Older Reviews – Classical

Overtures and Dances / Reiner

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This RCA Pink Label TAS List LP plays Mint Minus (except side two starts a little noisier) . The cover is immaculate.

Side one of this record sounds AMAZING, especially the Dvorak piece.

Here are the comments for the copy we recently sold on the site:

Superb string tone. This is one record that deserves to be on the tas list, and you have to give harry credit for going against the audiophile tide and recognizing a cheap, thin pink vic! Side one sounds incredible. I never recall hearing sound like this on this victrola! It’s demonstration quality sound!

Classic Records remastered this record not long ago and ruined it. This is what it’s supposed to sound like. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 in Living Stereo – What Does It Sound Like Now?

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Years ago we wrote:

This is a 1s / 5s Shaded Dog. TAS List (or at least it used to be). Probably the reason HP likes this LP so much is that it has a very wide soundstage. It also has good solid weight. A little soft on top, but that comes with the territory.

This is a very old review, probably from about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could recommend this record today. It probably belongs on this list, but I cannot truthfully say one way or another. As I recall, the copies I’ve played more recently were not impressive.

If I played it today, would I find it to be as bad as this Living Stereo pressing? Who knows? That experiment has not been run.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky for the symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, so we have never actually done a shootout for them.

Grace Williams / Fantasia On Welsh Nursery Tunes / Groves – Reviewed in 2012

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Super Hot Stamper sound for this TAS List title, containing the most famous piece for which Grace Williams is known. The sound is BIG and RICH, two adjectives we rarely apply to a ’70s EMI. Big maybe — lots of EMI’s are big, but the reason you see so few EMI Hot Stampers on our site is that they are usually big in a vague, phasey way, which is a sound I frankly have never seen the need to take seriously, TAS Listing or no TAS Listing. (Screen speakers tend to sound that way to me, and I’ve never been a fan of them either.)

But rich — now that’s a sound we do like! It’s also not shrill and hard like most EMI’s. Instead it’s transparent, lively and tonally correct from top to bottom.

Add it all up and you have a very special EMI record that qualifies for Super Hot Stamper status. You will have a very hard time finding a copy of the album that sounds like the side one here. (more…)

Strauss / Ein Heldenleben / Reiner on Victrola – Reviewed Way Back When

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

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This Plum Label original Victrola pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND on side one, earning a grade of A++. It’s quite a step up from the other copies we played. As you may know, this is one of the earliest RCA stereo recordings, dating from 1954 and the same sessions as the famous Reiner recording LSC 1806. This two microphone, two-channel recording, however, was never released in stereo on vinyl until the Victrola era ten years later.  

The sound on side one is very transparent, with nice texture to the strings and brass. It’s not nearly as dark as the average copy.

Side two suffers from some of that dark quality and rated an A Plus grade. It has more of a distant quality.

One further note: we used to like the RCA Half-Speed pressing of the work, but playing it recently made me realize just how dark, smeary and thick it is. Don’t know what I ever saw in it to tell you the truth.

Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 1 ’Winter Dreams’ – Muti – Reviewed in 2009

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EMI Postage Stamp pressing with EXCELLENT SOUND and a remarkably energetic and nuanced performance. This is the first recording of this symphony that I’ve ever liked. Muti gets it! And the sound is actually quite good for EMI in this period, 1976.

Stuart Eltham is the recording engineer and he is to be commended for getting some real dynamics and power into the grooves of this record.

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Reviewed (Probably Inaccurately) in 2006

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[Back in 2006 we liked Red Seal pressings of Living Stereo recordings a lot more than we do nowadays, so take this commentary with a huge grain of salt. Only the advent of top quality  cleaning equipment and our much improved playback made it possible for us to hear the earlier pressings in all their glory.]

Live and Learn we say!

This Minty looking RCA Red Seal pressing has EXCELLENT SOUND. We did a big shootout today with a number of pressings, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. The Shaded Dogs tend to have more weight to them, but are never cut as cleanly and usually lack top end extension. The Red Seals and White Dogs are lower distortion and have better highs but tend to lack weight down at the bottom. (more…)

Witches’ Brew / Gibson – Living Stereo Pressing Reviewed in 2007

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DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, of a sort. As I’ve said elsewhere on the site, this is not my idea of natural tonality.

As for the music, I have long held that the Danse Macabre on this album is the best ever. I probably still agree with that [not anymore, here’s a better one], but so much of the material on this record is amazingly good that that’s actually kind of a left-handed compliment. The entire side 2 is outstanding from start to finish.

The excerpt on side 1 from Pictures at an Exhibition and the complete A Night on Bare Mountain are both played with a kind of energy and requisite orchestral technical quality that makes these pieces come alive right in your living room.

Only the Arnold piece on this record is not particularly inspiring, although it does have excellent sound. All in all, an amazing group of warhorses given a fresh reading by Alexander Gibson and the New Symphony Orchestra of London.

Now let’s talk about the Classic Records 200 gram version, painful as that may be. I’ve long held that the remastering of that album is nothing less than a crime against music lovers and audiophiles of every stripe. Boosting the bass and highs and adding transistory harshness is the last thing in the world that Witches’ Brew needed.

At the risk of insulting some of you out there, if you think the Classic Records version of this album sounds good, your system must be very dull and bass shy, or you must like really hi-fi-ish sound. There is no way that that record should ever sound good on a system that’s remotely accurate. I’ve heard this record played by people attempting to demonstrate the sound of their system, which nearly caused blood to run from my ears. All the while they had a big grin on their face, so pleased with the sound. I don’t understand how anyone can put up with that kind of sound, but obviously people do, so what can I say? People like lots of things I don’t like, and the Classic record is just one more to add to that list. If you want to know why I hate the Classic, buy this pressing and see for yourself where Bernie went wrong.

Stravinsky / The Firebird / Dorati

More on The Firebird

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

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White Hot Front Row Center sound on side one – amazingly lifelike. One listen to either side and you’ll know this is one of the Top Mercury Titles of All Time. Dorati breathes life into the work as only he can. This is the first time the Mercury Firebird has ever made it to the site, and this copy is killer.

Side One

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.

Side Two

Rich, sweet strings, especially for a Mercury. This side really gets quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy. (more…)

Vivaldi – Cello Concertos — Paul Tortelier – Reviewed in 2011

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This is a minty EMI British Pressing from 1981 featuring Paul Tortelier on the cello. The sound is very good in the EMI tradition, but even better, the music is WONDERFUL. These Vivaldi concertos are lovely. I was unfamiliar with them, so discovering this music today was a joy. 

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