Top Engineers – Kenneth Wilkinson

Mozart / Haydn – Symphony No. 35 / Symphony No. 104 / Krips

More of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard these symphonic masterpieces sound as good as they do here
  • It’s also reasonably quiet at Mint Minus Minus considering that RDG vinyl is often a problem -It’s one of the main things that keeps some pressings from sounding their best, obviously not a problem here
  • This Readers Digest pressing of Krips’s superb 1964 recording for Decca has glorious sound for any LP produced by this notoriously difficult label (difficult for audiophiles, everybody else loved the fact that a whole set of amazing sounding records was less than twenty bucks!)
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are superb – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Josef Krips and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brought to these difficult and demanding works nearly 60 years ago

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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Rachmaninoff / The Complete Piano Concertos – Wild / Horenstein

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

More TAS Super Disc Recordings

  • The vinyl is as quiet as we can find it – like most Shaded Dogs and Mercs, Mint Minus Minus is about the best you can hope for (and no marks are audible, which is always nice)
  • We have been readying this shootout for probably twenty years – we had 8 box sets, all in excellent condition, and this set represents some of the best sound we uncovered for these famous TAS List recordings
  • Wild’s playing of the Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini here is one of our favorites on vinyl
  • Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s all the proof anyone with two working ears and top quality audiophile equipment needs to make the case
  • “Rachmaninoff’s music . . . changes as the composer goes along, moving from Romantic to a tentative Modernism in such works as the fourth piano concerto and the Symphonic Dances. In this sense, he walks a path similar to Puccini’s, incorporating new approaches to extend that [which was] already essentially his. Certainly, the works here show these changes, as the composer picks up more experience, both in writing and in hearing music.”

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Tchaikovsky / Swan Lake Highlights / Fistoulari

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

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

  • An outstanding copy of Fistoulari’s powerful and exciting recording with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • So transparent, dynamic and REAL, this copy raises the bar for the sound of ballet music on vinyl
  • One of the most popular ballets in the world, presented here with out-of-this-world Decca engineered All Tube Chain sound from 1961 – it’s a match!
  • For the Highlights of Swan Lake, we know of no better performance, and we certainly know of no better sounding recording on vinyl
  • It took us years to find enough copies to do this shootout – not many copies will play as quietly as this one, and many of them will have their inner grooves destroyed by the mistracking tonearms of the day
  • The big finish at the end of the second side is so powerful it might just take your breath away – show me a modern remastering with that kind of sound and I will eat it
  • “It is a superb account of Swan Lake, perhaps better than most recordings out there. Maestro Fistoulari and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam are in top form.”
  • If you’re a fan of delightful orchestral showpieces such as these ballet highlights, this LP from 1961 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This London UK import is one of the best single-disc versions of the ballet we have ever played. This is the one folks, assuming you do not want a (nearly) complete performance of the work. (For that we recommend the 2 LP box set with Ansermet.)

Note that the big finale at the end of side two is loud and HUGE on this album. There is a touch of compressor overload, but no actual inner groove distortion. At first we thought the former may have indeed been the latter because we had a copy or two with chewed-up inner grooves.

This one plays clean to the end, and boy does it get loud and powerful at the climax of the work. (more…)

Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Solti on Decca/London

More Music Conducted by Georg Solti

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Kenneth Wilkinson

Deep bass; rich, smooth strings, lots of lovely hall space – this copy was right up there with the best we heard, and clearly won the shootout for side two. You will hear immediately why this side two could not be beat – it’s wonderful. (more…)

Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto / Bruch – Scottish Fantasia – Campoli / Boult

More of the music of Max Bruch (1938-1920)

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

  • An excellent London pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • This Stereo Treasury LP may not win shootouts, but it is guaranteed to handily beat the pants off any Heavy Vinyl violin concerto record ever made
  • The Mendelssohn on London (CS 6010) with Ricci is also excellent, but ten times harder to find and quite a bit more expensive if you do
  • The Scottish Fantasy on side two contains some of the best sound we know for the work, close to our favorite, the Heifetz on Living Stereo (LSC 2603)
  • One of the truly great 1959 All Tube Kenneth Wilkinson “Decca Tree” recordings in Kingsway Hall, captured faithfully in all its beauty on this very disc
  • Referring to the Mendelssohn, Gramophon noted: “[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.”
  • If you’re a fan of Campoli’s, this 1959 album belongs in your collection, along with quite a few others, if only we could fine them
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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…)

Behind the Scenes of One of My Favorite Recordings – Citizen Kane

More Bernard Herrmann Albums in Stock

Bernard Herrmann Albums We’ve Reviewed

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.

Kenneth Wilkinson was the engineer for these sessions in glorious Kingsway Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Recording, which in this case extends all the way into the ’70s.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly be making such a sound.

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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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Albeniz / Suite Espanola – How Do the Remastered Pressings Sound?

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

In 2011 we made the (usually pointless) effort to compare our London pressing to the 180 gram Speakers Corner reissue which we were carrying at the time. We noted simply that it “was a joke next to this copy.”

I wish I could tell you in what way the Heavy Vinyl pressing was a joke — we try to be very specific about the shortcomings of these records, which is why we publish our notes for some of them — but the old notes are long gone.

Naturally we don’t have the reissue to play this time around. Still, we are confident that the results of any comparison would be the same.

Mark Lehman in the Absolute Sound gave the ORG Heavy Vinyl remastering Five Stars, having this to say about the sound:

ORG’s 45rpm remastering is terrific (as indeed are all of the ORG vinyl reissues I’ve heard). Comparison with the late- 60s London LP on which the Suite first appeared reveals sharpened and clarified attacks and articulations, more tightly focused individual strands, fuller and warmer string choirs, more resonant brass, more pillowy air around flutes, clarinets, and oboes, and more nuance and opulence in the orchestral blends. The total effect is to make Albeniz’s composition even more sweeping, rhapsodic, richly hued, evocative, and involving—and that’s saying something, considering how good the sonics are on this recording’s first incarnation.

If only it were true!

We readily admit we have never played the ORG pressing and have no plans to, but when has a Heavy Vinyl pressing ever had any of the qualities described above, let alone in such abundance?

Never in our experience, and our experience extends to hundreds and hundreds of them.

Enough about records we’ve never played. Let’s discuss some of the pressings of this very recording — a favorite of ours, for which we have done a number of shootouts — that we actually have played

The Super Analogue remaster from the ’90s was awful. I would give it an F if I were grading it today.

The Speakers Corner pressing earned a B grade from us, which makes it one of the better releases on that label.

One or two out of ten would rate a B I would guess. I don’t know of any record of theirs that rates a grade higher than B. Using letter grades, our grading system of White Hot, Super Hot and Hot would translate to something like A Plus, A and A Minus. Which means that there is no Heavy Vinyl pressing, from any era, on any label, that should be able to beat any Hot Stamper pressing on our site, and we back that up with a 100% Money Back Guarantee.

The only real competition to our Hot Stamper is going to be an original London.

As always we guarantee our pressing will beat anything you have ever heard, including the ORG, the Super Analogue, the Speakers Corner, or whatever else you may have — or your money back.

This is a guarantee that, to our knowledge, no one else in the record business can or will make.

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Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker Ballet in Two Acts / Ansermet

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

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

  • An outstanding copy of Tchaikovsky’s COMPLETE masterpiece with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides
  • If you have never experienced a vintage top quality pressing of a Wilkinson engineered Decca Tree recording from Victoria Hall, this is your chance to hear sound that puts practically everything else to shame
  • A record like this lets you get lost in the world of its music, and what could be more important in a recording than that?
  • This is an AMAZINGLY well recorded performance of one of the most famous ballets ever committed to analog tape
  • Enchanting music and sound combine on this copy to make one seriously good Demo Disc, if what you are trying to demonstrate is how relaxed and involved vintage analog can make you feel
  • If you’re a fan of brilliant showpieces such as these, this London Box Set from 1959 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

There is certainly no shortage of Audio Spectaculars available on the site. A record such as this, so rich, natural and effortless, has distinctly different qualities that we feel are every bit as vital to the critical audiophile’s enjoyment of Tchaikovsky’s music.

Ansermet breathes life into this ballet as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud. (more…)

Respighi / Strauss – Pines of Rome / Don Juan / Kempe

More Orchestral Spectaculars

More Reviews and Commentaries for The Pines of Rome

  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard The Pines of Rome sound remotely as good as it does here (unless you own one of killer Living Stereo LPs of the work)
  • This Readers Digest pressing of Kempe’s superb 1964 recording for Decca has glorious sound on both sides and plays reasonably quietly for any LP produced by this notoriously difficult label for audiophiles
  • There were only three performances with top quality audiophile sound, and our Wilkinson-engineered pressing here was right up there with the best we heard in our massive shootout
  • If you know anything about these works, you know that they have tons of top and bottom end, and it is the rare pressing that captures both
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the strings are superb – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Kempe and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brought to these difficult and demanding works 50 plus years ago

This shootout has been at least thirty years in the making — that’s how long I have been picking up these RDG sets, ever since my friend Robert Pincus turned me on to them all those years ago.

Around 2016 we surveyed the recordings of the work we had on hand, close to a dozen different performances I  think, and found them all wanting, save three: the Reiner (which is still on the TAS List), this Reader’s Digest pressing with Kempe (our second favorite, and a close second at that), and a London with Kertesz.

If a particular performance had any distortion or limitation problems in the higher frequencies, it was quickly rejected out of hand. Same with low end whomp and weight. On The Pines both are crucial.

No other pieces of music of which we are aware have so much going on up high and down low. This narrowed the field of potential Hot Stampers considerably. Great performances by top conductors could not get over these hurdles — high and low — time and time again.

For these reasons, it took us years to find the right recordings. We knew the Reiner would be hard to beat, but we kept trying record after record hoping that we could find one to wrest the crown away from what is widely considered the greatest recording of the works ever made.

The best pressings were doing everything right. There was plenty of top end, with virtually no harmonic distortion, and when I say plenty, I mean the right amount. Not many engineers managed to get all the highs correctly onto the tape, but Wilkinson working with his Decca colleagues nailed it — in 1964!

So many recordings had screechy strings and horns. When the music would get loud, and the Pines gets very loud indeed, assuming the recording will let it, the sound would become unbearably harsh and unpleasant. This is the opposite of what should happen, and it was obvious that those recordings would not make it past the first round.

All three of the finalists could claim enthusiastic performances with powerful energy and top quality orchestral playing.

Kempe and Wilkinson’s Take

For The Pines, the main difference between our top two favorites is that this recording is a bit more modern, which is only perhaps the difference between 1960 and 1964.

Our notes for side two read:

  • Rich, clear and present.
  • Great space. 
  • Performance is very lively. As the record played, we noted:
  • Really clear, big and open, weighty and spacious.

This is what we want in our orchestral dreadnaught recordings, and Kempe and Decca more than delivered.

For Don Juan, which takes up all of side one, this is certainly as good sounding a pressing as we have ever heard. We are no experts on the work — we have yet to work through the many pressings and performances that we have of it, a dozen I would guess — but we know a good sounding record when we play one.

Our notes read:

  • Clear, really open and detailed. Great space.
  • Great weight. Solid, clear, and balanced.

This recording can certainly serve as a benchmark for when we finally get around to doing the shootout.

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