Older Reviews – Classical / Orchestral

Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Reviewed 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 quality made it possible for us to hear the earlier pressings in all their glory.

A lot of records that I used to like because they were cleaner and brighter — later Red Seal Living Stereos, some OJC jazz, some reissues of rock — sounded much better when my system was darker and less revealing. There are a lot of Live and Learn entries about these records, and this is one from 15 years ago that could (probably, the record is long gone and not around to be played) not be more wrong.

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Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne / Fiedler – Our Shootout Winner from 2004

More of the Music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

More Stamper and Pressing Information (You’re Welcome!)

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Gaite Pareisienne

In 2004 we wrote:

 11S/ 10S are the best stampers for this amazing DEMONSTRATION QUALITY record!

I think that information still holds up. I can also tell you that 5S/5S has never impressed us much.

M-/ E+++. Side 1 plays nearly NM without a pop! Side 2 opens with a half inch scratch. But think about it — isn’t one side about the right amount for this kind of music? Do you really need to play side 2 after hearing side 1? This copy gives you a good portion of the music with AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUND.

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? Four mics and two channels and it blows away 90% of all the classical recordings ever made.

Some old record collectors and tube equipment lovers [not so much anymore] say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it. (And this record proves that sometimes old records just sound like old records.)


FURTHER READING

What to Listen For on Classical Records (more…)

Labels, Patterns and the Circle of Reason

Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

30+ Reviews of Mercury Classical LPs

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This commentary was written more than ten years ago, but as far as I can tell, it still holds up!

RFR1/ 2.

This pressing has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND.

Here is the sound that Mercury is famous for: immediate, dynamic and spacious. This record lives up to the Mercury claim: You immediately feel as though you are in the Living Presence of the orchestra.

This is precisely the kind of record that Speakers Corner would not have a clue how to master. I’d stake my reputation on it, for what that’s worth.

As you know, I am one of the most vocal critics of the new Speakers Corner Mercury series, and I can tell you without ever hearing their version of this recording that there is NO CHANCE IN THE WORLD they will ever cut a record that sounds like this. It’s alive in a way that none of their pressings would even begin suggest. If you don’t believe me, please buy this record and play it for yourself. If you don’t agree, I will refund your money and pay the domestic shipping back.

This record also gives the lie to those who think that Vendor pressings are inferior. This is a Vendor and I would be very surprised if there’s a better sounding copy than this one. I’ve certainly never heard one.

People who like to read labels and find some sort of pattern or connection between the label and the sound of the record are living in a world of their own making.

The stamper numbers are the only thing that can possibly mean anything on a record, and even those are subject to so much variation from pressing to pressing that they become only a vague, general guide.

This LP is a good example of a record that a misguided or misinformed record collector would pass up, hoping to find a better sounding non-Vendor pressing.

Of course the circular reasoning that would result is that such a collector would buy the non-Vendor pressing, possibly with the exact same stamper numbers, hear how good it sounded, and congratulate himself on the fact that the non-Vendor pressings always sound so much better. All without ever having done a comparison.

A good way to never be wrong!

Tchaikovsky / Swan Lake / Grossman – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

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This budget Whitehall pressing is one of the most incredible SLEEPERS in the entire classical catalog, with SUPERB sound as well as performances of the highest quality from the Vienna Festival Orchestra. The sound is big and bold, spacious, open and sweet in the best golden age tradition. Superior pressings of this recording would give all but the best Shaded Dogs, Londons and Mercs a serious run for their money, beating most of them handily. Yes, it’s that good. The string tone and rosiny texture on side two are especially noteworthy.

There’s a freedom from coloration on either side that is positively refreshing after playing most vintage classical recordings. (more…)

Milhaud / La Creation du Monde / Munch

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M-/ M- – to M-. 1s/ 2s. Side 2 has DEMO QUALITY sound. These rare Soria pressings have a tendency to be noisy so this is as quiet a copy as you are likely to find.

Unusually smooth sound. Just the opposite of the Mercury recordings. Perfect for this kind of music.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

Classical – “Sleeper” Top Quality Recordings

Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Classical – Demo Disc Quality Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Paganini – Kreisler / Concerto In One Movement / Campoli – Reviewed in 2019 and 2008

The Music of Paganini Available Now

More Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

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  • This exceptionally rare early London pressing features Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and includes a wonderful performance of the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3
  • This is a spectacular recording – it’s big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Campoli brings his warmth, feeling, and technical precision to these classical masterpieces
  • The Decca engineers captured the correct amount of detail in the bowing and fingering – it’s not overdone as it is in so many records that many audiophiles prefer, with the mics much too close to the strings

This is a WONDERFUL sounding violin concerto recording. It has TUBEY MAGIC as well as MUSIC to die for. What”s most interesting about the sound is how well the violin is integrated into the orchestra. On most RCAs, just to pick one golden age label to use as an example, the violin is typically hugely oversized and placed far in front of the orchestra. Not so here. The violin is of a whole with the orchestra, which makes for a much more natural and relaxed presentation. (more…)

Rodrigo / Concierto Andaluz & Concierto de Aranjuez (SR 90488) – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More of the music of Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

More TAS Super Disc Recordings

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A good side one backed with a lovely side two! We shot out a stack of these recently and side two of this copy was one of the few sides that really impressed us. The sound is transparent and full of energy. Side one is pretty good but a bit crude in the louder passages.

This is a wonderful record. The performance here by the first family of guitar is legendary. More importantly, the music is delightful and belongs in any serious classical collection.

RFR-1 stampers. TAS List. What the best originals like this one give you is immediacy. The attack of the guitar is more real. Comparing this with the Golden Import shows you that some of the transients are smoothed over on that pressing.

If you’ve got the front end that can deal with the Mercury upper midrange and transient attack, the strings will sound textured and clear, not harsh or shrill. (A badly mastered version of this record would make your ears bleed.) More importantly, this copy captures the sounds of the guitars perfectly. I doubt if anybody could do it as well as Mercury. (more…)

Weber / Overtures / Ansermet / Suisse Romande

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

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GLORIOUS Super Hot Stamper sound or BETTER on side two of this original London Blueback UK pressing. Yes, it has the Decca / London sound we expect from Ansermet, the Suisse Romande orchestra, and the amazing Victoria Hall they recorded in — rich and spacious, with lovely texture to the strings.

But that’s not all. This record is exceptionally DYNAMIC. If you like listening to your records at realistic levels — the only way to fly to our way of thinking — then you had better watch your levels! The huge bottom end makes those dynamic passages a thrill to experience. Make sure your VTA is carefully adjusted — a big deal with us these days — and you will be in for the ride of your life.

Side Two

A++ to A+++. The only reason we did not award the full three pluses was that there is a touch of congestion in some of the loudest passages. Other than that there is practically nothing to fault with the sound! No smear, present and clear. (more…)

Living Strings / Morton Gould and his Orchestra

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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I typed so badly back in the old days that it was actually easier to just dictate the short reviews we would put up for our records twenty years ago. Rereading this just now made me recall that fact, because it is either poorly written or dictated, and I am going to go with the latter since I hate to think I ever wrote this badly.

RCA Shaded Dog LP with good sound.

This is not in the top tier of Living Stereos, but it is a good record nonetheless. The first track is the Tchaikovsky Elegie which is lovely. Also Bach’s famous Air On The G String is also excellent. In fact all the music on this album is excellent. The sound varies from very good to pretty good. Living Stereo strings are hard to beat.

This is also a very rare title these days. This is the first one that’s ever made it to the site.

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #5 / Monteux / BSO

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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Near Demo Quality. This is one of those mid-hall RCA recordings, and if you like that orchestral perspective, a very natural one to my mind, this record is for you. String tone is superb.

What holds this record back is a lack of orchestral weight. But the strings on this copy are very sweet and the vinyl is exceptionally quiet.

It’s a very sweet sounding copy, and dynamic as hell. Monteux’s performance is beyond reproach.