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Debussy / Ravel - String Quartets / Juilliard String Quartet - Super Hot Stamper

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

Super Hot Stamper

Debussy / Ravel
String Quartets / Juilliard String Quartet

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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • Juilliard String Quartet's performance of these wonderful classical works, here with solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this original Shaded Dog pressing (one of only a handful of copies to ever hit the site)
  • 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, and is quieter than any of the Shootout Winners
  • Having just played some killer copies of Death and the Maiden, we're tempted to say that this Debussy record often has even better sound - it's richer and sweeter, but every bit as real and immediate as any chamber recording we know of
  • The Living Stereo sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with the kind of transparency that puts living, breathing musicians right in your listening room in the way that only the best vintage vinyl pressings can
  • Lewis Layton engineered this recording (along with Ed Begley) and he nailed it, perfectly capturing the rich, textured sheen on the strings, the hallmark of Living Stereo sound in the 50s and 60s
  • He recorded both the Schubert (LSC 2378) mentioned above and this wonderful Debussy/Ravel record (LSC 2413) for RCA in 1960 - it would be quite the understatement to say he had a special gift for recordings of this kind

More of the music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) / More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

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Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the 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

This vintage Living 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 This Wonderful Ravel & Debussy Disc 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.

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.

Standard Operating Procedures

What are sonic qualities by which a record -- any record -- should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.

When we can get a number of these qualities to come together on the side we’re playing, we provisionally give it a ballpark Hot Stamper grade, a grade that is often revised during the shootout as we hear what the other copies are doing, both good and bad.

Once we’ve been through all the side ones, we play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Other copies from earlier in the shootout will frequently have their grades raised or lowered based on how they sounded compared to the eventual shootout winner. If we’re not sure about any pressing, perhaps because we played it early on in the shootout before we had learned what to listen for, we take the time to play it again.

Repeat the process for side two and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.

It may not be rocket science, but it’s a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing -- or your money back.

What We're Listening For On Debussy and Ravel’s String Quartets

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

Side One

String Quartet in G Minor, Debussy

  • Animé Et Très Décidé
  • Assez Vif Et Bien Rythmé
  • Andantino, Doucement Expressif
  • Très Modéré

Side Two

String Quartet in F Major, Ravel

  • Allegro Moderato
  • Assez Vif
  • Très Lent
  • Vif Et Agité

String Quartet (Debussy)

Claude Debussy completed his String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (L.91), in 1893 when he was 31 years old. It is Debussy's only string quartet.

The work consists of four movements:

  • Animé et très décidé (G minor – D minor – G minor)
  • Assez vif et bien rythmé (G major – E♭ major – G major)
  • Andantino, doucement expressif (D♭ major – C♯ minor – D♭ major)
  • Très modéré – En animant peu à peu – Très mouvementé et avec passion (D♭ major – G minor – C major – G major)

Its sensuality and impressionistic tonal shifts are emblematic of its time and place and its cyclic structure constitutes a divorce from the rules of classical harmony into a new style. After its premiere, composer Guy Ropartz described the quartet as "dominated by the influence of young Russia; there are poetic themes, rare sonorities, the first two movements being particularly remarkable." Debussy wrote that "Any sounds in any combination and in any succession are henceforth free to be used in a musical continuity."

Maurice Ravel, another impressionist composer, wrote a string quartet that is modeled after Debussy's.

String Quartet (Ravel)

Maurice Ravel completed his String Quartet in F major in early April 1903 at the age of 28. It was premiered in Paris in March the following year. The work follows a four-movement classical structure: the opening movement, in sonata form, presents two themes that occur again later in the work; a playful scherzo second movement is followed by a lyrical slow movement. The finale reintroduces themes from the earlier movements and ends the work vigorously.

The quartet's structure is modelled on that of Claude Debussy's String Quartet, written in 1893, although Ravel's musical ideas strongly contrast with Debussy's. Debussy admired Ravel's piece rather more than did its dedicatee, Ravel's teacher Gabriel Fauré.

The quartet is in four movements.

I. Allegro moderato – très doux

The movement is in traditional sonata form, based on two contrasting themes. The first, rising and falling through a long arc, is played by all four players at the opening and taken over by the first violin, accompanied by scalar harmonies in the lower instruments. The second theme, more reflective in character, is played by the first violin and viola playing two octaves apart. The development section, straightforward and traditional, is predominantly lyrical, gaining intensity before the recapitulation. In the recapitulation, the return of the second theme is subtly changed, with the upper three parts remaining identical to the exposition, but the cello raised a minor third, moving the passage from D minor to F major. The pace slows and the movement ends very quietly.

II. Assez vif – très rythmé

As in Debussy's quartet, the scherzo is the second movement and opens with a pizzicato passage. This first theme is in the Aeolian mode, which some writers, including the Ravel scholar Arbie Orenstein, detect the influence of the Javanese gamelan, which had greatly impressed both Debussy and Ravel when heard in Paris in 1889. Others hear in it echoes of Ravel's Spanish descent.

The central section of the music is a slow, wistful theme led by the cello. Ravel uses cross rhythms, with figures in triple time played at the same time as figures in double time. The key varies from A minor to E minor and G sharp minor. The movement concludes with a shortened reprise of the opening section.

III. Très lent

Despite the marking "very slow," the third movement has numerous changes of tempo. The viola introduces the first theme, which the first violin then repeats. There are strong thematic links with the first movement, and, in defiance of orthodox rules of harmony, conspicuous use of consecutive fifths. The music is rhapsodic and lyrical; it begins and ends in G♭ major with passages in A minor and D minor.

IV. Vif et agité

The finale reverts to the F major of the first movement. It is loosely in the form of a rondo. The opening bars are stormy, and the movement, though short, has several changes of time signature, 5/8 to 5/4 to 3/4. Short melodic themes are given rapid tremolandi and sustained phrases are played against emphatic arpeggios. There are brief moments of calm sections, including a reference to the first subject of the opening movement. The turbulence of the opening bars of the finale reasserts itself, and the work ends vigorously.