Masterpieces of Orchestral Music

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our 4+ Shootout Winner from 2019

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

Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — QUADRUPLE PLUS (A++++) on the first side and Triple Plus (A+++) on the second. Side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found – and this pressing, with Beyond White Hot sound for that side, is guaranteed to be bigger and more lively than you ever imagined (because that’s how we felt about it, hence the fourth plus).

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.

Both sides show up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave side one that fourth plus!

This Angle 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. (more…)

Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring / Monteux – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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

The ULTIMATE Rite of Spring has arrived. This early pressing takes the sound of the recording to a place we never thought it could go. With Four Pluses (A++++) it’s more than a full grade better than any copy to ever make it to the site. After hearing this copy we had to lower the grade on our supposedly White Hot (but too noisy to sell) reference LP. 

The space and dynamic power of the sound of this side one were something we had never heard before on Stravinsky’s groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not one Rite of Spring in a hundred can do what this record can! (more…)

Ravel & Dukas / Bolero & Sorcerer’s Apprentice / Ansermet

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

We are rarely able to find quality recordings (or performances) of either Bolero or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, so this pressing comes as an especially welcome addition to the classical offerings on the site. 

The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have encountered. These recordings strike us as the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made.

Bolero (Ravel)

ZERO compression. ZERO distortion when loud. Which means it has ZERO compressor distortion, something not five out of a hundred Golden Age recordings can claim. Nice extended top too.

The strings are never dry nor shrill, and the brass is neither sour nor brash, but gets big and stays clear. No other copy could do all of these things.

There is depth and richness here to beat the band, as well as clarity and tonal correctness that let you forget the recording and just enjoy the music.

The timbre of the brass is right on the money. As we have noted before, the brass of the Suisse Romande is some of the best to have ever been committed to analog tape. (more…)

Prokofiev / Lt. Kije / Abbado – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Lt. Kije / Abbado

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

This German 33 RPM White Hot Stamper pressing of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to those found here. As this is my favorite performance of all time, with this kind of Demo Disc sound I cannot recommend the record any more highly. (more…)

Mahler / Symphony #1 / Haitink – Reviewed in 2006

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

This IMMACULATE looking Philips Dutch Import LP is the best sounding version of this music I’ve ever heard and one of the all time great performances as well.

The Solti on 180g Decca is a good record. This is a great one. 

Grofe / Grand Canyon Suite / Bernstein

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein

More Grofe / Grand Canyon Suite / Bernstein

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

This Minty Columbia Grey label Stereo LP is one of the most amazing copies ever! You will be hard pressed to find a better sounding Grand Canyon suite. Bernstein’s Columbia recordings usually leave much to be desired. This is a notable exception. The normal Columbia shrillness is gone, replaced by sweet and liquid sound. I wish more of his records sounded like this one: I’d be picking them up left and right.

Grieg / Peer Gynt / Fjeldstad / LSO – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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

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

This is overall the best sounding pressing of the Fjeldstad / LSO we have ever played, with BETTER than Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides. For those of you who know your Londons, when you see the label on this LP you will no doubt be shocked: This is the last pressing in the world that one would expect to sound good. 

Of course we here at Better Records don’t give a sh*t about any such conventional wisdom / collector bias. We like audiophile quality sound and we don’t give a damn where we find it. Up against the competition this copy was superb in practically every way, excelling with orchestral size, weight and energy like virtually no other.

This is to be expected from a recording of its renown. What was not to be expected was the actual pressing that delivered those sonic qualities

We’ve loved the Blueback pressings in the past; this time not so much (too crude and opaque with jello for bass. (more…)

Grieg & Liszt / Piano Concertos / Rubinstein – Reviewed in 2011

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

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

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

The strings are RICH in the best Living Stereo tradition, but unlike so many classical pressings we play, the tubey magical string tone comes with virtually no tube smear. The textures and overtones are fully intact. This side may in fact be pretty much as good as it gets; we don’t have enough copies to know just how good the recording can be, but it can’t be too much better than this, because this side puts most Golden Age classical recordings to shame.

This side one earned a grade of A++ (or better).

Side two, which contains the third movement of the Grieg and the complete Liszt Piano Concerto no. 1, is not quite as rich as we would have liked. It’s cut lower than side one, so turn up the volume if you want it to come to life. It’s also not nearly as transparent. We grade it about A Plus — a step up over the average Shaded Dog but not the equal of this wonderful side one. (more…)

Khachaturian / Masquerade Suite / Kondrashin (LSC 2398)

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A distinguished member of our Hall of Fame.

DEMO DISC SOUND for this TAS List Shaded Dog, with each side earning an A++ grade and playing relatively quietly! 

This is a BIG one folks, as most of you probably know already. It is not easy to find copies of this album with excellent sound and fairly quiet surfaces on both sides, and if you don’t believe me than I encourage you to try. The violin is so sweet and full of rosiny texture here. The whole string section is full of Living Stereo magic. The soundstage is wide and deep, the overall sound rich and warm. The midrange is nothing short of magical.

This is the kind of Golden Age recording that makes us audiophiles lose it. It’s one of the few legitimate reasons to take the TAS Super Disc List seriously in the first place. HP put records like this on the audiophile map and we owe him a debt of gratitude for having done so. Our musical lives are remarkably richer for it. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan – Another Audio Myth Explodes

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More Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan

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The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience. 

To pull off this kind of Mind Boggling sound from start to finish we combined an amazing side one on the Large Tulips label with an amazing side two on the Small Tulips label. And what a finish — side two earned a grade of A+++, being a full step above even our hottest other side two, and we played a lot of copies, more than a dozen in fact. (more…)