Top Engineers – Kenneth Wilkinson

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Shaded Dog pressing of the famous TAS List Super Disc title has TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a side two that is White Hot! We have never heard a copy with such a huge hall sound and so much weight down low. As we said last time we did a shootout for this title in 2007: “DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.” 

As you know, if you’ve been on our site for any length of time at all, we’ve made a good number of significant improvements to our stereo and room since 2007, so it’s entirely accurate to say we have never heard this kind of Demo Disc sound for this album until now, because we haven’t!

Side One

A++. The hall is wide and deep as any you will hear. Tons of power and weight down low. A touch dark, otherwise it would have earned the full Three Plus top grade.

Side Two

A+++, White Hot and Hard to Fault! The strings are so richly textured — who does it better than Wilkinson? Cymbal really crash on this side, something you rarely hear correctly reproduced on recordings.

This could easily become your go-to record for demonstrating not just the Power of the Orchestra, but the power of Old Analog! (more…)

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Awesome In Mono

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This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don’t need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good — in fact, how much BETTER — this copy sounds than most of the stereo pressings out there.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of The Power Of The Orchestra, VCS 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about. (more…)

Mahler / Das Lied Von Der Erde / Solti / CSO – Reviewed in 2006

More of the music of Gustav Mahler

Das Lied Von Der Erde / Solti / CSO

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

This Minty Decca pressing from 1972 sounds WONDERFUL — another Kenneth Wilkinson/ Gordon Parry triumph. 

This recording is part of the Solti Decca Silver Jubilee, celebrating the 25th year of Solti’s collaboration with Decca.

(He started in 1947!) The Beethoven 9th on the TAS List, one of the all time great Beethoven recordings, is also part of that series. Judging by those two records, it appears that Decca still had their act together in 1972, long after other labels were producing garbage.

Mendelssohn – Violin Con. / Bruch – Scottish Fantasia – Campoli

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  • This stunning London Blueback LP presents the complete Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the best sound we have ever heard for the work 
  • Side one here earned a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grade, beating all comers for sound, including the performances by Heifetz, Ricci, Rybar and others that’s we’ve been enamored with in the past
  • The glorious sound of one of the truly great 1959 All Tube Kenneth Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall is captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • “[Campoli’s] virtuosity in the finale are as self-evident as is the excellence of the accompaniment under Sir Adrian Boult. There are many felicitous touches and the distinguished soloist plays magnificently throughout.”

As can be seen from the grades above, The Scottish Fantasy on side two was not remotely as good sounding as the Mendelssohn on side one. The best pressings for that work came on the London Stereo Treasury label surprisingly enough. As good as those later British pressings were, the best of which earned the full Three Pluses for its side two, none of them had quite the magic of the Mendelssohn found here. (more…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2011

More Elgar

More Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – 2011

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

This famous Shaded Dog, containing two superb performances by Monteux and the LSO, has many of the Golden Age strengths and weaknesses we know well here at Better Records, having played literally hundreds upon hundreds of these vintage pressings over the last twenty years or so. 

Both sides earned sonic grades of at least A+ to A++ (with side one being just a bit better than that but maybe not quite A++). The sound is rich and sweet and full of Living Stereo Magic!  

The wonderful sounding tube compressors that were used back in the day result in quieter passages that are positively swimming in ambience and low-level orchestral detail. Tube compression is, in large part, what we mean when we use the term Tubey Magic. (If you want to know what Zero Tubey Magic sounds like, play some Telarcs or Reference Recordings from the ’70s. Or a modern digital recording on CD.)

But all that sweet and rich Tubey Magic comes at a price when it’s time for the orchestra to get loud. It either can’t, or the louder passages simply distort from compressor overload. Fortunately on this copy the orchestra does not distort, it simply never gets as loud as it would have in a real concert hall, clearly the lesser and more preferable of the two evils. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann / Citizen Kane & Other Classic Film Scores – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More Bernard Herrmann

More Citizen Kane & Other Classic Film Scores

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

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — 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.

An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. The music by its very nature taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep bass notes; incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can hardly imagine what instrument or group of instruments could possibly be making some of these sounds. (more…)

Elgar/ Pomp & Circumstance / LPO / Solti – Reviewed in 2005

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More Pomp & Circumstance / LPO / Solti

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

Near Demo Quality. Solti is magnificent here. This record has even better sound than the famous Barbarolli. Another Wilkinson/ Kingsway winner.

It would be demo quality if it were recorded in ’67 instead of ’77; it doesn’t quite hang together in the climaxes the way an earlier recording would.

 

Sibelius / Symphony #2 / Barbarolli

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Symphony #2 / Barbarolli

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

A truly extraordinary recording mastered beautifully but pressed on vinyl that has never been known for its quiesecece (if I can get by with that ten cent word).

The strings are clear and textured, yet rich and full-bodied. The bottom is big and weighty. The horns are tubey and full-bodied and never screech through even the most difficult passages.

My notes mention that it’s rich and tubey but clear and lively; big, with great energy, and lastly, superbly spacious and never harsh or shrill. (It can be a bit dark in places; as you know this is much preferable to the alternative.)

About as close to live music as I think this piece can sound in my listening room. (more…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 2005

More Elgar

More Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – 2005

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

Near Demo quality. Outstanding sound. One of the best Enigma Variations around. The Brahms on the second side is also a treat. Better than the LSC if my experience from many years ago still holds up. 

See more recordings engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson
See more recordings made in Kingsway Hall

Our Favorite Tchaikovsky 1812 – The Alwyn Performance on Decca

More Peter llyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

1812 / Marche Slave / Alwyn

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

A BEYOND White Hot Quadruple Plus side one – hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 in Demo Disc sound. This is the most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of, with the best sound ever to boot on this copy. This is an exceptional Decca remastering of a superb Golden Age recording on very good vinyl.

The WHOMP FACTOR on this side one has to be heard to be believed. If you’ve got the woofers for it this record is going to rock your world!

Strings Are Key

The lower strings are rich and surrounded by lovely hall space. This is not a sound one hears on record often enough and it is glorious when a pressing as good as this one can make that sound clear to you. (more…)