Masterworks of Orchestral Music

Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

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Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring – The Ultimate Recording of the Work

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

More music conducted by Pierre Monteux

  • An outstanding Shaded Dog pressing with superb sound from start to finish
  • Perhaps the greatest performance ever, certainly our favorite for performance and sound – this is not an easy piece of music to record judging by how many awful sounding versions that exist — we should know, we played them
  • Monteux knows the work as well as anyone, he himself conducted the premier in 1913!
  • Mind boggling in its power to move the listener – a classic Decca Tree recording from 1956 by the master, Mr. Kenneth Wilkinson
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of having the Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this recording certainly deserve a place on that list, close to the top I would think

It takes us three years — and a lot of hard work and a fair amount of luck — to get a shootout like this going.

The tympani and bass drum on this recording have few equals in our experience. This is the way HUGE and POWERFUL drums sound in concert. Those of you who go to classical concerts regularly will recognize that sound immediately. You probably also know that finding Golden Age recordings with this kind of deep bass is unusual to say the least.

The space and dynamic power of these sides are really something to hear on this groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not many copies of Rite of Spring can do what these two sides can.

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Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Ricci / Fjelstad

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • This Sibelius Violin Concerto has top sonics and a performance to match
  • It’s some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, right up there with our longtime favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2435)
  • One of the truly great 1958 All Tube recordings from Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty by Alan Reeve & Gordon Parry on this very disc
  • “In the easier and looser concerto forms invented by Mendelssohn and Schumann I have not met a more original, a more masterly, and a more exhilarating work than the Sibelius violin concerto.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ricci’s (as are we), this is a Must Own from 1958 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The best Shaded Dog pressings of the Heifetz performance on RCA (LSC 2435) are the equal of this London. RCA presents the violin more immediately in the soundfield. Decca’s engineers integrated the violinist into the orchestra, which of course is the way it would be heard in the concert hall. To our ears, both approaches work exceptionally well — when you have at your disposal exceptional pressings of each. We had copies of both that were Hard to Fault, which made for a very enjoyable shootout.

Note that it has been close to ten years since our last big shootout for the work. That’s how long it takes to find enough clean London, Decca and RCA pressings for recordings such as these. Noisy, second-rate copies are everywhere. Top quality early pressings in clean condition come our way less than once a year. There are literally thousands of clean, vintage classical pressing sitting in our stockroom, waiting for a few more copies to come our way so that we can finally do a shootout.

With engineering in the legendary Kingsway Hall, there is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not being lost on us.

It’s also as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is, of course, all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record any better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their unforgiveable mediocrity.)

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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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Chabrier / Orchestral Music – Ansermet

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

  • This superb Chabrier album contains our favorite Espana Rhapsody, and this copy lets you hear it with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • The “Espana” rhapsody for orchestra in Nearly White Hot stamper sound here is guaranteed to blow your mind
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • All the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration, thanks to the brilliant engineering of Roy Wallace
  • Ansermet’s Chabrier disc has long been a favorite of ours here at Better Records – this copy will show you why

If you want a classical record to TEST your system, if you want a classical record to DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy.

Who can resist these sublime orchestral works? To quote an infamous (around here) label, they are an audiophile’s dream come true. The Tracklist tab has extensive background information on most of these works.

So clear and clean, and spread out on such a huge stage, either one or both of these sides will serve you well as your go-to reference disc for Orchestral Reproduction.

Listen for the waves of sound in Espana — only the best copies bring out the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration.

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Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Reiner

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

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

  • An outstanding pressing of Heifetz’s amazing 1958 recording for RCA in glorious Living Stereo sound, earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • A superb pressing, with lovely richness, warmth, and real immediacy throughout – the overall sound is rich, sweet and Tubey Magical
  • Heifetz is a fiery player – this pressing will allow you to hear the subtleties of his bowing in a coherent, natural and realistic way
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are near perfection – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity he brings to this difficult and demanding work
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings that offer the discriminating audiophile pressings with the Best Performances and Top Quality SoundThis record has earned a place on that list.

For those of you who have only heard the Classic pressing, you are in for a world of better sound. The Classic is both aggressive and lacking in texture at the same time, the worst of both worlds. Bernie’s cutting system is what I would call Low Resolution — the harmonics and subtleties of the sound simply disappear.

We write about it on our blog, under the heading Bernie Grundman’s Work for Classic Records in Four Words: Hard, Sour, Colored and Crude. Search for it if you would like to know more.

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Massenet / Le Cid Ballet Music / Fremaux

More of the music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This shockingly well recorded orchestral recording returns to the site on vintage British EMI import vinyl with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • So much bigger and livelier than the other copies we played, with an extended top, rosiny texture to the strings, and lower strings that are rich and vibrant in the best tradition of vintage Deccas and RCAs
  • A Demo Disc of real power with huge size and scope – it’s smooth and natural, which means you can really turn it up if you want that front row center seat
  • Let’s give credit where credit is due – Stuart Eltham is an immensely talented recording engineer and this is unquestionably some of his finest work
  • This Orchestral Spectacular should be part of any serious Classical Collection
  • Others that belong in that category can be found here

This is a record that clearly belongs on a Super Disc list; if Harry hadn’t already put it there we certainly would have. (We would love to compile a Super Disc list of our own, but unless you have just the right copy of whatever title you find on the list, you may not have anything like Super Disc sound quality, so why a list at all? It creates more problems for audiophiles than it solves.)

Both sides of this TAS List disc contain audiophile Must Own Demonstration pieces, full of Tubey Magic, powerful dynamics, real depth, lifelike ambience, and uncannily accurate instrumental timbres, especially from the woodwinds. Add explosive dynamics and deep bass and you have yourself a genuine audiophile recording.

The sound is so rich you will not believe you are listening to an EMI. If more EMI records sounded like this we would be putting them on the site left and right. Unfortunately, in our experience the majority are thin, shrill and vague. Not so here!

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Debussy / Images for Orchestra / Ansermet – London Versus Decca

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout this early London Wideband Stereo pressing
  • Our Shootout Winner here was exceptionally lively and dynamic – the RCA with Munch was slightly richer and sweeter, but you will find very little to fault in the sound of this record if you don’t have the right stampers for that one
  • And we’re eager to point out that the Decca pressings were not in the same sonic league as our best Londons, something that we run into on a regular basis but for some reason surprises audiophile record lovers to this very day, why we have no idea, all the pressings we play in our shootouts are mastered by Decca in England from the same tapes
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.

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Borodin / Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 / Ansermet

More of the music of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this London Stereo pressing
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that most of our classical records don’t often play at
  • These sides are doing everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and have depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • We defy you to find better brass on a record than can be found on this very one – we can’t recall hearing it, and we play the best sounding Golden Age classical recordings by the score week after week
  • The originals win the shootouts, but they need to be mastered and pressed right, and cleaned properly, to beat the best of the Stereo Treasury pressings
  • These originals are selling for hundreds of dollars on ebay these days, so don’t expect many early London pressings to make it to the site

We’ve long considered the album one of the greatest of all the Decca / London recordings.

Big, rich and dynamic, this is the sound of LIVE MUSIC, and it can be yours, to enjoy for years to come — if you’ve got the stereo to play it and the time to listen to it.

The powerful lower strings and brass are gorgeous. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande get that sound better than any performers I know. You will see my raves on record after record of theirs produced during this era. No doubt the world renowned Victoria Hall they recorded in is key. One can assume Decca engineers use similar techniques for their recordings regardless of the artists involved. The only real variable should be the hall.

Ansermet’s recordings with the Suisse Romande exhibit a richness in the lower registers that is unique in my experience. His Pictures At Exhibition has phenomenally powerful brass, the best I’ve ever heard. The same is true for his Night On Bald Mountain. Neither performance does much for me — they’re both too slow — but the sound is out of this world. Like it is here.

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Gilbert and Sullivan – Overtures / Ward

More of the music of Gilbert and Sullivan

More Classical Recordings in Living Stereo

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this superb Living Stereo pressing of Gilbert and Sullivan’s music
  • Rich and sweet Living Stereo sound from the first note to the last – who can resist these sublime orchestral arrangements?
  • The Overtures are played to perfection – for music and sound, this one is hard to fault, a Top Title in every way and one that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection

The hall is HUGE: spacious and open as any you will hear, but not at the expense of richness or fullness. The orchestra is solid and full-bodied, yet the woodwinds and flutes soar above the other sections, so breathy and clear. How did the Decca (recording) and RCA (mastering) engineers succeed so brilliantly where so many others have failed, failed right up to this very day?

Who knows? It’s still a mystery that has yet to be explained, to my satisfaction anyway.

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