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Dvorak - Symphony No. 9 / Kertesz - Super Hot Stamper

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

Super Hot Stamper

Symphony No. 9 / Kertesz

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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

  • This big, lively, and dynamic UK Decca pressing boasts superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides - fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound of the hall the Vienna Phil recorded in is huge, so wide and deep, spacious and open - the perspective is above all natural
  • Tons of energy, loads of rich detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity - the very definition of Demo Disc Sound
  • "It is a great symphony and must take its place among the finest works in the form produced since the death of Beethoven." - The New York Times

More of the music of Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) / More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

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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

Presenting yet another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering courtesy of the more modern equipment of the ’70s, in this case 1970. (We are of course here referring to the good modern equipment of 50+ years ago, not the bad modern mastering equipment of today.)

This vintage Decca 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 Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 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.

An Overview

We got off to a rough start with this piece of music. The early pressings we played were often sonically uninspiring, and that’s being charitable.

The London Blueback pressings with Kubelik (CS 6020) that we had thought were competitive with some of the better recordings we had on hand turned out to be generally disappointing. The strings were often hard and shrill, the overall sound crude and full of tube smear. These Londons cost us a pretty penny owing to the very high quality condition we require them to be in for our shootouts. All that time, effort and money was in the end for naught. A big chunk of dough was headed down the drain.

The Stereo Treasury pressing of this same performance sounded better to us than any of the Bluebacks we played but far from competitive with the recordings we ended up preferring.

The Londons and Deccas from 1967 with Kertesz conducting the LSO also left much to be desired sonically. After hearing the 9th on both London and Decca, we did a quick needle drop on the other symphonies from the complete cycle that Kertesz conducted and concluded that none of them were worth our time. The trade-in pile was growing ever taller.

Then some good news came our way when we dropped the needle on the Decca/London recording with Mehta and the LA Phil. Our best London sounded shockingly good, much better than the one Decca pressing we had on hand.His 8th Symphony (CS 6979) is also quite good by the way. This is surprising because we rarely like anything by Mehta and the LA Phil. from this period -- the recording in question is from 1975 -- but of course we are happy to be surprised when they sound as good as the ones we played.

The one that seemed to us to be the best balance of sound and performance was conducted by Istvan Kertesz, but not with the LSO. His recording with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1961, his debut for Decca as a matter of fact, is the one that ended up winning our shootout.

What We're Listening For On Symphony No. 9

  • 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.

More of What to Listen For

Big brass, plain and simple. When the brass is powerful and weighty, the music has the drive and energy to move the listener. As a rule the tympani too will sound right when the brass has the air-moving power it should, as will the lower strings.

Without fullness, richness and clarity in the area below the midrange, neither the sound nor the music can succeed. Many of the pressings we auditioned early on in an elimination round could not reproduce the brass with much weight; consequently they did not make it to the shootout. (Sibelius’ Finlandia is the same way; it needs real weight down low. The huge brass opening of the piece is breathtaking on the best copies.)

The Music

Dvorák draws the musical threads together in the last movement, weaving new material with moods and themes from previous movements into a grand finale that resulted in extended cheering from the New York audience at its December 1893 premiere.
The New York critic W. J. Henderson raved: "It is a great symphony and must take its place among the finest works in the form produced since the death of Beethoven."
- Susan Key, musicologist and contributor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic program book

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 Must Own Classical Recording

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Side One

  • Adagio – Allegro Molto
  • Largo

Side Two

  • Scherzo (Molto Vivace)
  • Allegro Con Fuoco

LA Phil Commentary

Dvorák joined the ranks of Bohemian immigrants on New York’s east side in September 1892. But whereas his compatriots were mostly working class, the conductor / composer arrived to a princely $15,000 contract as director of the newly-founded National Conservatory of Music.

A victim of ethnic prejudice himself from the Germanic-centered Viennese, it’s no wonder that his ear was not limited to the music within conservatory walls but delighted in the full range of sounds from America’s diverse communities. “Many of my impressions [of America] are those of a foreigner who has not been here long enough to overcome the feeling of strangeness and bewildered astonishment which must fill all European visitors upon their first arrival,” he wrote in Harper’s Monthly.

We know that Dvorák’s assistant Harry Burleigh introduced him to African-American music and that Dvorák opined publicly that these could be the basis of a true American style: “In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music.” The African-American emphasis often overshadows another source of inspiration: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha — a connection that music historian Michael Beckerman reveals goes beyond a generalized “native” influence to explicit connections.

Dvorák wrote to his American patron Jeannette Thurber about his admiration of the poem, and described the second movement in an interview on the day the New World Symphony premiered: “It is in reality a study or a sketch for a longer work, whether a cantata or an opera which I purpose [sic] writing, and which will be based upon Longfellow’s Hiawatha.” Dvorák’s 1893 comments that “America can have great and noble music of her own, growing out of the very soil and partaking of its nature — the natural voice of a free and vigorous race” assume a broader meaning with the native American connection in mind.

The listener knows from the slowly unfolding harmonies that begin the Symphony that the work is one of great dimension, both in scale and emotional impact — a first impression reinforced by the sudden interruption of angular motive and thunderclap timpani that lead into the Allegro proper. The main theme is characterized by a dotted (long short) rhythm, a device Dvorák employs throughout the four movements. Its consistent use infuses even the slower movements with a folk-dance quality, and allows him to marshal his orchestral forces in large blocks without the sounds becoming muddy.

After an opening chorale, the English horn gives out the main theme of the second movement, a wordless song reminiscent of an African-American spiritual and later adapted by William Arms Fisher for the hymn “Goin’ Home.” The Hiawatha connection is that of the journey home and death of Minnehaha; in either event, both melody and timbre transcend local color toward a more universal human emotion.

As Beckerman notes, even while painting a broad American canvas “Dvorák also discovered a sadness in the stillness of the prairie.” Another writer, Willa Cather, described it as “the amazement of a new soul in a new world; a soul new and yet old, that had dreamed something despairing, something glorious, in the dark before it was born.” The middle section moves from an individual voice to a collective one, as the phrases alternate in call-and-response and evoke physical gesture of waving back and forth.

The third movement begins with a nod to the scherzo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But Dvorák connects the European past to the American present with a rhythmic dance underlaid by powerful timpani strokes.

Dvorák draws the musical threads together in the last movement, weaving new material with moods and themes from previous movements into a grand finale that resulted in extended cheering from the New York audience at its December 1893 premiere. The New York critic W. J. Henderson raved: “It is a great symphony and must take its place among the finest works in the form produced since the death of Beethoven.”

In Boston, however, the more parochial culture shines through the words of William Apthorp: “The great bane of the present Slavic and Scandinavian Schools is and has been the attempt to make civilized music by civilized methods out of essentially barbaric material… …Our American Negro music has every element of barbarism to be found in the Slavic or Scandinavian folk-songs; it is essentially barbarous music.” Apthorp’s words remind us that even the “new world” of Gilded Age America could not escape the narrow provincialism Szymanowski lamented in Old World Europe.

Annotator Susan Key is an editor and musicologist who contributes frequently to Los Angeles Philharmonic program books.

Wikipedia on Kertesz

Having already recorded for EMI/Columbia records, Kertész now signed an exclusive contract with Decca/London for whom he began to make dozens of prize-winning recordings. Already at this early stage in his career, Kertész’s interpretations of Brahms and Dvorák were highly regarded for their transparent textures and unmannered phrasing. In stark contrast to Herbert von Karajan and Georg Szell Kertész’s music making featured an unforced manner even when employing the fastest of tempi/

Other elements that made a Kertész performance notable was the elasticity of tempi while adhering to the structural coherence of a given musical work. His British debut was with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1960. Kertész made his U.S. debut during the 1961-62 season, also beginning an association with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he guest conducted at Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium in March 1962. Eventually, Kertész conducted over 378 compositions with the Israel Philharmonic over an eleven-year period.

Within just four years, István Kertész had established a lasting international reputation as a conductor.