Older Reviews – Classical

Brahms / Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel / Katchen – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

More Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel / Katchen 

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

Near Mint copy with excellent sound! Superb piano tone for these solo pieces and very quiet vinyl add up to a wonderful listening experience. This surprisingly quiet British vinyl is going to be hard to beat by other Golden Age labels. (Finding solo piano recordings on RCA or Mercury from this era that play quietly is practically impossible.)

Side one is super TRANSPARENT — the piano is so clear! It lacks a bit of weight on the first side; perhaps that’s the way it is actually supposed to sound, who can say? On side two it sounds a little better to my ear, big and dark and very solid. It’s pretty amazing in its own way. And Katchen’s performance is of course superb. All in all a very find piano recording.

This lovely album also includes Variations on a Theme by Paganini. (more…)

The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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

This is a QUIET RCA Soria Shaded Dog Box Set with some of the BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this music on Disc One. This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND if what you are demonstrating is not the merely Hi-Fi, but the relaxed beauty and naturalness of what many consider to be the finest example of Living Stereo Magic brought to the greatest performances of ballet music ever committed to tape.

Allow me to paraphrase some commentary from another Shaded Dog (8972307) we currently have up on the site: 

This record shows off Living Stereo sound at its best. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy. If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

I don’t think the RCA engineers can cut this record any better — it has all the Living Stereo magic one could ask for, as well as the bass and dynamics that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records. This is pretty much as good as it gets, folks.

All of which is true. The interesting thing about the Royal Gala Ballet Box is how FEW of them sound as good as their press would have you think. And the little shootout we conducted for this set was more evidence of this very fact. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

The Nutcracker Ballet / Dorati

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

This London Symphony recording is without a doubt THE BEST SOUNDING Nutcracker we have ever played here at Better Records, and that includes not only the full ballet but the suites and excerpts as well. The sound in a word is GLORIOUS. This copy, with 8 1/2 pluses total for the four sides, has DEMO DISC quality sound on three out of four sides. We shot out nine original maroon label copies (and one oval label Philips pressing) so we had our work cut out for us when it came to this masterwork of Tchaicovsky’s. It was an absolute JOY to hear his sublime orchestration recorded so faithfully and naturally by the Mercury team, using 35MM film no less. 

The review which can be seen by clicking on the Nutcracker Review tab above discusses Dorati’s sprightly performance guiding the LSO. He brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor of which I am aware.

A top performance with top quality sound. Let’s get right to each of the four sides. (more…)

Prokofiev / Violin Con. #1 & Lalo / Symphonie Espagnole – Milstein – Reviewed in 2008

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Violin Con. #1 & Lalo / Symphonie Espagnole – Milstein

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

This Milstein record has exquisite violin tone and of course the performance is magical. These comments only apply to the Lalo on side two. (Side one never sounds good on this album.) 

Prokofiev / Piano Concerto #3 – Graffman – Reviewed in 2008

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Piano Concerto #3 – Graffman

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

This Plum Label Original pressing is one of the TOP TOP VICTROLA TITLES! The sound is excellent, with real weight to the orchestra, powerful dynamics, deep bass, and solid piano tone. Add to that a wonderful performance by Gary Graffman and the San Francisco Symphony, and you have one truly OUTSTANDING record. (If you can add 1 or 2 db to the top end, it’s even better.) 

Respighi / Ancient Airs and Dances / Dorati

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

Both sides of this TAS List early Colorback RFR copy have SUPER Hot Stamper sound, so much richer and sweeter and less strident than the typical copy you might find. (I must admit the Mercury approach to sound has not worn as well as I might have hoped. When it comes to the Big Three from the Golden Age, these days we prefer London, followed by RCA, then Mercury.) 

Of course the music is wonderful, with Respighi looking back and paying homage to the music and the musical structures of the past. This is no Pines of Rome. Please see the Ancient Airs and Dances tab above for more on the music.

Side One

A++ Superb Living Presence sound. Listen especially to how textured and natural he cellos sound, as well as the strings in general. Mercury rarely recorded strings properly but here they sound tonally correct, neither nasally nor strident. (more…)

Beethoven – Symphony #6 / Monteux – Reviewed in 2005

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

More Beethoven – Symphony #6 / Monteux 

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

1S/ 6S Immaculate looking RCA Shaded Dog.

This is a lovely sounding record, with a smooth, natural top end, the opposite of a hi-fi spectacular. Some may find it dull, but it’s actually correct.

Monteux has a wonderful feel for this symphony. His Beethoven in general is actually quite good. This music belongs in any serious collection. String tone is everything in the Pastoral, and Living Stereo gives you the string tone rarely found elsewhere.

 

Mahler / Symphony #4 / Reiner – Reviewed in 2007

More of the music of Gustav Mahler

Symphony #4 / Reiner

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

This Mahler work is very accessible and enjoyable. Lovely, smooth, sweet string tone. This, along with the 1st Symphony, are my favorites.  

Comparing the Classic Reissue with the white dog above reveals that Bernie Grundman got the tonal balance right (not a common occurrence), but the magic of the RCA string tone has mysteriously been replaced by the thick, glossy strings you might expect on a Phillips record. Consider that the same effect could probably be achieved if you were to buy a Crown amplifier and hook it up to your speakers. I had a Crown DC-300A in 1973 and I don’t want it back.

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

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

Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

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

Presenting a first for Better Records: a White Hot Stamper copy of this CORRECTLY remastered version of LSC 1901, which just happens to be a recording from the earliest days of stereo, 1955! It’s guaranteed to KILL any and all original Shaded Dogs, as well as the more common reissues; White Dogs, Red Seals, Gold Seals, Victrolas, Classic Heavy Vinyl, you name it, this pressing will beat the pants off of it and in the process show you precisely what is wrong with each and every one of them.

Over the past twenty years we’ve played hundreds of early RCAs and we have sure never heard one sound like this, with so much richness, Tubey Magic, LIFE and CLARITY.

Where is the cutter head distortion, congestion and frequency limiting that ruins so many of the early pressings?

Mostly — I’m tempted to say completely — gone. We’ve played at least three Shaded Dogs of LSC 1901 since 2011 and all three were AWFUL. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – The Fantasy Film World of… – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

More Bernard Herrmann

More Fantasy Film World of…

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

Two AMAZING SOUNDING DEMO DISC LPS for the price of one! We’ve mated the HOTTEST SIDE ONE of one copy with the HOTTEST SIDE TWO of another to produce the best sounding complete Fantasy Film World we have ever heard. A+++ sound, with the kind of orchestral power that few recordings in the history of the world can lay claim to. There’s a reason this record is on the TAS Superdisc list — if any LP should be called a Superdisc, this one should. (With Phase Four sound you might even call it a Super-Duper-Disc.)   (more…)