Labels We Love – Readers Digest

Sibelius – Symphony No. 2 / Barbarolli

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

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  • An outstanding copy of the best Sibelius Second Symphony on vinyl we know of – solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • One listen to this famous Wilkinson recording and you’ll see why it’s one of the most lauded RDG titles in all of their illustrious canon
  • “The Second Symphony has retained an extraordinary popularity for its individualistic tonal language, dark wind coloring, muted string writing, simple folk-like themes, and distinctly “national” flavor that are all Sibelian to the core.”

A truly extraordinary recording mastered beautifully but pressed on vinyl that has never been known for its quiescence (if I can get by with that ten-cent word).

The strings are clear and textured, yet rich and full-bodied. The bottom is big and weighty. The horns are tubey and full-bodied and never screech through even the most difficult passages. (more…)

Rachmaninoff – The Complete Piano Concertos / Wild / Horenstein

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

More TAS Super Disc Recordings

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  • A KILLER copy of this wonderful original 4 LP Box Set with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) orchestral sound or very close to it on 6 sides and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on the remaining two – 20.5 pluses out of a possible 24 across these 8 magical sides
  • The vinyl is as quiet as we can find it – like most Shaded Dogs and Mercs, Mint Minus Minus is about the best you can hope for (and no marks are audible, which is always nice)
  • We have been readying this shootout for probably twenty years – we had 8 box sets, all in excellent condition, and this set represents some of the best sound we uncovered for these famous TAS List recordings
  • Wild’s playing of the Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini here is one of our favorites on vinyl
  • 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
  • “Rachmaninoff’s music . . . changes as the composer goes along, moving from Romantic to a tentative Modernism in such works as the fourth piano concerto and the Symphonic Dances. In this sense, he walks a path similar to Puccini’s, incorporating new approaches to extend that [which was] already essentially his. Certainly, the works here show these changes, as the composer picks up more experience, both in writing and in hearing music.”

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Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol & Enesco, Smetana, et al.

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

We just did a new shootout for this title, so expect to see killer copies of record number 8 from the set on the site soon!

Credit must go to my good audiophile friend Robert Pincus for turning me on to the Readers Digest sets in general and this set in particular. Most of it is no better than decent, but the best records in the set are superb, as you can read in our older review below.

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound


A SUPERB White Hot side one coupled with a better than Super Hot (A++ to A+++) side two, back to back on one disc, is a surprise indeed.This is only the second time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re continuing with more exciting orchestral music — Capriccio Espagnol (side two) and the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 (side one) are the two longest pieces on record 8 of the set, and both of them are knockouts on this pressing.

This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Records do not get much more spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Kenneth Wilkinson was the man behind the board for many of these RDG recordings, this very one in fact, and as you will hear, he was pretty much in a league of his own as a recording engineer in the early days of stereo. This record should provide you with all the proof you need.

Play it up against the best of the RCAs, Londons and Mercs from the period and you will see what I mean. And of course it will completely DESTROY any pressing you may have on Heavy Vinyl, from any label, at any playback speed, of any music. (more…)

Beethoven / Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 / Leibowitz

 

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This single disc, taken from the 7 LP Readers Digest Box Set, contains THE BEST sounding recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony we have ever played at Better Records. And that makes it something very special indeed, with nothing short of White Hot sonics and a top performance by Rene Leibowitz conducting the Royal Philharmonic.

Produced by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, to my mind this has always been one of the finest groups of recordings of the complete symphonies of Beethoven , held back only by the usual pressing variations (and the RDG ’60s vinyl). Until we amassed a pile of these sets and got them sparkling clean we had no idea that the recordings could sound this good, good enough in fact to beat all comers — from every major label and then some — in our shootout!

You may have noticed that Beethoven’s symphonies rarely make it to the site. There’s a reason for this: most of the recordings of them don’t sound very good. We are happy to report that, at least when it comes to the Fourth and Fifth, that problem has been solved.

Side Two – Symphony No. 5

A+++. The hall here is HUGE; your speakers will simply disappear. The sound is rich, Tubey Magical and clear, all at the same time. (It’s not quite as clear as the Solti on CS 6092 we will be listing but in every other way it’s better than that record.)

The string texture reminds me of the finest Living Stereos I have heard. The overall sound is as dynamic and exciting as one could hope for, yet Leibowitz manages to make it more lyrical and flowing as well. I know of none better.

One other copy, competitive in most ways with this one, was somewhat more lush and tubey. We felt in the end that the sound on this pressing was actually more correct and lifelike. We like our recordings to have as many Live Music qualities as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use. It’s precisely this kind of big, clear sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca-London (and RDG!) recordings above those of virtually any other label, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement with our fellow record lovers. (more…)

Stravinsky / Petrushka – Superb on Readers Digest Vinyl

 

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this is a Petrushka that is guaranteed to blow your mind (just as it blew ours)
  • As good as the famous Dorati recording for Mercury may be – assuming you have one that sounds as good as the best copies can – we still this Readers Digest pressing to be superior in all the most important ways, as well as being the Mercury equal in performance
  • One listen to this famous Kenneth Wilkinson Decca tree recording with the Royal Philharmonic and you’ll see why we could find no competition for it
  • The biggest problem with these wonderful recordings is the vinyl – no copy played better than Mint Minus Minus to EX++

What a recording! So clear and ALIVE. Transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Zero compression. Lifelike, immediate, front row center sound like few records you have ever heard, especially on side one.

A truly extraordinary recording mastered beautifully but pressed on vinyl that has never been known for its quality.

Rich, sweet strings, especially for a work of Stravinsky’s. They’re clear and textured, yet rich and full-bodied. The bottom is big and weighty. The horns are tubey and full and never screechy, even in the most difficult passages.

About as close to live music as I think this piece can sound in my listening room.

Most recordings we played were profoundly unnatural, lacking transparency and the relaxed sense of involvement that tricks you into thinking “you are there.” (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol & Le Coq D’Or / Danon

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  • White Hot Stamper sound for Capriccio Espagnol, with a tremendously exciting performance
  • Big stage, great ENERGY, lots of hall ambience and solid orchestral weight – hard to fault!
  • Orchestral music doesn’t get much more EXCITING or COLORFUL than Capriccio Espagnol
  • If you like Reiner’s Scheherazade – and who doesn’t? – you are sure to be knocked out by this recording

For your listening pleasure, we proudly offer our music loving fans a SUPERB sounding White Hot Capriccio Espagnol, performed with passion and precision by the Royal Philharmonic under the direction of Oscar Danon. This is only the second disc from a Reader’s Digest box set to make it to the site, but what a disc it is — orchestral music doesn’t get much more EXCITING or COLORFUL than Capriccio Espagnol. It’s truly a knockout on this pressing: White Hot Stamper As Good As It Gets sound.

This is what we mean by DEMO DISC sound. Records do not get much more spacious, open, transparent, rich or sweet. Kenneth Wilkinson was the man behind the board for many of these RDG recordings, this very one in fact, and as you will hear, he was pretty much in a league of his own as a engineer in the early days of stereo. This record is proof positive of his uncanny recording skills. (Check out the Decca Tree tab above.)

Play it against the best of the RCAs, Londons and Mercs from the period and you will see what I mean. And of course it will completely DESTROY any pressing you may have on Heavy Vinyl, from any label, at any playback speed, of any music. (more…)

Offenbach & Chopin / Gaite Parisienne & Les Sylphides – Reverse Your Polarity

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

Amazing in every way! The top end of this record is clear, clean and correct. No other copy sounded like this one on the first side. When you hear all the percussion instruments — the tambourines, triangles, wood blocks and what-have-you — you know instantly that they sound RIGHT.

The overall sound is very different from many of the other recordings of the work that we have offered in the past. Rather than smooth, rich and sweet, the sound here is big and bold and clear like nothing we have ever played.

This is Front Row Center sound for those whose systems can reproduce it!

And this is truly a top performance by Fistoulari and the Royal Philharmonic. I know of none better. For music and sound this is the one!

Side One

The Triple Plus sound makes this THE Gaite Parisienne to Own.

If you have a hot copy of LSC 1817 consider yourself very fortunate. If your copy of LSC 1817 has never thrilled you, then this pressing will beat the pants off it, as it is pretty darn THRILLING. Even if you do have a great 1817 I would still put this up against it and expect it to win the shootout.

It’s clear, clean and above all, TRANSPARENT. This is a claim no modern remastered record, in our opinion, can make. The energy is spectacular on this side. Not only that, but listen to the bite of the brass — that’s some high-rez sound! (more…)

Stravinsky / The Firebird Suite / Freccia – Our First Reader’s Digest Offering

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

Reviews and Commentaries for The Firebird

More Records on Readers Digest

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This is the first time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re starting off with a bang — The Firebird Suite and La Mer are the two pieces on record 7 of the set, and both of them are knockouts. We have a devil of a time finding good recordings of either work, and to find SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) for both back to back on one disc is a surprise indeed.

You may remember that recordings from these sets were reissued by Chesky back in the ’90s (with mediocre sound of course, as all their reissues are mediocre at best; we never carried any of them even when we were carrying reissues).

I remember the first time I heard some of the records from this Scheherazade set and was knocked out — here was Tubey Magical RCA Living Stereo sound at a fraction of the price the real RCAs were commanding, a price I could not begin to afford.

The problem — and it’s still a problem, though less so — is the vinyl. These sets were produced cheaply in order to be priced affordably (under $20 for 10 LPs in a box!), and that means the best vinyl was simply not part of the budget. To find pressings that play even Mint Minus Minus is not easy, even today. Back then, before the advent of modern enzyme-based cleaning fluids and expensive record cleaning vacuum machinery, there was no way to get most of the vinyl to play even that well. (more…)

Sibelius / Symphony #2 / Barbarolli

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A truly extraordinary recording mastered beautifully but pressed on vinyl that has never been known for its quiesecece (if I can get by with that ten cent word).

The strings are clear and textured, yet rich and full-bodied. The bottom is big and weighty. The horns are tubey and full-bodied and never screech through even the most difficult passages.

My notes mention that it’s rich and tubey but clear and lively; big, with great energy, and lastly, superbly spacious and never harsh or shrill. (It can be a bit dark in places; as you know this is much preferable to the alternative.)

About as close to live music as I think this piece can sound in my listening room. (more…)

Gilbert & Sullivan – The Best Of… (3 LP Box Set) – Reviewed in 2005

More Gilbert & Sullivan

More The Best Of…

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

This is a Minty RCA Reader’s Digest 3 LP Box set with SUPERB SOUND! These recordings are DEMO DISC QUALITY. 

HP put the Rachmaninoff Box on the TAS List, and when you get a properly mastered one, it belongs there. But this G&S box is every bit as good sonically. This may not be high brow classical music, but it’s music that belongs in any record collection, and especially in an audiophile record collection, because the sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

The Mikado; Pirates; The Gondoliers and Patience are simply stunning. You won’t find more correct vocal and orchestral sound on the planet.

Pinafore is excellent but the sound of the other operattas is so amazing that even this wonderful recording pales in comparison. The only mediocrity here is Iolanthe.

Normally the problem with these sets is that the bad vinyl causes a loss of sound quality — grain, shrillness, a lack of bass; the very same things that you hear on so many massed produced rock records. It’s not bad mastering. It’s bad vinyl. (more…)