The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- The sound here is wonderfully rich, lively and musical yet still clear and spacious, making this early London a Must Own pressing of Beethoven's 9th - you will be hard pressed to find any other in its league (a subject we discuss in the listing below)
- "...the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande play very well, facing every challenge with musical integrity that reveals to the listener that emotional engagement with the score is far more meaningful than virtuosity for its own sake."
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*NOTE: On side one, the first one-eighth inch of the first movement is moderately crackly. On side two, a mark makes 15 soft to very soft ticks on the first track.
Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.
We do this shootout about every three years, which puts the next one in the later months of 2023. If you are waiting for a better copy than this one, you will probably be waiting until then unless we luck into a batch of clean Londons in the meantime. (This is highly unlikely.)
This vintage UK London 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 this Vintage London 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 1960
- 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 Great 9th
The is the best recording of the Beethoven 9th Symphony we have ever played here at Better Records.
Ansermet's performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was perhaps 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.
Both sides are big, rich and clear, and both were showing us pretty much everything that's good about a vintage symphonic recording.
The chorus on side two plays cleanly and sweetly all the way to the end, no mean feat for this particular work on vintage vinyl.
What We're Listening For on Beethoven's 9th
- 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.
- Tight punchy 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.
Production and Engineering
James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva's glorious Victoria Hall. It's yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.
The 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 in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.
It's as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with unerring timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section of the orchestra.
The best pressings from the Readers Digest set with Leibowitz conducting were passable but no match for Ansermet and the wonderful hall the legendary Orchestre De La Suisse Romande recorded in. (We like the 4th and 5th from that set; if you own them give them a spin, if you can clean them properly you may be quite pleased.)
In 1972 the engineering team of Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson recorded a Ninth with Solti and the CSO for Decca. I believe it was on the TAS List for a very long time.
We played it recently and heard the usual problems associated with later Decca recordings. It's opaque, lacks size and space, and comes off as a bit flat and dry. Like practically every later Decca pressing we play, it's passable at best.
If you want to know what's wrong with the Mobile Fidelity, take the above faults and add some others to them. Start with an overall brighter EQ, add a 10k boost for extra sparkly strings, the kind that MoFi has always been smitten with, and finish with the tubby bass caused by the half-speed mastering process itself.
Voila! You are now in the presence of the kind of mid-fi trash that may have fooled some audiophiles back in the day but now sounds as wrong as the records this ridiculous label is making to this very day.
The later '60s Decca/London cycle with Schmidt-Isserstedt and the Vienna Phil has sounded flat and modern to us on every pressing we have ever played. We simply cannot take them seriously and you shouldn't either. Stick with Ansermet!
Mint Minus Minus 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.
Throughout his career, Beethoven was a fervent believer in Enlightenment values and found ways to express those beliefs in many of his compositions, as well as in his letters and other writings. One of the reasons for the nearly universal appeal of his Ninth Symphony is that people enjoying or seeking freedom see this work as exquisitely expressing a message they wish loudly to proclaim. And that message is simple, almost embarrassingly naïve, one we learn as children: People should get along, we are all brothers and sisters.The Ultimate Symphony
On a more purely musical level, perhaps no other piece of music has exerted such an impact on later composers. How, many wondered, should one write a symphony after the Ninth? Schubert, Berlioz, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler—the list goes on—all dealt with this question in fascinating ways that fundamentally affected the course of 19th-century music.
Schubert, who apparently attended the premiere, briefly quoted the "joy" theme in his own final symphony, written the following year. Almost every Bruckner symphony begins in the manner of the Ninth—low string rumblings that seem to suggest the creation of a musical world. Mendelssohn, Mahler, and Shostakovich followed the model of a choral finale.
Wagner was perhaps the composer most influenced by the Ninth, arguing that in it Beethoven pointed the way to the "Music of the Future," a universal drama uniting words and tones, in short, Wagner’s own operas.
But composers were not the only ones to become deeply engaged with the Ninth, to struggle with its import and meaning. For more than a century, the work has surfaced at crucial times and places. As the ultimate "feel good" piece, the Ninth has been used at various openings of the Olympic Games, bringing all nations together in song. Its melody is the official anthem of the European Union.
Christopher H. Gibbs
A vital element in a conductor’s successful mastery of the Ninth Symphony, especially on records, is the possession of an understanding that wrong-headed choices in the first three movements are not mitigated by strong work in the universally familiar final movement. Towering as the final movement is, the Symphony is emphatically a symbiotic whole in which failures in any of the four movements vitiates the impact of the complete piece.
A key to the success of this performance by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande... is that Ernest Ansermet displays an inherent comprehension of the fact that the Symphony is a score to be conducted with care and attention to detail from first note to last, without overinflating any of the movements beyond its natural place in the complex structure of the work.
In terms of interpretation and realization of his musical goals, Maestro Ansermet was very fortunate in recording his cycle of Beethoven Symphonies with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, an ensemble founded by Maestro Ansermet in 1918 and shaped by his artistic ideals during the forty-nine years of his tenure as the Orchestra’s director. The unity of approach throughout the Ninth Symphony’s four movements is impressive, with no single movement being given greater emphasis.
The sonorities produced by the Orchestra are unique: from the very first note, the listener is keenly aware that this performance is not coming from Vienna or Berlin. String and woodwind tones are thinner than in the famous German-speaking orchestras, and there is greater focus on producing a blended sound that encourages an anonymity of individual instruments except in solo passages. This approach is similar but not identical to the way in which Maestro Ansermet conducted his remarkable recorded performances of modern French and Francophile repertory (de Falla, Ravel, Stravinsky, and the like).
Despite sounding very different from most German orchestras and the imitative American and British ensembles that play the Symphony, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande play very well, facing every challenge with musical integrity that reveals to the listener that emotional engagement with the score is far more meaningful than virtuosity for its own sake.
With the boon of an orchestra of his own creation, Ernest Ansermet enriched DECCA’s legacy not only with groundbreaking recordings of ‘new’ repertory but also with a series of Beethoven’s Symphonies that remains competitive because of the conductor’s uncomplicated but poetic manner. This performance of the Ninth Symphony crowned the superb achievement of that series, and it is impossible to believe when listening to the DECCA [pressing] that the recording is now fifty years old.
Maestro Ansermet inspired his players and singers to give a performance for the studio microphones that is redolent of the concert hall, quirks marginalized by the persuasive power of the music. Heart and genuine respect for Beethoven’s coveted score prove more inspiring than oversized musical gestures and Viennese sophistication for conductor, players, and listener.