Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite & Scythian Suite – Dorati

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound is found throughout this original (but not FR-1, those didn’t do as well!) Mercury LP
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • We have a preference for Dorati’s work with the London Symphony Orchestra, and a record like this will show you exactly why we do
  • If you’re a fan of 20th century orchestral showpieces such as these, Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart have here produced a very special record of two of the best
  • We hope you like your sound big and bold, because that is the sound they were obviously going for
  • I have to admit I was never a fan of this album until only a few years ago, when I finally got my hands on a clean copy and heard the powerful sound of the London Symphony come blasting out of my speakers – what a thrill!
  • This record seems to have been dropped from the TAS Super Disc list, which is only fitting since the current crop of nitwits has been watering it down with one crappy title after another since HP passed in 2014
  • If you’re a fan of Prokofiev’s music, this superb All Tube Recording from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

In the heyday of the ’90s, when these records were all the rage, this copy would have sold for as much as $1000 and maybe even more. And the copy that sold for that would have been very unlikely to sound as good as this one, if only for the fact that cleaning technologies have advanced so much over the last twenty years or so (and no, I do not mean ultrasonic cleaning. I mean scrubbing the right fluids and using the right machines to vacuum them off).

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Bizet / L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites – Ansermet

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

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • This superb recording makes it back to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side side and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • This is a spectacular recording — it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
  • 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’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’50s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it
  • Recorded in 1958 using the amazing Decca Tree mic setup, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording

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Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler

More Music Conducted by Arthur Fiedler

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • Outstanding sound throughout this vintage RCA Victrola stereo pressing of these delightful orchestral pieces
  • Unlike the original Shaded Dog pressings, this Victrola is in correct polarity on both sides
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – this recording, when mastered and pressed right, as is the case here, is the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • When we talk about space and transparency, we’re talking about recordings that sound like this one
  • A favorite title with audiophiles – it’s full of lovely orchestral colors and, as usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops know how to bring them out
  • More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)
  • More of the music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Fiedler has a way with the Ibert piece here like nobody’s business; the performance is definitive, although the sound is not as good as La Boutique Fantasque, which is nothing short of amazing. The Kay piece sounds excellent here and is beautifully performed. Fiedler is hard to beat on music like this.

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Smetana and Dvorak – Bohemian Rhapsody

More of the Music of Smetana

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • We can honestly say we have never heard these wonderfully melodic works played with more verve and skill
  • Nor have we heard any performances with better sound – this may be a budget Decca reissue, but as some of you Hot Stamper fans have discovered, it is not unusual for these later Deccas to beat the originals
  • And note that this pressing is no spring chicken — it’s almost 50 years old
  • This copy has many condition issues — if it didn’t sound as amazing as it does we wouldn’t bother listing it, but it does!
  • The original Decca and London pressings are rare and expensive, but if you one, you really owe it to yourself to hear just how good this pressing sounds
  • “The performances of The Bartered Bride extracts have all of the necessary sparkle and verve, while Kertesz’s credentials as a Dvorák conductor are second to none.”
  • Another Must Own Title from 1962. Other recommended titles from 1962 can be found here.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best-sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Grateful Dead music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This record shows off vintage Decca sound at its best. 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 consistently unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

The richness of the strings, a signature sound for Decca in the Fifties and Sixties, is on display here for fans of the classical Golden Age. 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 lost on us. I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records. (more…)

Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

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Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring – The Ultimate Recording of the Work

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

More music conducted by Pierre Monteux

  • An outstanding Shaded Dog pressing with superb sound from start to finish
  • Perhaps the greatest performance ever, certainly our favorite for performance and sound – this is not an easy piece of music to record judging by how many awful sounding versions that exist — we should know, we played them
  • Monteux knows the work as well as anyone, he himself conducted the premier in 1913!
  • Mind boggling in its power to move the listener – a classic Decca Tree recording from 1956 by the master, Mr. Kenneth Wilkinson
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of having the Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this recording certainly deserve a place on that list, close to the top I would think

It takes us three years — and a lot of hard work and a fair amount of luck — to get a shootout like this going.

The tympani and bass drum on this recording have few equals in our experience. This is the way HUGE and POWERFUL drums sound in concert. Those of you who go to classical concerts regularly will recognize that sound immediately. You probably also know that finding Golden Age recordings with this kind of deep bass is unusual to say the least.

The space and dynamic power of these sides are really something to hear on this groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not many copies of Rite of Spring can do what these two sides can.

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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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Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky

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

 More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • A stunning pressing of Bizet’s masterpiece, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Side one is also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Both sides are open, high-rez, and spacious, with depth like you will not believe and some of the least shrill string reproduction we have ever heard for this music (which is the main problem we run into on the album)
  • Gloriously exciting and fun music that belongs in any audiophile’s collection – side one is where the action is, and this side one had the best sound we heard all day
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

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Chabrier / Orchestral Music – Ansermet

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

  • This superb Chabrier album contains our favorite Espana Rhapsody, and this copy lets you hear it with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • The “Espana” rhapsody for orchestra in Nearly White Hot stamper sound here is guaranteed to blow your mind
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • All the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration, thanks to the brilliant engineering of Roy Wallace
  • Ansermet’s Chabrier disc has long been a favorite of ours here at Better Records – this copy will show you why

If you want a classical record to TEST your system, if you want a classical record to DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy.

Who can resist these sublime orchestral works? To quote an infamous (around here) label, they are an audiophile’s dream come true. The Tracklist tab has extensive background information on most of these works.

So clear and clean, and spread out on such a huge stage, either one or both of these sides will serve you well as your go-to reference disc for Orchestral Reproduction.

Listen for the waves of sound in Espana — only the best copies bring out the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration.

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Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake Ballet Highlights / Ansermet

More of the music of Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Records on Decca and London

  • This vintage London stereo pressing of the Suisse Romande’s extraordinary performance of the the Swan Lake Highlights boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • It’s also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Rosiny string tone and texture, rich tonality, a big hall, practically no smear, lovely transparency – the sound here hard to fault
  • The miking is tasteful, with much less spotlighting than most of the classical recordings we play
  • That gorgeous clarinet says it all, so rich and Tubey Magical – not many copies had the full measure of that sound the way this one did

I rank the performance here by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande second to none. (The Fistoulari on London can be especially good on the right pressing as well.)

Ansermet is surely the man for this music, and the famously huge hall he recorded in just as surely contributes much to the wonderful sound here. (The Royal Gala Ballet is a good example. If you have the two grand to spend we highly recommend you find yourself a good one. And don’t waste your money on the Classic no matter what you may have read elsewhere.)

Speaking of bad sounding Heavy Vinyl, Speakers Corner reissued the complete Swan Lake 2-LP recording on 180g fifteen years ago or so and ruined it. Imagine that. (I happily admit their Nutcracker was quite good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue. It cannot hold a candle to a good vintage pressing but it will beat most of what’s out there on audiophile vinyl, which, truth be told, isn’t saying much.)

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