The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This early Plum Label Victrola pressing of these lively and masterful performances earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
- It's also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
- Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity - all qualities the best vintage vinyl classical pressings have in abundance
- A top performance of the 4th by Monteux and the LSO, with strings that are tonally correct, rich, and sweet
- The horns on the Wagner piece are exceptionally well reproduced here as well - how could a Wagner record be any good without good horns?
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Both sides of this early Plum Label Victrola pressing are superb, with the kind of string tone only found on the best of the Living Stereo releases and other top quality Golden Age recordings.
Here is the kind of sound that Classic Records could not ignore, even though the original was only ever made available as part of RCA’s budget reissue series, Victrola.
Don’t let its budget status fool you -- this pressing puts to shame most of what came out on the full price Living Stereo label. (And handily beats any Classic Records reissue ever made.)
And Monteux is once again superb.
We played a large group of Beethoven’s symphonies this week and this was clearly one of the best, if not THE best. Well recorded Beethoven is hard to come by. The box sets we played were mediocre at best, and that left us with only a handful of clean early pressings. These records just aren’t out there like they used to be.
This vintage 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 Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll 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 1965
- 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.
What We're Listening For On Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll
- 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.
A Must Own Classical Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Symphony No. 4 In B-flat, Op. 60 - Beethoven, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
- I. Adagio, Allegro Vivace
- II. Adagio
- III. Menuetto: Allegro Vivace - Trio: Un Poco Meno Allegro
- Symphony No. 4 In B-flat, Op. 60 - Beethoven, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
- IV. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
- Siegfried Idyll - Wagner, performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Wikipedia on Symphony No. 4
The Symphony No. 4 in B♭ major, Op. 60, is the fourth-published symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. It was composed in 1806 and premiered in March 1807 at a private concert in Vienna at the town house of Prince Lobkowitz. The first public performance was at the Burgtheater in Vienna in April 1808.
The symphony is in four movements. It is predominantly genial in tone, and has tended to be overshadowed by the weightier Beethoven symphonies that preceded and followed it – the Third Symphony (Eroica) and the Fifth. Although later composers including Berlioz, Mendelssohn and Schumann greatly admired the work it has not become as widely known among the music-loving public as the Eroica, the Fifth and other Beethoven symphonies.
Beethoven spent the summer of 1806 at the country estate of his patron, Prince Lichnowsky, in Silesia. In September Beethoven and the Prince visited the house of one of the latter's friends, Count Franz von Oppersdorff, in nearby Oberglogau. The Count maintained a private orchestra, and the composer was honoured with a performance of his Second Symphony, written four years earlier. After this, Oppersdorff offered the composer a substantial sum to write a new symphony for him.
Beethoven had been working on what later became his Fifth Symphony, and his first intention may have been to complete it in fulfilment of the Count's commission. There are several theories about why, if so, he did not do this. According to George Grove, economic necessity obliged Beethoven to offer the Fifth (together with the Pastoral) jointly to Prince Lobkowitz and Count Razumovsky. Other commentators suggest that the Fourth was essentially complete before Oppersdorff's commission, or that the composer may not yet have felt ready to press on with "the radical and emotionally demanding Fifth", or that the count's evident liking for the more Haydnesque world of the Second Symphony prompted another work in similar vein.
The work is dedicated to "the Silesian nobleman Count Franz von Oppersdorff". Although Oppersdorff had paid for exclusive rights to the work for its first six months, his orchestra did not give the first performance. The symphony was premiered in March 1807 at a private concert in Vienna at the town house of Prince Lobkowitz, another of Beethoven's patrons. The first public performance was at the Burgtheater in Vienna in April 1808. The orchestral parts were published in March 1809, but the full score was not printed until 1821. The manuscript, which was for a time owned by Felix Mendelssohn, is now in the Berlin State Library and can be seen online.
The symphony is scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in B♭ and E♭, 2 trumpets in B♭ and E♭, timpani and strings. It typically takes between 30 and 35 minutes to perform.Analysis
In general the symphony is sunny and cheerful, with light instrumentation that for some listeners recalls the symphonies of Joseph Haydn, with whom Beethoven had studied a decade before. In a commentary on the symphony Grove comments that Haydn – who was still alive when the new symphony was first performed – might have found the work too strong for his taste. The Fourth Symphony contrasts with Beethoven's style in the previous Third Symphony (Eroica), and has sometimes been overshadowed by its massive predecessor and its fiery successor, the Fifth Symphony.
I. Adagio – Allegro vivace
The first movement is in 2/2 time. Like those of the first, second, and seventh of Beethoven's nine symphonies, it has a slow introduction. Leonard Bernstein described it as a "mysterious introduction which hovers around minor modes, tip-toeing its tenuous weight through ambiguous unrelated keys and so reluctant to settle down into its final B♭ major." It begins in B♭ minor with a low B♭, played pizzicato and pianissimo by the strings, followed by a long-held chord in the wind, during which the strings move slowly in the minor.
The quiet introduction is thirty-eight bars long, and is followed by a fortissimo repetition of the chord of F, leading into the allegro vivace first subject of the main, sonata form part of the movement, described by Grove as "gaiety itself, and most original gaiety"
The second subject is, in the words of Donald Tovey, "a conversation between the bassoon, the oboe, and the flute." The development section takes the tonality towards the remote key of B major before returning to the tonic B♭, and the recapitulation and coda follow the conventional classical form.
The second movement, in 3/4 time (E♭ major), is a slow rondo. The rhythmic figure of the opening theme persists throughout, and underpins, the whole movement.
Tovey calls the first episode (or second subject) "a still more subtle melody"
The main theme returns in an elaborate variation, followed by a middle episode and the reappearance of the varied main theme, now played by the flute. A regular recapitulation is followed by a coda that makes a final allusion to the main theme, and the timpani bring the movement to an end with the last appearance of the rhythmic theme with which the movement began.
III. Scherzo-trio: Allegro vivace
The movement, in 3/4 and B♭ major, is headed Menuetto in most printed scores, though not in Beethoven's original manuscript. It is marked "Allegro vivace", and was originally to have been "allegro molto e vivace", but Beethoven deleted the "molto" in the autograph score. His metronome marking is dotted minim = 100, at which brisk speed a traditional minuet would be impossible. Haydn had earlier wished that "someone would show us how to make a new minuet", and in this symphony, as in the First, Beethoven "forsook the spirit of the minuet of his predecessors, increased its speed, broke through its formal and antiquated mould, and out of a mere dance-tune produced a Scherzo". (Grove).
In the Fourth Symphony (and later, in the Seventh) Beethoven further departed from the traditional minuet-trio-minuet form by repeating the trio after the second rendition of the scherzo section, and then bringing the scherzo back for a third hearing. The final repetition of the scherzo is abridged, and in the coda the two horns "blow the whole movement away" (Tovey).
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
The last movement is in 2/4 time in B♭ major. The tempo marking is Allegro ma non troppo; this, like that of the third movement, is an afterthought on Beethoven's part: the original tempo indication in the autograph score is an unqualified "allegro". The composer added (in red chalk) "ma non troppo" – i.e. but not too much so. The movement is in a playful style that the composer called aufgeknöpft (unbuttoned).
After some 340 bars of what Grove describes as a perpetuum mobile, Beethoven concludes the symphony with the Haydnesque device of playing the main theme at half speed, interrupted by pauses, before a final fortissimo flourish.
As usual by this stage of the composer's career, the symphony divided opinion among those who heard early performances. In 1809 Carl Maria von Weber, never an admirer of Beethoven, wrote:
First a slow movement full of short disjointed unconnected ideas, at the rate of three or four notes per quarter of an hour; then a mysterious roll of the drum and passage of the violas, seasoned with the proper quantity of pauses and ritardandos; and to end all a furious finale, in which the only requisite is that there should be no ideas for the hearer to make out, but plenty of transitions from one key to another – on to the new note at once! never mind modulating! – above all things, throw rules to the winds, for they only hamper a genius.
Other critics were less hostile, praising the composer's "richness of ideas, bold originality and fullness of power" though finding the Fourth and the works premiered alongside it "rough diamonds". Beethoven's biographer Anton Schindler later recalled the Fourth as being a great success from the outset, although later scholars have expressed reservations about his reliability.
When Beethoven's younger contemporary Hector Berlioz heard the symphony he wrote that the slow movement was the work of the Archangel Michael, and not that of a human.Nonetheless, by the time Berlioz was writing musical criticism, the Fourth was already less often played than other Beethoven symphonies. Robert Schumann is said to have called the Fourth Symphony "a slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants", and it was an important influence on his First Symphony. Mendelssohn loved the Fourth, and programmed it when he was conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. But their enthusiasm was not shared by the wider musical public. As early as 1831 a British critic noted that the Fourth was the "least frequently brought forward" of the first six, though, in his view "not inferior to any". In 1838 the French impresario Louis-Désiré Véron called the Fourth sublime and regretted that in Paris it was not merely neglected but denigrated. In 1896 Grove commented that the work had "met with scant notice in some of the most prominent works on Beethoven."
In the 20th century, writers continued to contrast the Fourth with the Eroica and the Fifth. In a study of the Fourth written in 2012 Mark Ferraguto quotes a 1994 description of the work as "a rich, verdant valley of yin expressiveness … poised between the two staggering yang peaks of the Third and the Fifth".
According to the musicologist Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music:
If any of Beethoven's contemporaries had written this symphony, it would be considered that composer's masterwork, and that composer would be remembered forever for this symphony, and this symphony would be played – often – as an example of that composer's great work. As it is, for Beethoven, it is a work in search of an audience. It's the least known and least appreciated of the nine.
Wikipedia on Siegfried Idyll
Wagner composed the Siegfried Idyll as a birthday present to his second wife, Cosima, after the birth of their son Siegfried in 1869. It was first performed on Christmas morning, 25 December 1870, by a small ensemble of the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich on the stairs of their villa at Tribschen (today part of Lucerne), Switzerland. Cosima awoke to its opening melody. Conductor Hans Richter learned the trumpet in order to play the brief trumpet part, which lasts only 13 measures, in that private performance, reportedly having sailed out to the centre of Lake Lucerne to practise, so as not to be heard.
The original title was Triebschen Idyll with Fidi's birdsong and the orange sunrise, as symphonic birthday greeting. Presented to his Cosima by her Richard. "Fidi" was the family's nickname for their son Siegfried. It is thought that the birdsong and the sunrise refer to incidents of personal significance to the couple.
Wagner's opera Siegfried, which was premiered in 1876, incorporates music from the Idyll. Wagner adapted the material from an unfinished chamber piece into the Idyll before giving the theme, to Brünnhilde in the opera's final scene, the "Ewig war ich" love duet between Brünnhilde and Siegfried. This theme, Wagner claimed, came to him during the summer of 1864 at the Villa Pellet, overlooking Lake Starnberg, where he and Cosima consummated their union. He is contradicted, however, by his own obsessive record keeping: the melody was composed that November 14, when he was alone in Munich. The work also uses a theme based on the German lullaby, "Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf", which was jotted down by Wagner on New Year's Eve 1868 and introduced by a solo oboe. Ernest Newman discovered it was linked to the Wagners' older daughter Eva. This and other musical references, whose meaning remained unknown to the outside world for many years, reveal the idyll's levels of personal significance for both Wagner and Cosima.
Wagner originally intended the Siegfried Idyll to remain a private piece. However, due to financial pressures, he decided to sell the score to publisher B. Schott in 1878. In doing so, Wagner expanded the orchestration to 35 players to make the piece more marketable. The original piece is scored for a small chamber orchestra of 13 players: flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. The piece is commonly played today by orchestras with more than one player on each string part. Modern performances are much slower than those of earlier years.