Classical – Works for Orchestra

Iberia from 1960 – Amazing on the Original and the Right Reissues Too

1960 – A Great Year for Top Quality Recordings of Timeless Music

When you look closely at all the great records that were released that year — some of which can even be purchased in Hot Stamper form on this very site — you may come to agree with us that 1960 was a wonderful year for recorded music.

Click HERE to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1960.

And HERE to see the records from 1960 that we’ve reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, with more than 90 entries at the time of this writing.

 

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 A Top Quality Reissue (Potentially of Course)

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 A Wonderful Original (On the Right Pressing, Again, Of Course)

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from May of 1960 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these better than Super Hot sides.

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

Side One – Iberia (1-4)

A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find! (more…)

Falla / Three-Cornered Hat / Argenta (CS 6050) – This Copy Sure Was a Letdown

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Sonic Grade: F

This London original pressing with 1K/1K stampers was so bright, dry, and shrill I could hardly stand to listen to it for more than the half minute it took to realize it was not going to get any better. It’s bad enough to go right into our Hall of Shame.

The copy we had back in 2010 was a very good sounding record, or so we thought. Maybe we were wrong! You can read all about it below.

Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat is positively WONDERFUL on this copy (A++), and the Sinfonia Sevillana by Turina on side two is every bit as good! The second suite on side one is particularly lovely — check out how rich and full the sound is. Side two has a HUGE soundstage, as wide as they come. The sound is very rich and full of audiophile colors — this is the kind of record that you’re going to love playing for your audio pals!

Argenta brings the authentic Spanish flavor out in these works. Like so many audiophile reviewers over the years, you may find these performances definitive.

The strings on the first side are a bit dry to start, kind of like the sound many of you will recognize from Mercury’s classical records. Still, there’s much to like about the sound and you’ll have a very hard time finding a copy that’s any better. Most pressings do not have such an extended top end, and that quality here really brings this music to life. (more…)

The Power of the Orchestra – Remastered by the Geniuses at Chesky!

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Sonic Grade: F

Lifeless, compressed and thin. It’s clean and transparent, I’ll give it that, which is no doubt why so many audiophiles have been fooled into thinking it actually sounds better than the original. But of course there is no original; there are thousands of them, and they all sound different.

The Hot Stamper commentary below is for a pair of records that proves our case in the clearest possible way. (more…)

Mussorgsky et al. / Danse Infernale / Fiedler – Our Favorite Night On Bald Mountain

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides make this the consistently best sounding batch of Orchestral Showpieces we have ever played
  • After a two year hiatus, our favorite performance of Night on Bald Mountain is back, and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind (and maybe a woofer or two)
  • Side one also boasts an excellent Danse Macabre, with a powerful finish that may remind you of the thrill of live orchestral music
  • Side two contains a wonderfully exciting Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Both sides are clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Watch your levels – this pressing is dramatically more DYNAMIC than most Golden Age recordings

If you like Orchestral Spectaculars, have we got the record for you!

This pressing clearly has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — not in every way, but in some important ways. The ENERGY of both the sound and the performances of these barnburning showpieces is truly awesome. Fiedler brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor we have heard.

This pressing boasts relatively rich, sweet strings, especially for a Deutsche Grammophon LP. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy (and the reason it is so hard to find a copy that plays better than Mint Minus Minus. We do have a quieter copy with lower grades if you are interested though.) (more…)

Rossini Overtures with Reiner on RCA and Gamba on London – Audiophiles Should Give These Two a Miss


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None of the pressings we played of this RCA were remotely competitive with Maag and the PCO on London. The sound of this recording was consistently boxy and congested, a case of the “old school” sound that is found on far too many vintage pressings.


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No good either. Opaque, up front and completely lacking in layered depth.

Here is the kind of sound that makes Heavy Vinyl so unpleasant to those of us who have Big Speaker systems that reproduce space, depth and soundstaging well.

What We’re Listening For on Rossini Overtures

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Rossini Bio (more…)

Rossini / Overtures with Maag – The Best on Record

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a side two that’s not far behind, the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • This Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s William Tell is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

(more…)

Tchaikovsky / Serenade for Strings – Munch

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Charles Munch’s recording with the Boston Symphony
  • The 14 minute long Elgar piece is on the second side here, with strings that are substantially more Tubey, rich and sweet than on any other side two we played
  • Surely one of the greatest performances ever recorded, more powerful and emotional than any with which we are familiar
  • “In his conception of the Serenade, Tchaikovsky envisioned a work which falls somewhere between a symphony and a string quintet. The work is as personal as any of the composer’s symphonies and as intimate as his chamber music.”

The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are near perfection. As we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity the performers brought to the work in 1958, as well as the quality of RCA’s engineering. (more…)

Khachaturian Conducts Spartacus

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Probably more than ten years ago we had written

The famous TAS list recording. The Decca 180 gram version is very good, but those of you who appreciate the qualities of the original mastering will want to have this one. 

We played three or four copies of the album recently and none of them quite worked for us.  The sound was a bit opaque, and not as tubey as we would have liked.

A good record, not a great one, and for that reason really not worth cleaning up and doing a shootout for.  The best copy would not pay for the labor to find it.

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture / Reiner – The Best Sound Here Is Everything But the 1812

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

The real stars here are NOT the 1812, but the three coupling works, which demonstrate, on this copy at least, The Real Power of the Orchestra. The remarkably rich, Tubey Magical and oh-so-rosiny Living Stereo strings and powerful, dynamic brass make this a real demo quality orchestral heavyweight. Lizst’s Mephisto Waltz, Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture, and the Tragic Overture by Brahms are the Must Own 36 minutes worth of music on the record. (more…)

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler – Reviewed in 2008

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

DEMO QUALITY. It’s hard to find a better record with more Tubey Magical hear-all-the-way-to-the-back-of-the-hall sound than this, at least on side one.  

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.