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Borodin - Symphonies 2 & 3 / Ansermet - Super Hot Stamper

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Super Hot Stamper

Symphonies 2 & 3 / Ansermet

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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • An early London Stereo pressing of these two symphonic masterworks with solid Double Plus (A++) sound 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
  • It's simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more real than most of what we played
  • 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

More of the music of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) / More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

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This Hot Stamper pressing has outstanding Demo Quality sound on fairly quiet vinyl no less. 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.

This vintage London Stereo 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 Symphonies 2 & 3 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 1955
  • 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.

The Music

The second symphony is a work that audiophiles should love. It shares many qualities with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, which you will surely recognize. It also has some lovely passages that remind me of the Tale of The Tsar Saltan, another work by the same composer. If you like exotic and colorfully orchestrated symphonic sound, you will be hard-pressed to find better.

"Here, Ansermet and the orchestra he founded and led for a half-century imbue the Borodin Second, and especially the scherzo and andante, with uncommon grace, perhaps drawn from Ansermet’s vast experience as a ballet conductor. In any event, Ansermet and others prove that a careful, reticent, well-played performance need not be boring.”
-- Peter Gutmann

What We're Listening For On Symphonies 2 & 3

  • 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.

Heavy Vinyl

Speakers Corner did a heavy vinyl reissue of this title, which is reasonably good, but like all reissues it lacks the weight found on this original. I remember it being a little flat and bright. I haven’t played it in years so I could easily be wrong. The glorious sound I hear on this pressing is not the kind of thing one hears on 180 gram records by Speakers Corner or anybody else. They do a good job some of the time, but none of their records can compete with the real thing when it’s mastered and pressed properly, as in this case.

Vinyl Condition

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 Classical Masterpiece

We consider this recording a masterpiece that belongs in any serious Classical Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Side One

  • Symphony No. 2 In B Minor
  • 1st Mov : Allegro
    2nd Mov : Scherzo (Prestissimo)
    3rd Mov : Andante
    4th Mov : Finale (Allegro)

Side Two

  • Symphony No. 3 In A Minor (Unfinished)
  • 1st Mov : Moderato Assai
    2nd Mov : Scherzo (Vivo)
  • "Prince Igor" - Overture
  • Orchestrated By Alexander Glazunov

Wikipedia on Symphony No. 2 (Borodin)

Symphony No. 2 in B minor by Alexander Borodin was composed intermittently between 1869 and 1876. It consists of four movements and is considered the most important large-scale work completed by the composer himself. It has many melodic resemblances to both Prince Igor and Mlada, two theatre works that diverted Borodin's attention on and off during the six years of composition.

The B minor Symphony is arguably the most important large-scale work completed by the composer, and is considered to be one of his greatest compositions. It has many melodic resemblances to both Prince Igor and Mlada, which were two theatrical works that diverted Borodin's attention from the B minor symphony between 1869–75. According to the account of Borodin's friend Nikolay Kashkin, the symphony's striking and abrupt opening theme originated from the abandoned chorus of Polovtsians, and the Soviet biographer Serge Dianin notes that there is a common thread present in all three pieces. According to Dianin, "it is for this reason that we find certain similarities in the themes Borodin uses in these works." The relation to the heroic world of Prince Igor led Stasov to nickname the work the "Bogatirskaya simfoniya" ("Heroic symphony").

According to Dianin, Stasov believed that Borodin had the knights and heroic figures of ancient Russia in mind with this piece. "The first movement depicts an assembly of Russian knights […] the Scherzo could be intended to suggest a headlong chase, but it could equally well be a festive scene […] the third movement was to have depicted Bayan, the legendary minstrel who appears in the Lay of Igor's Campaign […] and the finale is meant to depict ‘the knights’ feast, the sound of the gusli, and a jubilant throng of people."

Dianin concludes by stating that the overall character of Borodin's Symphony No. 2 is patriotic, and that he is showing his sincere admiration for the strength and courage of the men of old, who "saved Russia from her enemies." Borodin not only admired these great heroes of Russian history, but was able to capture their essence in his music. In summing up the work, Brown had the following comment:

The Second Symphony proved to be Borodin's great work. Whatever Borodin's technical limitations as a composer, they fail to be revealed in this symphony. The power, the playfulness, the lyricism, and the liveliness incorporated into each of the movements make for a compelling gesture.