Top Studios and Concert Halls – Victoria Hall

Classical Music on Vinyl – An Overview

More of the Best Recordings Made in Victoria Hall

More Classical Music on Vinyl

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We often mention the benefits to be gained from regularly listening to classical music. Once a week would make a good rule of thumb for playing a classical record or two I should think.

We all love our rock, jazz, folk and the rest, but there is something about classical music that has the power to restore a certain balance in your musical life that, for whatever reason, cannot be accomplished through other music. Perhaps it grounds your listening experience in something less immediately gratifying, something that grows deeper and more enriching over time. Once the effect has taken hold, the changes in one’s mood are easy to recognize.

Of course it should be pointed out that the average classical record is at best a mediocrity and more often than not a sonic disaster. There are many excellent pressings of rock and jazz, but when it comes to classical music — by its nature so much more difficult to record (and reproduce!) — the choices narrow substantially.

Most of what passed for good classical sound when I was coming up in audio — the DGs, EMIs, Sheffields and other audiophile pressings — are hard to take seriously when played on the modern high quality equipment of today.

We probably audition at least five records for every one we think might pass muster in a future shootout, and we’re pulling only from the labels we know to be good. We wouldn’t even waste our time playing the average Angel, Columbia or DG, or EMI for that matter. The losers vastly outweigh the winners, and there are only so many hours in a day. Who has the time to hunt for so few needles in so many haystacks?

Commitment of Resources

With the above in mind, it should be clear that assembling a top quality classical collection requires much more in the way of resources — money and time — than it would for any other genre of music.

We are happy to do some of that work for you — our best classical pressings are amazing in almost every way — potentially saving you a lifetime of work. But we do so at a price; the service we provide is labor-intensive. And, as you may have noticed, vintage classical records are not getting any cheaper or easier to find.

On the positive side, every Hot Stamper we sell is 100% guaranteed to satisfy in every way: music, sound, and playing condition. Ideally this means less work for you and more time for listening enjoyment, weekly or more if you can manage to carve it out of your schedule.


Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Check out our new section: The Better Records Hall of Fame for Orchestral Music.

We have a section for all the Classical Records we have reviewed on the site to date.

We also have a section for all the Heavy Vinyl Classical Records we have reviewed on the site.

We have a number of Commentaries specifically addressing issues we’ve encountered when playing classical recordings.

Beethoven / Symphony #6 (Pastoral) / Ansermet

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven 

Beethoven / Symphony #6 (Pastoral) / Ansermet 

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

In our opinion this is the best sounding Beethoven 6th Symphony ever recorded. It is the most beautiful of them all, and has long been my personal favorite of the nine Beethoven composed.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least. (more…)

Falla / Three Cornered Hat (Complete Ballet) / Ansermet

More of the music of Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Three Cornered Hat (Complete Ballet)

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

This London is energetic, dynamic, spacious, transparent, rich and sweet. James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these 1961 sessions in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology.  (more…)

Debussy / La Mer / Ansermet

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More La Mer / Ansermet 

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

We were impressed with the fact that this vintage London pressing excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, allowing the listener to inhabit the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. Depth and transparency are key to losing yourself in the music, and this pressing offers plenty of both.

White Hot Stamper “can’t be beat” sound on side one for La Mer. Side two is also White Hot for this 1965 Victoria Hall recording. Front row center seating for both sides in the best Decca tradition. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande bring out the beauty in this enchanting, enigmatic work. (more…)

Debussy / Images Pour Orchestre / Argenta

More of the music of Claude Debussy 

More Images Pour Orchestre / Argenta 

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

Presenting Super Hot Stamper sound on side two of this Stereo Treasury LP, which is where this superbly performed, wonderul sounding Iberia can be found. Although lacking in orchestral weight, from about 200 cycles up this copy is perfection. In its own way — especially on systems with not a lot of firepower down low — this side two qualifies as a Demo Disc. 

Argenta is the man for this music; he brings out the folky quality in the work. We much prefer Argenta’s performance to Reiner’s on LSC 2222, which was one of the early releases from Classic Records as well, poorly remastered of course and best avoided. The Classic may be on Harry’s list — sad but true — but that certainly has no bearing on the fact that it’s not a very good record. This STS LP will show you exactly what’s missing from that Heavy Vinyl pressing. (more…)

Delibes / Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet – London Vs. Decca, Again

More of the music of Leo Delibes (1836-1891) 

More Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet 

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

Once again, the right Decca reissue blows the doors off the original we played. This has lately become a pattern, but keep in mind it’s a pattern that’s reliable less than half the time, if memory is any guide. Many of the Decca reissues we’ve played over the last few years have failed badly in a head to head with their earlier-mastered and -pressed counterparts. But the ones that beat all comers are the ones that stick in our minds and show up on our site. Clearly a case of confirmation bias, but at least we know something about our own biases. 

Record collectors and record collecting audiophiles will tell you it shouldn’t happen, but fools like us, who refuse to accept the prognostications of those supposedly “in the know,” have done the work and come up with the experimental data that’s proven them wrong again and again.

Sort of. We had one, and only one, pressing of the original London (CS 6185), and boy was it a mess — crude as crude can be. It sounded just like an “old record” — we’ve played them by the thousands, so we know that sound fairly well at this stage of the game — not the Decca engineered and mastered vintage collectible we know it to be. (more…)

The Tale of Tsar Saltan – What to Listen For: The Triangle

More Rimsky-Korsakov

More The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your pressing of the album. 

This is a work that makes extensive use of the triangle, and I don’t know when I’ve ever heard a better recording of that instrument. (I think there are actually two being played.) It’s incredibly sweet, detailed and extended, without calling attention to itself in an unnatural manner. When you hear it, you know it, and I’m hearing it in my head as this is being written. 

Want a good tweeter test next time you’re in the market for new speakers? Play a record with a well-recorded triangle. It’s a surprisingly hard instrument to reproduce.  (more…)

Chabrier / Orchestral Music / Ansermet – What to Listen For

More Emmanual Chabrier

More Orchestral Music / Ansermet

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

On many copies the strings are dry, lacking Tubey Magic. This is decidedly not our sound, although it can easily be heard on many London pressings, the kind we’ve played by the hundreds over the years. If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do. Our 17D3 is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard.  

It makes our shootouts much easier, but brings out the flaws in all but the best pressings, exactly the job we require it to do. (more…)

Chabrier Orchestral Music – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

More Emmanual Chabrier

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

The Espana side earned our rare and coveted Four Plus (A++++) Sonic Grade – Wow! Monstrous size and dynamic power thanks to the brilliant Decca engineering of Roy Wallace. Without a doubt the most spectacular sound we’ve ever heard from CS 6438.

This Beyond White Hot Stamper London pressing has some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard. Man, this copy sure has it going on: it’s super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, with all of the weight of the orchestra down low on side one which is very, very hard to come by on this record!

And all that weight and energy down low is what really makes Espana magical. You won’t believe the sound!  (more…)

Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn Vague

 

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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