The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- This Columbia Black Print early stereo 360 has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides - reasonably quiet vinyl too, especially for a vintage pressing
- As would be expected, both sides are exceptionally rich and Tubey Magical, but the clarity, deep bass and powerful, dynamic sound of side two surprised the hell out of us - we've never heard the work reproduced with this kind of authority or fidelity
- Both sides earned excellent sonic grades for their full brass and especially clear, solid, present piano, one with practically no trace of vintage analog tube smear
- Performed with consummate skill and the highest standards in mind - the results are magnificent!
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Finally, the sound we've been searching for - rich, tubey and real, with nicely textured strings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and percussive -- there is hardly any Old School smear or hardness to be heard, always important to the proper reproduction of any piano recording, whether the music is jazz, classical or rock. (We talk about smeary, hard pianos on many of our listings for those of you who take the time to read them.)
Here is 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 Previn's recording of the Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue 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.
Looks Like We Have to Change Our Minds Again
I’ve always loved these performances, but the crude, smeary and painfully-shrill-at-louder-levels Columbia sound quality had until recently been a powerful barrier to their enjoyment. So many copies suffer from upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound and sour brass. I had come to accept that this is nothing more nor less than "The Sound of Columbia Classical." As a consequence we rarely put much effort into cleaning and testing their vintage pressings; the good ones were just too hard to find.
I won't say all that's changed; it really hasn't. The vast majority of Columbia classical pressings are still going to sound more or less as awful as they have in the past.
However, there are properly mastered pressings of this album that display little of the "Columbia sound" we describe above. They would obviously be the ones that would do well in our shootouts, as long as they are not too thin, bright and modern sounding.
There was a time when we thought the Red Label Seventies pressings were the best way to hear these performance. This time around that was not the case, as none of them had the heft and Tubey Magical strings and brass of our best early pressings.
Nothing could touch this amazing sounding Six Eye pressing. Nothing could touch the Six Eye pressing of the Bernstein recording we played either, for what that's worth.
What We're Listening For on Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue
- 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.
A Big Group Of Musicians Needs This Kind Of Space
One of the qualities that we don't talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record's presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don't extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don't seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They're not brighter, they're not more aggressive, they're not hyped-up in any way, they're just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are more dynamic and exciting. When you hear a copy that does all that, it's an entirely different listening experience.
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.
- Concerto In F (Beginning)
- Concerto In F (Conclusion)
- Rhapsody In Blue