Labels With Shortcomings – Angel

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

 More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • A stunning pressing of Bizet’s masterpiece, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Side one is also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Both sides are open, high-rez, and spacious, with depth like you will not believe and some of the least shrill string reproduction we have ever heard for this music (which is the main problem we run into on the album)
  • Gloriously exciting and fun music that belongs in any audiophile’s collection – side one is where the action is, and this side one had the best sound we heard all day
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

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Bizet-Shchedrin – Testing for Shrill, Gritty Strings

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

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

This Angel Melodiya pressing of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two incredible sides. Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT.

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce. You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. Speed, resolving power and freedom from distortion are what this record needs to sound its best. Is your system up to it? There’s only one way to find out.

And if you have any peaky audiophile wire or equipment in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality.

Testing

This is a superb Demonstration disc, but it is also an excellent Test disc. The sound of the best copies is rich, full-bodied, incredibly spacious, and exceptionally extended up top. There is a prodigious amount of musical information spread across the soundstage, much of it difficult to reproduce.

Musicians are banging on so many different percussive devices (often at the far back of the stage, or, even better, far back and left or right) that getting each one’s sonic character to clearly come through is a challenge — and when you’ve met it, a thrill. If you’ve done your homework, this is the kind of record that can show you what you’ve accomplished.

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem.

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Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto / Milstein / Steinberg

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

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

  • Milstein’s 1960 performance of this Tchaikovsky masterpiece returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • A superb pressing, with lovely richness, warmth, and real immediacy throughout
  • This is a spectacular recording — it’s guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own

This vintage Angel Records 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…)

Paganini / Concerto No.1 & Wieniawski / Concerto No. 2 – Rabin

The Music of Paganini Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

  • These sublime concertos are correct and live sounding throughout with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
  • This copy showed that it had the balance of clarity and sweetness we were looking for in the tone of the violin, and the orchestra sounds amazing – so rich and full-bodied
  • Both works are performed with skill and passion by the incomparable Michael Rabin
  • This record puts most of the TAS Super Discs to shame, and it’s on a budget reissue label. Hey Harry, how about them apples!?

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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Bach / Sonatas & Partitas For Solo Violin / Martzy – Reviewed in 2012

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

This Minty British “Sitting Angel” pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound on side two, reproducing accurately the sound of a solo violin in what sounds to us like a fairly lively and resonant rehearsal hall. Perhaps accurately is not the right word, since obviously none of us have ever set foot in whatever room the music was recorded in. “Realistic” might be a better choice in that regard, since the sound is believable for what we would expect that room might have contributed to the sound we hear on the pressing in hand.

Interestingly, the sound on side two is a tad better than side one — the violin is more present and warm, the room less resonant (in a good way). (more…)

Saint-Saens / Violin Concerto No. 3 & Chausson / Poeme – Milstein – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

This White Hot Stamper original Blue Angel pressing has some of the most exquisite sound for a violin/orchestral recording we have ever heard here at Better Records. I do not think there is any Heifetz album on RCA Shaded Dog (or otherwise) to compete with it. We would rank this Angel recording/pressing with the best of Rabin and Milstein on Capitol, as well as the wonderful Ricci and Campoli discs on London/Decca. In other words, this is one of the best sounding violin-led orchestral recordings we have yet to play, and we’ve played them by the hundreds and hundreds. (Practice makes perfect they say.)

So clear, so three-dimensional, so relaxed, rich and sweet — can it get any better? I’d have to say not much!

It’s the Chausson piece that earned our highest grade of Three Pluses, a work that is certainly less well-known than the legendary Saint-Saens Third. Both are superb examples of the kind of sophisticated, melody-driven music the French Romantic school was producing in the latter part of the 19th century. You may become as big a fan of the Chausson as we happily admit to being now, having heard this wonderful pressing. (more…)

Music of Old Russia / Milstein / Irving – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

This rare, hard to find original Blue Angel stereo pressing has exquisite sound. As we noted in our listing for Milstein’s Saint-Saens Third, it is the rare Heifetz album on Shaded Dog (or any other label) that could hope to compete with it.

We would rank this Angel recording/pressing with the best of Rabin and Milstein on Capitol, as well as the wonderful Ricci and Campoli discs on London/Decca. (more…)