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
- This vintage Whiteback copy of Rimsky-Korsakov’s exotic orchestrations was giving us the rich and Tubey Magical Decca / London sound we were looking for, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from first note to last
- 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
- These sides are clear, full-bodied and present, with plenty of space around the players, the unmistakable sonic hallmark of the properly mastered, properly pressed vintage analog LP
- The texture on the strings and the breathy quality of the woodwinds are superb, making this a very special copy indeed
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James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from May 1957 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; possibly 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 beyond all others, 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.
This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat not a single one, can begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in you decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)
The Christmas Eve suite takes up the entire first side, with three shorter pieces comprising the second. Rimsky-Korsakov’s exotic orchestrations, much like those found on his wonderful Scheherazade, are pure audiophile ear candy from first note to last.
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 Christmas Eve Suite 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 1957
- 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 Christmas Eve Suite
- 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.
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.
- Christmas Eve - Suite
- Sadko - Musical Picture, Op. 5
- The Flight Of The Bumblebee (from "The Tale Of The Saltan")
- Dubinushka, op. 62
Christmas Eve Suite
Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his opera Christmas Eve during the period 1894-1895, and it was premiered during the latter year. In 1903, he extracted this suite, which contains about a half-hour’s worth of music from the opera. What is confusing to some listeners about the work is that it is often broken down in concert programs and on recordings into five, six, or as many as nine sections, with translations of the individual numbers that can vary widely.
The lovely music in the “Introduction,” first heard on the horn, sets the stage for the Romantic character of the score here. The lively and playful music from the “Games and Dances of the Stars” is charming, as is the “Round Dance,” which reprises the theme from the opening. The “Czardas” is joyous and, as so often with Rimsky-Korsakov’s works, brilliantly and colorfully orchestrated. The “Devil’s Kolyada” is sinister, but ultimately its menace has an almost fairy tale-like lightness. The Polonaise is graceful and stately and the “Procession to Midnight Mass” is absolutely lovely and quite memorable, with the gently tolling bells deftly adding to the serene atmosphere at the quiet close.
In the end, the music here is light and colorful, not as exotic as Shéhérazade or the Capriccio espagnol, but still with ethnic flavors and featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s usual brilliant scoring.
- All Music Guide