Labels We Love – RCA Living Stereo

Milhaud / La Creation du Monde / Munch

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M-/ M- – to M-. 1s/ 2s. Side 2 has DEMO QUALITY sound. These rare Soria pressings have a tendency to be noisy so this is as quiet a copy as you are likely to find.

Unusually smooth sound. Just the opposite of the Mercury recordings. Perfect for this kind of music.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

Classical – “Sleeper” Top Quality Recordings

Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Classical – Demo Disc Quality Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Beethoven – Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Munch

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

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

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  • Presenting the best sounding recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto we know of
  • Our vintage pressing of this brilliant Living Stereo recording — from 1956! — boasts outstanding 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, yet the dynamics and transparency are 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…)

Bruch & Mozart / Violin Concertos – Were We Wrong?

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

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Many years ago we wrote the following review for LSC 2472:

Superb sound. The violin is wonderful on both sides. The Mozart is absolutely gorgeous; the best I’ve ever heard it.

The orchestra on the Bruch side gets a little congested in the louder passages, which is typical for records of this era.

Laredo plays these pieces beautifully. The Bruch is an especially romantic work and his violin sings sweetly and with deep emotion throughout. The Mozart is more spritely and he plays it with the light touch it requires. You will have a hard time finding a better violin concerto record. This ranks with the best of them.

More recently we got in a nice 1S/1S pressing that sounded thick and dark, even after a good cleaning.

Were we wrong years ago? Hard to say. That copy from many years ago is gone.

Three things we always keep in mind when a pressing doesn’t sound like we remember it did, or think it should:

  1. Our standards are quite a bit higher now, having spent decades critically listening to vintage classical pressings by the hundreds.
  2. Our stereo is dramatically more revealing and more accurate than it used to be.
  3. Since no two records sound the same, maybe the one from long ago actually did sound as good as we thought at the time.

All things considered, the consensus would now be that LSC 2472 is very unlikely to be as good a record as we used to think it was.

A classic case of Live and Learn and also a case of Progress in Audio, probably.

(more…)

Grieg – Piano Concerto and Favorite Encores / Wallenstein

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

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

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

  • This superb album of Grieg’s piano music returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish 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.”

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…)

Grieg – Peer Gynt / Gruner-hegge / Oslo Philharmonic

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

More Orchestral Spectaculars

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  • You’ll find two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides on this vintage pressing, offering Orchestral sound that is gloriously Big and Bold like no other recording of this music you have ever heard (or your money back)
  • Rich and tubey, yet open and clear, with lovely string textures, especially in the lower strings, as would be expected of any Living Stereo record from 1959
  • The Living Stereo Tubey Magical sound from 1959 is hard to fault here – they don’t make ’em like this anymore!
  • Our favorite performance – Gruner-Hegge and the Oslo Philharmonic understand this music at the most profound levels, making it an absolute Must Own for those of who appreciate the sublime experience of playing classical music in the home

As much as I like Fjeldstad’s Peer Gynt on Decca/London with the LSO, I have to say that Odd Gruner-Hegge (love that first name!) and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra turn in the better of the two performances. To these ears, theirs is more lyrical; it flows more naturally both within and between the individual movements.

This vintage Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Living Strings / Morton Gould and his Orchestra

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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I typed so badly back in the old days that it was actually easier to just dictate the short reviews we would put up for our records twenty years ago. Rereading this just now made me recall that fact, because it is either poorly written or dictated, and I am going to go with the latter since I hate to think I ever wrote this badly.

RCA Shaded Dog LP with good sound.

This is not in the top tier of Living Stereos, but it is a good record nonetheless. The first track is the Tchaikovsky Elegie which is lovely. Also Bach’s famous Air On The G String is also excellent. In fact all the music on this album is excellent. The sound varies from very good to pretty good. Living Stereo strings are hard to beat.

This is also a very rare title these days. This is the first one that’s ever made it to the site.

Liszt / The Music of Franz Liszt / Fiedler

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

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  • This Shaded Dog pressing returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Classic superb Living Stereo Sound on both sides – big and open with an especially clean and extended top end (great fun on those huge cymbal crashes Liszt favors)
  • Powerful, rich, dynamic and life-like orchestral reproduction, set in a huge hall
  • “The Hungarian-born composer and pianist Franz Liszt was strongly influenced by the music heard in his youth, particularly Hungarian folk music, with its unique gypsy scale, rhythmic spontaneity and direct, seductive expression.”

This is, in our opinion, one of the most underrated Living Stereo treasures in the Golden Age canon — but not by this critic (here reviewing the CD):

In the early days of stereo, RCA released an all-Liszt LP by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops that has remained in my memory as one of the finest things the popular maestro ever committed to disc…

Two works, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and the high energy Rákoczy March, have been out for some time, coupled with “Hi-Fi Fiedler”. Now RCA has added to this current disc the two main pieces, Mazeppa and Les Preludes, from the original collection. They are as wonderful as ever – among the best, if not the best, performances of this music. Fiedler doesn’t dawdle or toy around with the melodies; he lets Liszt’s Romantic vision speak for itself, helping it along with brisk tempos and incisive phrasing. Seldom have the fanfares in Les Préludes had such bite and majesty.

ClassicsToday

The rich, textured, rosin-on-the-bow lower strings on this record are to die for. Find me a modern record with that sound and I will eat it. And by “modern record” we hasten to include both modern recordings and modern remasterings of older recordings. NO ONE alive today can make a record that sound like this. To call it a lost art is to understand something that few vinyl-loving audiophiles appear to have fully grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: compared head to head they are simply not competitive.

After twenty years of trying and literally hundreds of failed examples, both the boutique and major labels of today have yet to make a record that sounds as powerful or as life-like as this RCA from the old days. (This is actually a later pressing; in some ways it sounded more tubey and rich than many of the Shaded Dogs we played against it.)

Fortunately for us record lovers and collectors, we at Better Records are not trying to make a record sound the way these sides do, we’re just trying to find ones that do, and folks, we found some very, very good sides here. (more…)

J.J. Johnson – J.J.!

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  • J.J. Johnson makes his Hot Stamper debut with this SUPERB copy of J.J.! – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only the best of the best vintage pressings can show you
  • Features a lineup of top-notch talent, including Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson, Hank Jones, as well as quite a few others – plenty of reeds, a French Horn, a tuba and more are here
  • 4 stars: “J.J.! is considered to be J.J. Johnson’s first big-band album, at least as a leader… The music is solidly played,… modern forward-looking mainstream jazz that features Johnson in excellent form.”

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Tchaikovsky / Romeo & Juliet / Munch – Reviewed in 2006

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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This Minty RCA Plum Label Victrola has that BIG BIG BOSTON SYMPHONY SOUND! It”s big as life — spacious, dynamic, and tonally correct, with the lovely textures of the Boston strings fully intact. This is actually a better recording than the more famous Munch re-recording (which is the one that Classic reissued).

The Francesca da Rimini on side two is only so-so.

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #5 / Monteux / BSO

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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Near Demo Quality. This is one of those mid-hall RCA recordings, and if you like that orchestral perspective, a very natural one to my mind, this record is for you. String tone is superb.

What holds this record back is a lack of orchestral weight. But the strings on this copy are very sweet and the vinyl is exceptionally quiet.

It’s a very sweet sounding copy, and dynamic as hell. Monteux’s performance is beyond reproach.