Classical – Works for Piano

Brahms / Piano Concerto #1 / Curzon / Szell – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

One of the best of the Speakers Corner heavy vinyl reissues. As you may know they have gone way downhill lately. Haven’t played this LP in a while but I remember liking it quite a bit back in the day.

Liszt / Sonata in B Minor / Curzon – A Speakers Corner Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

More vinyl dreck from Speakers Corner and a Hall of Shame pressing if there ever was one. Pure mud. (more…)

Prokofiev / Concerto #3 / Hendl – An Old Review of the TAS List Favorite

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Good piano tone and dynamic too. Side two is not as good. It’s more compressed and smeared, but not too badly. If side one gets a 10, side two gets a 7 or so.

Performed by Van Cliburn, pianist, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Hendl. This performance also includes MacDowell’s ”Concerto #2”.

Schumann / Piano Concerto / LSO / Ashkenazy

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M-. DEMO QUALITY. Stunning sound. A fabulous, warm reading of this Schumann concerto. This has a similar sonic magic to the EMI Glazunov Concerto. The hall ambience is palpable. The tonal balance is almost perfect.

It’s simply hard to fault music and sound of this caliber.

Rachmaninoff / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis/ Dorati – Years Ago We Favorably Reviewed a Mono Pressing

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CBFR-1/CBFR-2. This Mono pressing sounds SUPERB, much smoother and more natural than I remember the Stereo pressings sounding. What’s interesting about these Monos is they’re not mastered by Robert Fine. They are mastered by someone with the initials J.J., who apparently does all the Mono mastering. The reason Mercury Monos can sound as good as they do is because they have their own separate microphone feed and their own separate Mono tape recorder dedicated all to themselves. (London did the same thing and that’s why so many London Monos are amazing sounding.)

I don’t think you can find a better sounding Rachmaninoff 3rd on Mercury than this one. 

[Of course we no longer agree with that.  The best stereo copies are in an entirely different league. The mono can be good, but it cannot be great in the way the stereo pressings can be.] (more…)

Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff / Piano Concertos / Janis / Kondrashin

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  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on side one – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – backed with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • The finest Prokofiev No. 3 and Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1 – these performances by Janis are legendary, and with phenomenal sonics like these, this combination of sound and performance is all but unmatched in our experience
  • So big, so, rich, so transparent, so dynamic and full of life, we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto record in your life
  • Compare the weight of the piano on the two sides to see why the grades are so different

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Side one shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it that fourth plus!

This is an exceptionally quiet early Mercury Plum label stereo pressing of two of Byron Janis’s most famous performances (along with the Rachmaninoff 3rd, which is every bit as good). It’s a longtime member of the TAS Super Disc list.

The recording is explosively dynamic and on this copy, the sound was positively jumping out of the speakers. In addition, the brass and strings are full-bodied and rich, with practically no stridency, an unusual feat the Mercury engineers seem to have accomplished while in Russia.

Big, rich sound can sometimes present problems for piano recordings. You want to hear the percussive qualities of the instrument, but few copies pull off that trick without sounding thin. This one showed us a piano that was both clear and full-bodied.

With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard. Once the needle has dropped you will quickly forget about the sound and simply find yourself in the presence of some of the greatest musicians of their generation captured on some of the greatest analog recordings of all time. (more…)

Rachmaninoff / Concerto #1 For Piano & Orchestra / Katin / Boult

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CS 6055. Demo quality. Incredible sound. The piano is heard surrounded by the hall. This is much more natural than the usual spotlight. Ferocious brass. I love it. Blueback pressing.

Mozart / Piano Concerto No. 27 / Backhaus / Bohm

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Lovely music. Superb sound, one of the rarest of the London records. I haven’t seen one of these in close to twenty years. 

Performed with The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Karl Bohm, this record also features the Piano Sonata in A-major.

Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto #2 – Katchen – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: Unknown

In the late ’90s we described the sound of this pressing this way:

“Outstanding Rachmaninoff, dark and rich. Highly recommended.”

Since we have not played a copy of the album in over ten years, we have taken down our previous Sonic Grade of B as we have no idea how the record would fare today on our much-improved system.

For all we know it’s been recut, which is another problem with our old reviews of records we used to like: the new version could have very different sound from the one we played (and that’s not even taking into account the pressing variability, which we all know is sometimes huge).

Schubert / Piano Sonata in B Flat Major / Anda – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Super Hot Stamper original Large Tulips DG pressing (with stereo in red on the cover) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even 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 like you are sitting in a real concert hall, this is the record for you. It’s what Golden Age Classical Recordings are known for — THIS SOUND.  (more…)