Classical – Demo Disc Quality Recordings

Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – On an Outstanding White Dog Pressing

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Our vintage White Dog pressing of this brilliant Living Stereo recording — from 1956! — boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Heifetz’s violin is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • The orchestra is wide, tall, spacious, rich and tubey, and transparency, the hallmark of the vintage vinyl pressing, especially one in Living Stereo, is first rate
  • Hard to find them without marks or groove damage, but here is one without either, and the sound is magnificent (which is the hardest thing of all to find)

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary.

The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Little smear, exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — the best copies take the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible.

Heifetz is a fiery player. On a good pressing such as this one, you will hear all the detail of his bowing without being overpowered by it. As we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to such a difficult and demanding work. (more…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony – Opaque and Crude?

What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

More of the Music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

This is a very old listing, probably from more than ten years ago. With the improved cleaning technologies we currently use, many of these old records sound a whole lot better than they used to.

Still, there are some Deccas and Londons that we cleaned and played recently that were disappointing, and they can be found here.

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca chocolatey, rich, sweet sound. It”s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles. 

The performance here by Maag is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound. If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this London should be right up your alley.

Side One Versus Side Two

With a grade of A+ we felt that the sound was a bit opaque and crude, with some smear to the strings (which in many ways is the classic Decca sound from the era). Side two improves on the sound in all these areas.

Side two had less smear and less distortion and congestion than we heard on side one. It’s also even RICHER sounding, if such a thing is possible. More transparent too. A good balance of clarity and richness. 

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Holst – The Planets / Previn

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

  • With outstanding sonic grades on both sides, this early EMI pressing is guaranteed to be the best copy of Holst’s Magnum Opus, The Planets, you have ever played
  • Orchestral power like practically no other music on vinyl you may have heard, and Previn’s and the LSO’s performances are without peer in our estimation
  • These sides are rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass, and the kind of dynamic power that lefts the energy level right into space
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance that’s as spectacular as the recording by the two Christophers
  • More of our Favorite Orchestral Performances with Top Quality sound

These sides have some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, and that’s saying something considering the scores of recordings we have played of this famous and famously well-loved piece.

Fortunately for audiophiles who love The Planets but are disappointed by most performances, a group that includes us to be sure, the amazing sound found on this copy is coupled with a superb performance.

As you might imagine, on a big system this would make for a powerful listening experience, which is exactly the experience we ourselves had during our recent shootout. This copy actually deserves its place on the TAS List.

Both sides earned strong grades for their powerful energy and orchestral excitement, especially from the brass section, a subject we discuss at length below. (more…)

Debussy / Images For Orchestra / Munch

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Claude Debussy

  • This is one of the most magnificent Golden Age Classical titles we have played in longer than I can remember – we put it in the top 1-2% of their best sounding releases, a nice place to be
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording combines amazing richness with transparency, and even at its loudest, it is still smooth and sweet
  • It is very unlikely that all but a few of our best customers have any records in their collections that sound as good as this one!
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings that Living Stereo made possible in the ’50s and early ’60s is clearly evident throughout these pieces, something that the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern records
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, and for recordings of Debussy, that is quiet indeed

DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! It’s also a better performance than the famous Reiner. Munch understands this music perfectly.

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Mendelssohn and Bruch / Violin Concertos / Ricci

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • With two INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto sound as good as it does here, and the Bruch Concerto on the second side is every bit as good
  • We are fairly strict in our grading for classical records these days – you will have a very hard time finding a vintage pressing that plays this quietly
  • 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 that have impressed 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.

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Paganini / Concerto No.1 – Testament Records

The Music of Paganini Available Now

More Reviews of the Music of Paganini

Sonic Grade: C

We used to sell the Testament pressing you see pictured to the left. Many years later, in our review for the budget Angel Seraphim pressing, we said:

This copy KILLS the out of print Testament 180 gram version from circa 2000 (which is not a bad record by any means). Can’t say how it compares to the original — we haven’t had one in years.

When I was selling the Testament Heavy Vinyl pressing all those years ago, I had never heard an original.

But doesn’t it strike you as sad that even the cheapest domestic reissue from the ’70s (I think that’s when it was released), put out on a budget label, absolutely mops the floor with the higher priced, much more prestigious, ostensibly superior, imported from the UK Testament LP?

I was an audiophile then and I’m an audiophile now, and I am glad to say I’ve learned a few things about records in the last twenty or so years.

One of the things I leaned was that most Heavy Vinyl pressings are a fraud perpetrated on a far-too-credulous segment of the record buying public, principally made up of record buyers who describe themselves as audiophiles.

I fell for the hype twenty years ago but, as I say, I’ve learned a few things since then and now I know just how easily fooled most audiophiles are when it comes to buying records, especially the ones marketed to them by the major audiophile record dealers (who, truth be told, make even worse sounding records than this Testament. I’m looking at you, Mobile Fidelity and Acoustic Sounds).

Our Most Recent Review of a Hot Stamper Seraphim Pressing

The AMAZING Michael Rabin is the principal violinist. His playing of these exceptionally difficult pieces is legendary. Recorded by Capitol in the late ’50s, his fiery performance is breathtaking, with the kind of energy, excitement and technical proficiency that is second to none in our experience.

There’s a very good chance that you have NEVER heard a better sounding violin concerto record than this one. It’s clearly superior to most of the pressings that audiophiles would hold dear; we’ve played them by the score. The fact that it’s on a budget label reissue label, to my mind, is the icing on the cake. (There’s a valuable lesson here to be learned if only more audiophiles will make the effort to learn it.)

There are two recordings of the Paganini Concerto No.1 we like currently; this one, and the Menuhin on EMI. We prefer Rabin’s sound and performance, but the EMI engineers managed to record their orchestra with slightly more natural fidelity. Both are of course superb. (We love the mono recording Ricci did for London in the mid-’50s but the sound and surface quality are not competitive with the two recordings above.)

More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection available on our site

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Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

More of the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • An INCREDIBLE London stereo copy with Shootout Winning Triple (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • It’s so rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings – wow!
  • Here is the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for
  • The Speakers Corner pressing of Ansermet’s famous recording is mediocre, with many faults, all discussed here
  • We would love to be able to find Ansermet’s Scheherazade on London vinyl, but as you may have read on the blog, the right stampers of that record are almost impossible to find these days, although that has not stopped us from trying

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s 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 weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat not a single one, can 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 you decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)

This London pressing contains a stunningly BEAUTIFUL Tale of the Tsar Saltan Suite. It’s clearly one of the great Demo Disc Quality recordings from the Golden Age (or any age for that matter), with everything that a top Golden Age Orchestral recording should have: all the magic; all the timbral and harmonic subtlety; all the sweetness and warmth; all the Tubey Magical richness.

All that and more. Folks, this is the kind of record that makes you sit up and take notice. Finally, HERE is the kind of sound that can bring an orchestra to life in your very own listening room.

It has the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for. (Unlike some of their recordings — Pictures at an Exhibition comes readily to mind — the tempi here are not too slow. The tempi are in fact just right. We love the sound of Ansermet’s records but when the performance drags it’s hard to enjoy the music. For top quality performances of the work by other conductors — rarely in stock I regret to say — please check the site.)

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Bernard 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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Tchaikovsky / Paganini – Violin Concertos / Campoli

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More of the music of Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840)

  • This superb classical release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound for the Paganini-Kreisler piece one side two
  • This copy showed us the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the violin – not many recordings from this era can do that
  • Campoli brings his warmth, feeling, and technical precision to these classical masterpieces
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof

Side two earned a grade of Double Plus (A++) for the third movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  The second work on that side, Kreisler’s reworking of the first movement of the Paganini Concerto No. 1, earned Three Pluses. It is hard to fault. Pull up some youtube videos to see just how amazing and exciting it is.

A true Demo Disc Violin Recording.

And better than the original London pressing we had of the recording the reissue is actually tubier, with none of the dryness you sometimes hear on London discs, and very dynamic.

(We know a thing or two about Decca recordings with dry strings. We delved into the subject here.)

Higher-rez and more present too.

My notes say HTF – Hard To Fault. That’s what it takes to win a shootout around here. (more…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony / Maag

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, the equal of the last Blueback pressing we listed (shown in the second picture)
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too
  • There is a rosiny texture to the strings that no record made in the last 30 years can capture, and if you don’t believe me, we offer this pressing as proof

Audiophiles have known of this record’s sublime sonic qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly powerful recordings such as this one.

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca rich, sweet sound. It’s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles.

The performance here by Peter Maag and London Symphony Orchestra is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound.

If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this Decca should be right up your alley. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which Decca recordings are justly famous. (more…)