Well Recorded Orchestral Albums – The Core Collection

Smetana and Dvorak – Bohemian Rhapsody

More of the Music of Smetana

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • We can honestly say we have never heard these wonderfully melodic works played with more verve and skill
  • Nor have we heard any performances with better sound – this may be a budget Decca reissue, but as some of you Hot Stamper fans have discovered, it is not unusual for these later Deccas to beat the originals
  • And note that this pressing is no spring chicken — it’s almost 50 years old
  • This copy has many condition issues — if it didn’t sound as amazing as it does we wouldn’t bother listing it, but it does!
  • The original Decca and London pressings are rare and expensive, but if you one, you really owe it to yourself to hear just how good this pressing sounds
  • “The performances of The Bartered Bride extracts have all of the necessary sparkle and verve, while Kertesz’s credentials as a Dvorák conductor are second to none.”
  • Another Must Own Title from 1962. Other recommended titles from 1962 can be found here.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best-sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Grateful Dead music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This record shows off vintage Decca sound at its best. The full range of colors of the orchestra are here presented with remarkable clarity, dynamic contrast, spaciousness, sweetness, and timbral accuracy.

If you want to demonstrate to a novice listener why modern recordings are so consistently unsatisfactory, all you have to do is play this record for them. No CD ever sounded like this.

The richness of the strings, a signature sound for Decca in the Fifties and Sixties, is on display here for fans of the classical Golden Age. It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes practically everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl).

It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play it’s an art that is not lost on us. I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the clarity and presence that are missing from so many other vintage Golden Age records. (more…)

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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Stravinsky / The Rite of Spring – The Ultimate Recording of the Work

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

More music conducted by Pierre Monteux

  • An outstanding Shaded Dog pressing with superb sound from start to finish
  • Perhaps the greatest performance ever, certainly our favorite for performance and sound – this is not an easy piece of music to record judging by how many awful sounding versions that exist — we should know, we played them
  • Monteux knows the work as well as anyone, he himself conducted the premier in 1913!
  • Mind boggling in its power to move the listener – a classic Decca Tree recording from 1956 by the master, Mr. Kenneth Wilkinson
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of having the Best Performances with Top Quality Sound, and this recording certainly deserve a place on that list, close to the top I would think

It takes us three years — and a lot of hard work and a fair amount of luck — to get a shootout like this going.

The tympani and bass drum on this recording have few equals in our experience. This is the way HUGE and POWERFUL drums sound in concert. Those of you who go to classical concerts regularly will recognize that sound immediately. You probably also know that finding Golden Age recordings with this kind of deep bass is unusual to say the least.

The space and dynamic power of these sides are really something to hear on this groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not many copies of Rite of Spring can do what these two sides can.

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Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

 More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • A stunning pressing of Bizet’s masterpiece, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Side one is also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Both sides are open, high-rez, and spacious, with depth like you will not believe and some of the least shrill string reproduction we have ever heard for this music (which is the main problem we run into on the album)
  • Gloriously exciting and fun music that belongs in any audiophile’s collection – side one is where the action is, and this side one had the best sound we heard all day
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

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Chabrier / Orchestral Music – Ansermet

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

  • This superb Chabrier album contains our favorite Espana Rhapsody, and this copy lets you hear it with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • The “Espana” rhapsody for orchestra in Nearly White Hot stamper sound here is guaranteed to blow your mind
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the sound we love
  • All the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration, thanks to the brilliant engineering of Roy Wallace
  • Ansermet’s Chabrier disc has long been a favorite of ours here at Better Records – this copy will show you why

If you want a classical record to TEST your system, if you want a classical record to DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy.

Who can resist these sublime orchestral works? To quote an infamous (around here) label, they are an audiophile’s dream come true. The Tracklist tab has extensive background information on most of these works.

So clear and clean, and spread out on such a huge stage, either one or both of these sides will serve you well as your go-to reference disc for Orchestral Reproduction.

Listen for the waves of sound in Espana — only the best copies bring out the energy and power of Chabrier’s remarkable orchestration.

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Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake Ballet Highlights / Ansermet

More of the music of Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Records on Decca and London

  • This vintage London stereo pressing of the Suisse Romande’s extraordinary performance of the the Swan Lake Highlights boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • It’s also impossibly quiet at Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, a grade that practically none of our vintage classical titles – even the most well-cared-for ones – ever play at
  • Rosiny string tone and texture, rich tonality, a big hall, practically no smear, lovely transparency – the sound here hard to fault
  • The miking is tasteful, with much less spotlighting than most of the classical recordings we play
  • That gorgeous clarinet says it all, so rich and Tubey Magical – not many copies had the full measure of that sound the way this one did

I rank the performance here by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande second to none. (The Fistoulari on London can be especially good on the right pressing as well.)

Ansermet is surely the man for this music, and the famously huge hall he recorded in just as surely contributes much to the wonderful sound here. (The Royal Gala Ballet is a good example. If you have the two grand to spend we highly recommend you find yourself a good one. And don’t waste your money on the Classic no matter what you may have read elsewhere.)

Speaking of bad sounding Heavy Vinyl, Speakers Corner reissued the complete Swan Lake 2-LP recording on 180g fifteen years ago or so and ruined it. Imagine that. (I happily admit their Nutcracker was quite good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue. It cannot hold a candle to a good vintage pressing but it will beat most of what’s out there on audiophile vinyl, which, truth be told, isn’t saying much.)

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Rachmaninoff / De Falla – Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini / Nights In The Gardens Of Spain

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

More Classical Recordings in Living Stereo

  • You’ll find STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Living Stereo sound throughout this vintage (but not original) RCA pressing of these wonderful classical compositions
  • The rich, textured sheen of the strings the RCA engineers achieved in the ’50s and ’60s is a joy to hear throughout these pieces
  • This is something the Heavy Vinyl crowd will never experience, because that sound just does not exist on modern remastered records the way it does on these vintage pressings
  • The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this copy – if you want to know what kind of sound wins shootouts around these parts, this pressing will show you
  • To see more of the best orchestral recordings with top quality sound we’ve done shootouts for, click here
  • If you’re a fan of Rachmaninoff and/or Rubinstein, this Living Stereo from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Until we heard the right later pressings, we had always been disappointed with this TAS List recording, wondering what all the fuss was about.

Well, now we know. The early Shaded Dog pressings have consistently worse sound than the reissues we are offering here.

We never offered the record in Hot Stamper form because we didn’t think the sound of the originals was all that impressive, TAS List or no TAS List.

Mystery solved, and truly Hot Stampers have now been made available to the discriminating audiophile.

Harry’s list, as was so often the case, did not provide the information needed to hear the recording properly. Did Harry ever have a good pressing? We’ll never know.

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Debussy / Images for Orchestra / Ansermet – London Versus Decca

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout this early London Wideband Stereo pressing
  • Our Shootout Winner here was exceptionally lively and dynamic – the RCA with Munch was slightly richer and sweeter, but you will find very little to fault in the sound of this record if you don’t have the right stampers for that one
  • And we’re eager to point out that the Decca pressings were not in the same sonic league as our best Londons, something that we run into on a regular basis but for some reason surprises audiophile record lovers to this very day, why we have no idea, all the pressings we play in our shootouts are mastered by Decca in England from the same tapes
  • There are about 100 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.

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Saint-Saens / Chabrier / Danse Macabre / Espana and More

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894)

  • This EMI import pressing boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Both sides here are BIGGER and RICHER than any other we played – they’re super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, and have all of the weight of the orchestra down low (not to mention some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard)
  • If you want a classical record to TEST your system and DEMO your system, you will have a hard time finding a better pressing than this very copy!

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Borodin / Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 / Ansermet

More of the music of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this London Stereo pressing
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that most of our classical records don’t often play at
  • These sides are doing everything right – they’re rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and have depth and transparency to rival the best recordings you may have heard
  • We defy you to find better brass on a record than can be found on this very one – we can’t recall hearing it, and we play the best sounding Golden Age classical recordings by the score week after week
  • The originals win the shootouts, but they need to be mastered and pressed right, and cleaned properly, to beat the best of the Stereo Treasury pressings
  • These originals are selling for hundreds of dollars on ebay these days, so don’t expect many early London pressings to make it to the site

We’ve long considered the album one of the greatest of all the Decca / London recordings.

Big, rich and dynamic, this is the sound of LIVE MUSIC, and it can be yours, to enjoy for years to come — if you’ve got the stereo to play it and the time to listen to it.

The powerful lower strings and brass are gorgeous. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande get that sound better than any performers I know. You will see my raves on record after record of theirs produced during this era. No doubt the world renowned Victoria Hall they recorded in is key. One can assume Decca engineers use similar techniques for their recordings regardless of the artists involved. The only real variable should be the hall.

Ansermet’s recordings with the Suisse Romande exhibit a richness in the lower registers that is unique in my experience. His Pictures At Exhibition has phenomenally powerful brass, the best I’ve ever heard. The same is true for his Night On Bald Mountain. Neither performance does much for me — they’re both too slow — but the sound is out of this world. Like it is here.

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