The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- A stunning copy of this wonderful concerto performance that boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to a solid Double Plus (A++) side one, and reasonably quiet vinyl for a Shaded Dog from 1961
- This pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades, but unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings, Richter, the brilliant soloist featured here, is not overly spotlighted, hence the much more natural "concert hall" sound
- The piano is part of the orchestra, and properly sized, allowing the contributions of the other musicians in the orchestra to be heard more clearly, laid out as they are so elegantly across a huge and deep Boston Symphony Hall stage
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*NOTE: There is a pressing defect about 1/2 way into the second movement on side 1 that plays as 7 moderate pops.
In orchestral music, when it comes to clarity there is nothing close to the sound of the live performance, but some records, this one especially, give you the sense that you are hearing it all. Audio may be an illusion but it can be a very convincing one.
The spaciousness and three-dimensionality of the recording are also exceptional. Through the efforts and skill of the RCA engineers, that striking openness in the recording is somehow combined with an electrifying immediacy in the sound of the piano, no mean feat. One rarely hears both, except of course live (and not always even then).
There may be other performances of merit, but I know of no recording of this music with better sound. If you are demonstrating naturalistic sound, not bombastic Hi-Fi spectacularity, this pressing more than qualifies as a Demo Disc.
What The Best Sides Of Beethoven's Piano Concerto 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 1961
- 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.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we've heard them all.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
Size and 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 To Listen For
What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency. Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that high-resolution analog is known for. (Note that most Heavy Vinyl pressings being produced these days seem to be seriously Transparency Challenged. Lots of important musical information -- the kind we hear on even second-rate standard-weight pressings -- is simply not to be found.)
Solid weighty sound for a piano concerto recording is critically important as well. The piano has to be big, powerful, and solid and massive as a boulder, just the way it can be in the concert hall. In this respect it helps to have Sviatoslav Richter pounding away on the instrument of course.
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.
A Must Own Classical Record
- Piano Concerto No. 1
- Allegro Con Brio
- Piano Concerto No. 1
- Rondo (Allegro Scherzando)
- Piano Sonata No. 22
- In Tempo D'un Menuetto
Piano Concerto No. 1
Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, was written in 1795, then revised in 1800. It was possibly first performed by Beethoven at his first public concert in Vienna on 29 March 1795. It was first published in 1801 in Vienna with dedication to his pupil Princess Anna Louise Barbara Odescalchi (née Countess von Keglević), known to her friends as "Babette."
Although this was Beethoven's first piano concerto to be published, it was actually his third attempt at the genre, following an unpublished piano concerto in E-flat major of 1784 and the Piano Concerto No. 2. The latter was published in 1801 in Leipzig after the Piano Concerto No. 1, but was composed over a period of years, perhaps beginning ca. 1788.
- Allegro con brio (C major)
- Largo (A-flat major)
- Rondo. Allegro scherzando (C major)
As with the Piano Concerto No. 2, this C major concerto reflects Beethoven's assimilation of the styles of Mozart and Haydn, while its abrupt harmonic shifts demonstrate Beethoven's musical personality. It adheres to the concerto variant of sonata form and is scored for solo piano and an orchestra consisting of flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. The flute, oboes, trumpets, and timpani are tacet during the second movement.
I. Allegro con brio
The first movement is in sonata form, but with an added orchestral exposition, a cadenza, and a coda. It has a main theme repeated many times, and there are several subordinate themes. The orchestral exposition changes keys many times, but the second exposition is mainly in G major. The development starts in E-flat major, then modulates to C minor, which ends with an octave glissando. The recapitulation is in C major.
There are three options for the cadenza to this movement, which vary in length and difficulty. The coda is played by the orchestra alone. Performances vary in length from fourteen to eighteen minutes.
The second movement is in the key of A-flat major, in this context a key relatively remote from the concerto's opening key of C major. If the movement adhered to traditional form, its key would be F major, the subdominant key, or in G major, the dominant key. The clarinets are given an unusually prominent role in this movement, having the melody as often as violins.
Like many slow movements, this movement is in ternary (ABA) form. Its opening A section presents several themes that are then developed in the middle B section.
Typical performances last more than ten minutes
III. Rondo. Allegro scherzando
All three movements performed by Aaron Dunn with the Bucharest College Orchestra. Courtesy of Musopen The third movement is a seven-part sonata rondo (ABACABA), a traditional third-movement form in classical concerti. The piano states the main theme, which is then repeated by the orchestra. The two B sections (subordinate themes) are in G major and C major respectively. The middle section is in A minor.
Two short cadenzas are indicated by Beethoven in this movement, one just before the final return to the main theme, and another one immediately before the end of the movement, which finishes with a striking dynamic contrast; the piano plays a melody quietly, but the orchestra then ends the movement forcefully.
The movement typically lasts around eight to nine minutes.