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Mussorgsky - Pictures At An Exhibition (For Solo Piano) / Ashkenazy - Super Hot Stamper

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

Super Hot Stamper

Mussorgsky
Pictures At An Exhibition (For Solo Piano)

Regular price
$249.99
Regular price
Sale price
$249.99
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per 
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Vinyl Grade

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

  • An early London stereo pressing of our favorite solo piano performance of Mussorgsky's masterful suite with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • It also plays a bit quieter than Mint Minus Minus - about as quiet as any copy ever will
  • The weight and warmth of side one's recording from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc
  • The orchestral performance of the work is squeezed onto the second side of the record, and that is just not going to work with a 30 minute long piece of music unless you like sound that is compressed and bass-shy

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) / More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

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*NOTE: We are offering this title exclusively for the Ashkenazy solo piano performance found on side 1.

This vintage 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 Pictures At An Exhibition 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 1967
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange -- with the piano 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.

Best Practices

Recently we did one of our regular shootouts for Pictures At An Exhibition for Solo Piano, using pressings we know from experience to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them as carefully as we always do. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman'd it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what's right and what's wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process could not be more simple. The first step is to go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can't find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

What We're Listening For On Pictures At An Exhibition

  • 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 the piano.
  • 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

  • Pictures At An Exhibition - Original Piano Version (Vladimir Ashkenazy performing, Kingsway Hall, London)
  • Promenade
    The Gnome
    Promenade
    The Old Castle
    Promenade
    In The Tuileries Gardens
    Bydlo
    Promenade
    Ballet Of The Unhatched Chicks
    Two Polish Jews (Goldenberg & Schmuyle)
    The Marker Place At Limoges
    The Catacombs
    The Hut On Fowls' Legs
    The Great Gate Of Kiev

Side Two

  • Pictures At An Exhibition - Ravel Orchestration (Zubin Mehta conducting the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra)
  • Promenade
    The Gnome
    Promenade
    The Old Castle
    Promenade
    In The Tuileries Gardens
    Bydlo
    Promenade
    Ballet Of The Unhatched Chicks
    Two Polish Jews (Goldenberg & Schmuyle)
    The Marker Place At Limoges
    The Catacombs
    The Hut On Fowls' Legs
    The Great Gate Of Kiev

Pictures at an Exhibition – NPR Background by Ted Libby

As an orchestral showpiece – the form in which it is familiar to most listeners – Pictures at an Exhibition is two times over a work of enlargement. Moussorgsky’s original suite for piano, composed in 1874 as a memorial to the painter Victor Hartmann, took as its point of departure ten pictures displayed at a posthumous exhibition of the artist’s work. Though pianistically crude, Moussorgsky’s renderings of his friend’s images convey their rich fantasy with sincerity and great imaginative force. Ravel’s celebrated orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, undertaken in 1922 at the request of conductor Serge Koussevitzky, in turn faithfully amplifies both the wit and deep feeling of Moussorgsky’s tribute.

One is surprised, listening to the orchestral version, to discover that Hartmann’s originals were modest little sketches and watercolors. For example, the Ballet of Chicks in their Shells was inspired by a whimsical costume sketch for a children’s ballet. Moussorgsky had turned that into a lively scene painting, and Ravel’s scoring, with its clucking oboes and scurrying scale passages in the bassoon and strings, transforms the children in their eggshell costumes into real chicks.

The inspiration for The Hut on Fowl’s Legs came from a quaint design for a clock in the shape of cabin built on a chicken’s feet – the unlikely abode of the witch Baba Yaga. Moussorgsky decided to portray the legendary hag’s frightful ride through the air. Ravel marshals the heavy brass and a business like array of percussion to create a thunderous chase.

In The Great Gate of Kiev, the most breathtaking and at the same time most touching part of the suite, Moussorgsky apostrophized his departed friend with a monumental realization of Hartmann’s lopsided, ornately decorated drawing of a city gate in the old Russian style, with a cupola in the shape of a helmet surmounting the gatehouse. Based on the theme Moussorgsky called Promenade – which opens Pictures at an Exhibition and is meant to depict the viewer’s passing from one work to the next – this finale was the composer’s way of saying farewell and, at least in music, giving substance to one of his friend’s fondest dreams. In Ravel’s hands, Moussorgsky’s vision of a gate that was never built becomes one of the architectural wonders of the world, magnificently brought to life by full brass, pulsing strings, pealing bells, and triumphant cymbals.