Top Studios and Concert Halls – Kingsway Hall

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

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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…)

Elgar / Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 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

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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…)

Shostakovich / Sym. No.1 / Age of Gold Suite / Martinon

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Sym. No.1 / Age of Gold Suite / Martinon

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

Triple Plus on side one for the Symphony No. 1 – the sound is extraordinarily big, lively, clear and above all Tubey Magical. Side two is nearly as good, with all the same attributes, as rightly befits a true Golden Age Classic from 1959. Recorded in KINGSWAY HALL with the London Symphony, this Decca licensed title has orchestral sound to rival the best you’ve heard.

Both sides of this wonderful pressing are simply phenomenally good sounding, with size and scope the likes of which you rarely hear on record. (more…)

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

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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.

 

Elgar / Enigma Variations / Monteux / LSO – Reviewed in 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

Bernard Herrmann – Conducts Psycho and Other Film Scores – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This very nice looking London Phase 4 LP has SUPERB SOUND for some of these pieces. Especially noteworthy is the ’Psycho Narrative For Orchestra’, at 14 minutes the longest piece here. Written purely for string orchestra, the tonality is Right On The Money (ROTM), with cellos that growl like the real thing. 

In fact, so much of this sounds so good, and is such a brilliant showcase for one of the great orchestral colorists, Bernard Herrmann, that you’ll be asking yourself why more classical music doesn’t sound like this. (more…)

Ted Heath – Swings In High Stereo

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Super Hot Stamper has DEMO QUALITY SOUND. Just listen to Heath’s arrangement of My Funny Valentine on side one, or Big Ben, the second track on side two, for audiophile Big Band sound. Many consider Ted Heath’s early London recordings to be some of the best big band ever recorded. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree.”

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the LP era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this music. He really does swing in high stereo.  (more…)

Sibelius, Liszt, Dukas et al. / Bernard Herrmann Conducts – London Phase 4 Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

While preparing for a Finlandia shootout recently we happened to drop the needle on this album, a 1977 Phase 4 recording made in Kingsway Hall and engineered by Arthur Lilley. We could hardly believe how bad it sounded. The multi-miking is the worst I have ever heard! We like lots of Phase 4 recordings — especially those of Bernard Herrmann — but this is definitely not one of them. 

Are they all bad? Who can say? We sure aren’t going to be wasting any more time and money on the album in order to find out, I can tell you that.

The Obsession soundtrack is a dog as well; audiophiles looking for good sound are best advised to avoid them both. 

 

Bernard Herrmann – Conducts Jane Eyre And Other Film Scores

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

This BEYOND White Hot Stamper Side Two completely blew our minds with Bernard Herrmann orchestral MAGIC. Side two is just OUT OF THIS WORLD. Since side two is where the Three Worlds of Gulliver suite is found — the very same superbly recorded music that is on Harry’s Super Disc List — you can be sure that is this is some of the best sounding Bernard Herrmann music you will ever have the opportunity to hear, if not THE best. The sound is DEMONSTRATION QUALITY of the HIGHEST ORDER. 

When it comes to this side two what we have here is a record that sounds so good, with the needle hits the groove you will feel like you’ve just threaded up the master tape and hit play. The effect is that you’re so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience you forget you’re listening to a record. You’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that. (more…)