARLY better here than on the Shaded Dog pressings we played about a year ago (which were terrible and never made it to the site. Great performance but bad mastering of what obviously was a very good master tape).

You can also hear the Living Stereo sound especially well on the excerpt from “The Fourth of July” performed by Morton Gould. It’s one of the best sounding tracks here.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record much better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is as good as it gets, folks.

The State of Reviewing

Even twenty years ago reviewers noted that tracks on compilations such as this often had better sound than the albums from which they were taken, proof that they were listening critically and comparing pressings. What happened to reviewers of that caliber?

I can tell you what happened to them: they left audio, driven out according to the principle that underlies Gresham’s Law: bad reviewers drive out good ones. Which leaves you with the type that can’t tell how truly awful most modern Heavy Vinyl Reissues are. A sad state of affairs if you ask me, but one that no longer impacts our business as we simply don’t bother to buy, sell or play most of them.

(more…)

Grieg / Piano Concerto – With a Correctly Sized Piano for a Change

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Edvard Grieg

This Shaded Dog pressing has exceptionally lively and dynamic sound on side two, which earned an A++ grade and plays quietly to boot! The sound is BIG and BOLD enough to fill up your listening room and then some.

The piano is clean and clear, the strings are rich and textured.

And his performance of this wonderful work is superb, as is his performance of the shorter coupling works on side two (which actually have the best sound here). 

This is wonderfully recorded music. It has a very natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone.

It also boasts a correctly-sized piano, which is quite unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings.

(more…)

Grieg / Piano Concerto and Favorite Encores / Wallenstein

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Edvard Grieg

  • This superb album of Grieg’s piano music returns to the site with outstanding sound on this fairly quiet Shaded Dog pressing
  • These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and plenty of 3-D space around all of the players
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof
  • “But Grieg’s Concerto is much more than a vehicle for pianistic virtuosity. It has been described as a “tone poem for piano and orchestra” in which an array of colors and moods unfolds. From the beginning of the first movement’s first theme, the piano and the instruments of the orchestra enter into an almost constant dialogue.”
  • More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection
  • More Well Recorded Classical Albums Available Now

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. Artur Rubinstein’s performance of this wonderful work is superb, as is his performance of the shorter coupling works on side two.

Living Stereo MAGIC. This is wonderfully recorded music. It has a very natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone. It also boasts a correctly-sized piano, which is quite unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings.

(more…)

Chopin / Concerto No. 1 / Rubinstein / Skrowaczewski

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this Shaded Dog pressing is the best sounding Chopin First Piano Concerto we have ever heard
  • So big and transparent, with weight and heft to the brass like no other, we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording (unless you already one of our White Hot Stamper LPs)
  • The secret to the superior sound of this particular Rubinstein recording over so many others is the engineering by Kenneth Wilkinson – the glorious hall the London Symphony plays in doesn’t hurt either
  • Chopin, according to Arthur Hedley, “had the rare gift of a very personal melody, expressive of heart-felt emotion, and his music is penetrated by a poetic feeling that has an almost universal appeal…”

“Present-day evaluation places him among the immortals of music by reason of his insight into the secret places of the heart and because of his awareness of the magical new sonorities to be drawn from the piano.”

We heard dramatically more layered depth and more hall than we were accustomed to from the dozen or so RCA Rubinstein recordings that we’ve auditioned over the years. This is a closer approximation of live music than we were expecting, and in that sense it came as an exceedingly pleasant surprise. The shootout has been years in the making, with some copies waiting for their day in the spotlight over ten years.

The strings have lovely Living Stereo (Decca-engineered) texture as well. As befits a Wilkinson recording from 1961, there is no shortage of clarity to balance out the Tubey Magical warmth and richness.

(We have lately been surveying some of his recordings from the late-’60s and ’70s to our great disappointment. The All Tube Recording Chain was gone. Opacity and lack of warmth prevented us from proceeding with any shootouts we might have attempted.)

And for those who prefer original pressings to reissues, here is the record that makes your case. None of the White Dogs or Red Seal reissues could hold a candle to the real Shaded Dog label LPs. They are in a league of their own.

We love the huge, Tubey Magical sound of this recording. The piano is solid and powerful — like a real piano.

Tremendous hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. (more…)

Chopin – Piano Concerto No. 2 – Rubinstein / Wallenstein

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

The original version of LSC 2265 as pictured is known as The Rubinstein Story. It comes with a deluxe gatefold cover and a lovely illustrated booklet tucked into an inner flap with biographical information about Rubinstein and commentary about the music of Chopin.

Of course we Hot Stamper aficionados want to know how it sounds, and the good news here is that side one is WONDERFUL. We awarded it the Super Hot grade of A++. The piano just sounds more REAL on this side than it does on the later pressing we played. It’s clear, solid and present, and the tonality is perfection.

Those of you who know your shaded dogs no doubt have had a few problems with your Rubinstein pressings in the past being too midrangy and forward, a sound that Rubinstein supposedly insisted on for his records. Not so on this side one I am happy to report. The sound is overflowing with Tubey Magic.

Ah, but side two is much more like the typical Rubinstein record, and in this case that means a letdown, with a too-hard sounding piano, the result of an upper-midrange boost. It’s spacious and the vinyl is quiet but the piano does not sound like it does on side one, oh well. One good side is pretty hard to find so consider this one a minor victory.

Beethoven / Concerto No. 4 / Rubinstein / Krips – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

This Super Hot Stamper pressing has superb RCA Living Stereo sound, with an exceptionally clear, solid, tonally correct piano.

We recently did a major shootout for all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, pulling pressings from the three major Golden Age labels — RCA, London, Mercury — and this Fourth came out near the top of the heap. Most pressings of Rubinstein’s Beethoven concertos simply do not have this kind of open, big and bold sound. Side one earned a grade of A++ and side two was actually a bit better at A++ to A+++. That makes this a very special piano recording indeed. (more…)