The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- With superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last, this vintage London Stereo pressing of Ricci and Ansermet's performance of Prokofiev's Violin Concerti Nos. 1 and 2 will be very hard to beat
- 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 (noted condition issue below notwithstanding)
- Ricci is a fiery player - this pressing will allow you to hear the subtleties of his bowing in a coherent, natural and realistic way (particularly on side one)
- The sound of the orchestra on this side one is dramatically richer and sweeter than you will hear on most other pressings, and side two is not far behind in both of those areas - what else would you expect from Decca's engineers and the Suisse Romande?
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*NOTE: On side 1, there is a mark that plays lightly and intermittently for approx. 80 seconds at the start of the first movement of Violin Concerto No. 1. On side 2, the start of the first movement of Violin Concerto No. 2 plays Mint Minus Minus to EX++ for approx. 80 seconds.
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 Prokofiev's Violin Concerti Nos. 1 and 2 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 1958
- 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.
What We're Listening For On Violin Concerti Nos. 1 and 2
- 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.
Production and Engineering
James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April 1958 in Geneva's glorious Victoria Hall. It's yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.
The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, perhaps of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound that goes beyond all the other recordings we have played, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.
It's as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.
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.
- Violin Concerto No. 1 In D Major, Op. 19
- 1st. Mov. Andantino
- 2nd. Mov. Scherzo (Vivacissimo)
- 3rd. Mov. Moderato
- Violin Concerto No. 2 In G Minor, Op. 63
- 1st. Mov. Allegro Moderato
- 2nd. Mov. Andante Assai
- 3rd. Mov. Allegro, Ben Marcato
Violin Concerto No. 1
Sergei Prokofiev began his Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19, as a concertino in 1915 but soon abandoned it to work on his opera The Gambler. He returned to the concerto in the summer of 1917. It was premiered on October 18, 1923 at the Paris Opera with Marcel Darrieux playing the violin part and the Paris Opera Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. Igor Stravinsky made his debut as conductor at the same concert, conducting the first performance of his own Octet for Wind Instruments.
The concerto is written in three movements:
- Scherzo: Vivacissimo
- Moderato – Allegro moderato
The work opens ethereally, gains momentum and becalms; this describes both the opening movement, and the piece taken as a whole. The three movements begin in D major, E minor, and G minor respectively, and the work closes in a manner similar to that of the opening movement, seeming to climb peacefully. Apart from the solo violin, the concerto is scored for moderate-sized orchestra including two flutes (second flute doubling on piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, tuba, timpani, snare drum, tambourine, harp, and strings.
The first movement, marked Andantino and commencing in 6/8 meter, opens with a lyrical violin melody to be played sognando (dreamily) and pianissimo (very softly) over viola tremolos. The solo violin is joined in dialogue by the flutes, clarinets, and oboes. The second theme, more virtuosic and forceful, is marked narrante; David Oistrakh recalled that Prokofiev had said "play it as though you're trying to convince someone of something." Shifts to 4/4 time and C major serve to accentuate the contrast with the principal theme. The development begins with the soloist playing pizzicato, and proceeds to develop upon the principal theme. In a brief recapitulation, the theme is restated, not by the soloist, but by the principal flute, and accompanied elaborately by the soloist and harp.
The second movement, a scherzo marked Vivacissimo, is in rondo form. Michael Steinberg wrote that the movement 'represents the "savage" element' of the concerto 'as against the generally more lyrical first and third movements. The music, full of contrast, is by turns amusing, naughty, for a while even malevolent, athletic, and always violinistically ingenious and brilliant. It seems to be over in a moment.
The third and final movement, initially marked Moderato, starts with a bassoon theme over a metronomic eighth-note orchestral accompaniment. The soloist assumes the theme from the bassoon before dropping back to an accompanying role when the movement transitions to a section marked Allegro moderato. The solo violin increasingly interchanges between the roles of soloist and accompanist. The movement ends with the music fading away in tempo and dynamics, and quotes the ending of the first movement, concluding in almost exactly the same way.
Violin Concerto No. 2
The Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, written in 1935 by Sergei Prokofiev, is a work in three movements:
- Allegro moderato
- Andante assai
- Allegro, ben marcato
It was premiered on 1 December 1935 at the Teatro Monumental in Madrid, by the French violinist Robert Soetens and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Fernández Arbós. Prokofiev wrote it after the first performance, by Soetens and Samuel Dushkin, of his Sonata for Two Violins, which pleased him greatly. Dushkin had recently had a concerto written for him by Igor Stravinsky, so Prokofiev did the same for Soetens. Prokofiev was on a concert tour with Soetens while he was working on the concerto, and later wrote, "the number of places in which I wrote the Concerto shows the kind of nomadic concert-tour life I led then. The main theme of the 1st movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the 2nd movement at Voronezh, the orchestration was finished in Baku and the premiere was given in Madrid."
The Spanish liked the premiere so much that they sent a delegation of musicians to thank Prokofiev afterwards.
The concerto is more conventional than the composer's early bold compositions. It starts off with a simple violin melody related to traditional Russian folk music. The graceful violin melody flows throughout the entire second movement, and ends with the initial violin theme reappearing in the orchestra's somber lower register, now accompanied by the solo violin. The third movement rondo's theme has a taste of Spain, with the clacking of castanets each time the theme appears.
Apart from the solo violin, the concerto is scored for moderate-sized orchestra including two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, snare drum, bass drum, castanets, cymbals, triangle, and strings.