The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from first note to last, you'll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this original British EMI pressing
- Both of these sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
- Vibrant orchestrations, top quality sound and scratch-free surfaces combine for an astounding listening experience
More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) / More Classical and Orchestral Recordings
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This original UK 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.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 1 Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that -- a copy like this one -- it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We're Listening For On Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 1
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Powerful bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
- First Movement: Grave
- Second Movement: Allegro Animato
- Third Movement: Larghetto
- Fourth Movement: Allegro Con Fuoco
Wikipedia on Symphony No. 1
Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 1 in D minor, his Op. 13, was composed between January and October 1895 at his Ivanovka estate near Tambov, Russia. Despite its poor initial reception, the symphony is now seen as a dynamic representation of the Russian symphonic tradition, with British composer Robert Simpson calling it "a powerful work in its own right, stemming from Borodin and Tchaikovsky, but convinced, individual, finely constructed, and achieving a genuinely tragic and heroic expression that stands far above the pathos of his later music."
The premiere, which took place in St. Petersburg on March 28, 1897, was an absolute disaster for reasons which included under-rehearsal and the poor performance of the possibly intoxicated conductor Alexander Glazunov. Rachmaninoff subsequently suffered a psychological collapse but did not destroy or attempt to disown the score. It was left in Russia when he went into exile in 1917 and subsequently lost. In 1944, after the composer's death, the separate instrumental parts of the symphony were discovered and were used to reconstruct the full score. The symphony's second performance took place at the Moscow Conservatory on October 17, 1945, conducted by Aleksandr Gauk. Following a general reassessment of Rachmaninoff's music, the First Symphony has been performed frequently and recorded several times.
The First Symphony was actually Rachmaninoff's second attempt in the genre. During 1890–91, his final year at the Moscow Conservatory, he had been assigned by one of his composition teachers, Anton Arensky, to write a symphony as an exercise. Rachmaninoff later told biographer Oskar von Riesmann that he had completed the work; however, three of the four movements subsequently vanished. The single surviving movement, approximately 12 minutes in length, was published posthumously in 1947 as Rachmaninoff's Youth Symphony. This student work is written in traditional sonata form and modeled after the opening movement of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. Rachmaninoff added that neither Arensky nor fellow-professor Sergei Taneyev was enthusiastic about the work, perhaps because of its lack of individuality. The First Piano Concerto, which he wrote later in 1891, showed a better indication of his ability to handle large-scale musical forces, and his transcription (1894) of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony into a piano duet gave him further exposure to the symphonic genre.
Rachmaninoff began planning what would become his First Symphony in September 1894, after he had finished orchestrating his Caprice Bohémien. He composed the symphony between January and October 1895, which was an unusually long time for Rachmaninoff to spend on a composition; the project had proved to be extremely challenging. Writing from Ivanovka on July 29, he complained that despite seven-hour days, progress was exceptionally slow. Those daily work schedules had increased to ten hours a day by September, and the symphony was completed and orchestrated before Rachmaninoff left Ivanovka on October 7.
The atypical length of time Rachmaninoff had needed to compose the symphony was followed by delays in getting it performed. In 1895 he had met the musical philanthropist Mitrofan Belyayev, whose interest in programming a piece of Rachmaninoff's music had led to a performance of the tone poem The Rock at the Russian Symphony Concerts in St. Petersburg. In 1896, encouraged by Taneyev and Glazunov, Belyayev agreed to program Rachmaninoff's symphony the following year. However, when Rachmaninoff played the symphony at the piano for Taneyev, the elder composer complained: "These melodies are flabby, colorless – there is nothing that can be done with them." Rachmaninoff made numerous changes to the score, but was still dissatisfied. After further advice from Taneyev he made further amendments, including expansion of the slow movement.
The symphony is scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B♭, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum (movements 1, 2 and 4 only), triangle (movements 2 and 4 only), snare drum, tambourine, tam-tam (movement 4 only) and strings. A typical performance has an approximate duration of 45 minutes.
Grave—Allegro non troppo (D minor)
A short introduction (just seven bars), gives the tone to the work: strong, fierce, and brave. In it two motivic items are presented which will establish the cyclic material for the entire composition: a note cell preceded by a grupetto and theme derived from the medieval Dies Irae plainchant. The latter becomes the prevailing theme in the Allegro, developed and enriched by orchestral figures based on Tchaikovsky.
The second theme (Moderato), in the violins, is interesting in its melodic structure, which uses the gypsy scale (with two augmented seconds). It is also harmonically unusual because of its ambiguous tonality. This theme is repeated by the whole orchestra in a sudden and powerful fortissimo, which leads to the first theme climaxing in a brass chorale. At the beginning of the repetition, the cell-grupetto reappears insistently.
Allegro animato (F major)
The second movement is a fantastic scherzo which also begins with the cell-grupetto as well as a reminiscence of the Dies Irae, at least its first notes. The movement's main theme is a short melody, that we hear alternatively under its original form and its inversion, but the latter only appears briefly and episodically, spaced out by call signals and shudders of the orchestra which constitute an expressive background. In the central part, the cell-grupetto comes back again, giving birth to a new theme which is repeated by a solo violin for a few bars, in a gypsy air.
Larghetto (B♭ major)
In the lyric calm of this movement, even the grupetto seems to have lost its menacing tension. The clarinet sings an easy and soft melody, but in the middle some storms appear with the gloomy harmonies of the muted horns. The theme, repeated, is ornamented with repetitive appoggiatura and counterpoint.
Allegro con fuoco (D major)
The cell-grupetto again gives the final movement a faltering violence. The brass instruments and a march rhythm start a theme based, once more, on the Dies Irae.
A calm con anima passage follows with a melody in the violins which goes quickly to high notes. Brass instruments take a prominent role followed by a new change in the central part (Allegro mosso), introduced by repeated notes in the low strings. The rhythm is especially interesting, with its soft syncopation (related to a binary rhythm in a ternary bar): repeated accompaniment from the scherzo appears in the second part and the return of the grupetto relaunches the movement with its dynamic and orchestral violence. A tam-tam hit follows the coda, at the end of which the grupetto, played by the strings in a slower time, is repeated with a prophetic insistence, strengthened by the brass and percussion instruments.
Despite the uneven quality of the composition itself, there is no doubt that the First Symphony is powerful and dramatic. It is influenced by Tchaikovsky's last symphonies, although this influence can only be seen in the feeling of anguish against relentless fate.
The composer Robert Simpson regarded Rachmaninoff's First Symphony as much superior to the two that followed it, feeling that it had been created "naturally and without strain" on the whole and with all four of its movements "thematically genuinely integrated." He also felt the symphony sidesteps what he called the "lyrical inflation" and "forced climaxes" of the Second Symphony and the piano concertos. Instead of this lyric inflation, as Robert Walker pointed out, a person could chart an increasing brevity and concision in Rachmaninoff's orchestral compositions in the works he completed after graduating from the Moscow Conservatory—in other words, from Prince Rostislav to The Rock and from The Rock to the symphony. Simpson essentially agreed about this musical economy, commenting that the symphony's structure as a whole could not be faulted. While Rachmaninoff did have a habit of relaxing into a slower tempo with the second subject of his first movement (a habit at which, Simpson claimed, Rachmaninoff became much worse later in his career), he kept a firm grip on the corresponding material in this work. Simpson especially cited the last movement's climax as overwhelmingly powerful and extremely economical in the use of its musical material.
Rachmaninoff biographer Max Harrison writes, "The most original element in this work comes from a network of motivic relationships," adding that while the composer had employed this network in his Caprice Bohémien, he takes its use still further in the symphony. The result is that, while the symphony is a fully cyclic work, the level of thematic integration is taken far more extensively than in most Russian symphonies. As musicologist Dr. David Brown points out, "Themes and thematic fragments from earlier movements are transformed, sometimes profoundly, to help shape existing material as well as to generate new material." In taking the level of thematic integration thus far, Rachmaninoff was able to use comparatively little musical material to combine all four movements. César Cui may have complained of exactly this quality when he wrote about the "meaningless repetition of the same short tricks," but motivic analysts who have since studied the symphony have considered these "tricks" a compositional strength, not a weakness.
Harrison writes that these same motivic analysts lay claim to the First Symphony as proof "that Rachmaninoff could write genuinely symphonic music rather than the ballets squeezed into sonata shapes written by many Russian composers, from Tchaikovsky to Stravinsky." Harrison adds that Rachmaninoff's treatment of symphonic form might for this reason be more closely descended from Alexander Borodin, a point the St. Petersburg critics may have either failed to notice or ignored at the work's premiere. Another original idea of Rachmaninoff's, as pointed out by Harrison, was his "use of Znamenny Chants as the source of thematic ideas." While the material Rachmaninoff derives from them occasionally lends a decidedly religious air, he never quotes these chants literally. They resemble what Béla Bartók would call "imaginary folk music"—formally composed music that closely resembles folk music due to his complete absorption of the spirit and musical syntax of Eastern European folk song and dance.
Some analysts such as Rachmaninoff scholar Geoffrey Norris mention that the symphony also has its problems. The slow movement lapses into a static central episode referring back to the motto theme and the scherzo becomes depleted of rhythmic drive by rambling, repeating repetitions of the same theme. The symphony's clogged and sometimes brash orchestration can make the work sound portentous, though an attentive performance can make the symphony a dark, forceful and rapturous musical statement by helping clarify the orchestration and minimize the potential pitfalls in that area."