The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- An incredible London pressing of this superb release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides - just shy of our Shootout Winner
- 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
- This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic - here you will find some of the best orchestral Hot Stamper sound we offer
- The sound of the orchestra is dramatically richer and sweeter than you will hear on practically all other pressings - what else would you expect from Decca's engineers and the Suisse Romande?
- Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings - there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
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*NOTE: There is a mark that plays at a light to moderate level throughout the first 1/8" of the first piece on side 1, Ravel's Bolero.
These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.
The sound is clear, with wonderful depth to the stage. As a rule, the classic '50s and '60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande in Victoria Hall are as big and rich as any you may have ever heard. These recordings may just be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made.
Tubey and clear, with both the snare and the flute coming from so far back in the hall! Outstanding energy and dynamic power.
Turn it up and it really comes to life like live music. It's big, wide and believable. We loved it!
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas)
There is depth and richness to beat the band, as well as clarity and tonal correctness that let you forget the recording and just enjoy the music. Nice extended top too.
The timbre of the brass is right on the money. As we have noted before, the brass of the Suisse Romande is some of the best to have ever been committed to analog tape.
Again, this side had outstanding energy and dynamic power the likes of which we think you may never have heard.
La Valse (Ravel)
Again, with that wondrously huge hall adding a sense of space that will allow your speakers to disappear. The performers are not too close, which is very much in keeping with live music.
In his tribute to Ravel after the composer's death in 1937, Paul Landormy described the work as follows:
"....the most unexpected of the compositions of Ravel, revealing to us heretofore unexpected depths of Romanticism, power, vigor, and rapture in this musician whose expression is usually limited to the manifestations of an essentially classical genius."
This vintage London 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 concert hall, 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 These Works by Ravel, Honegger and Dukas 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 1963
- 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 Works by Ravel, Honegger and Dukas
- 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.
Production and Engineering
Michael Brenner was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from 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.
A Must Own Classical Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Bolero (Ravel)
- Pacific 231 (Honegger)
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Dukas)
- La Valse (Ravel)
Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is Ravel's most famous musical composition.
Before Boléro, Ravel had composed large-scale ballets (such as Daphnis et Chloé, composed for the Ballets Russes 1909–1912), suites for the ballet (e.g. the second orchestral version of Ma mère l'oye, 1912), and one-movement dance pieces (for example La valse, 1906–1920). Apart from these compositions intended for a staged dance performance, Ravel had demonstrated an interest in composing re-styled dances, from his earliest successes—the 1895 Menuet and the 1899 Pavane—to his more mature works such as Le Tombeau de Couperin, which takes the format of a dance suite.
Boléro epitomizes Ravel's preoccupation with restyling and reinventing dance movements. It was also one of the last pieces he composed before illness forced him into retirement. The two piano concertos and the song cycle Don Quichotte à Dulcinée were the only completed compositions that followed Boléro.
Pacific 231 is an orchestral work by Arthur Honegger, written in 1923. Honegger was widely known as a train enthusiast, and once notably said: "I have always loved locomotives passionately. For me they are living creatures and I love them as others love women or horses."
It is one of his most frequently performed works.
The popular interpretation of the piece is that it depicts a steam locomotive, one that is supported by the title of the piece alongside film versions. Honegger explained that he wrote it as an exercise in building momentum while the tempo of the piece slows. He originally titled it Mouvement Symphonique, only giving it the name Pacific 231, a class of steam locomotive designated in Whyte notation as a 4-6-2, with four pilot wheels, six driving wheels, and two trailing wheels (the French, who count axles rather than wheels, call this arrangement 2-3-1) after it was finished.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (French: L'apprenti sorcier) is a symphonic poem by the French composer Paul Dukas, completed in 1897. Subtitled "Scherzo after a ballad by Goethe", the piece was based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1797 poem of the same name. By far the most performed and recorded of Dukas's works, its notable appearance in the Walt Disney 1940 animated film Fantasia has led to the piece becoming widely known to audiences outside the classical concert hall.
Inspired by the Goethe poem, Dukas's work is part of the larger Romantic genre of programmatic music, which composers like Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, Jean Sibelius and Richard Strauss increasingly explored as an alternative to earlier symphonic forms. Unlike other tone poems, such as La mer by Debussy or Finlandia by Sibelius, Dukas's work is, like works such as Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks by Strauss, descriptively programmatic, closely following the events described in the Goethe poem. It was customary, in fact, to publish the poem as part of the orchestral score.
La valse, poème chorégraphique pour orchestre (a choreographic poem for orchestra), is a work written by Maurice Ravel between February 1919 and 1920; it was first performed on 12 December 1920 in Paris. It was conceived as a ballet but is now more often heard as a concert work.
The work has been described as a tribute to the waltz; the composer George Benjamin, in his analysis of La valse, summarized the ethos of the work: "Whether or not it was intended as a metaphor for the predicament of European civilization in the aftermath of the Great War, its one-movement design plots the birth, decay and destruction of a musical genre: the waltz." Ravel himself, however, denied that it is a reflection of post-World War I Europe, saying, "While some discover an attempt at parody, indeed caricature, others categorically see a tragic allusion in it – the end of the Second Empire, the situation in Vienna after the war, etc... This dance may seem tragic, like any other emotion... pushed to the extreme. But one should only see in it what the music expresses: an ascending progression of sonority, to which the stage comes along to add light and movement." He also commented, in 1922, that "It doesn't have anything to do with the present situation in Vienna, and it also doesn't have any symbolic meaning in that regard. In the course of La Valse, I did not envision a dance of death or a struggle between life and death. (The year of the choreographic setting, 1855, repudiates such an assumption.)"
In his tribute to Ravel after the composer's death in 1937, Paul Landormy described the work as "the most unexpected of the compositions of Ravel, revealing to us heretofore unexpected depths of Romanticism, power, vigor, and rapture in this musician whose expression is usually limited to the manifestations of an essentially classical genius."