The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- You'll find superb Double Plus (A++) Living Stereo sound on both sides of this vintage Shaded Dog pressing
- 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
- Perhaps the greatest performance ever, certainly our favorite for performance and sound - this is not an easy piece of music to record judging by how many awful sounding versions there exist, we should know, we played them
- Monteux knows the work as well as anyone, he himself conducted the premier in 1913!
- Mind boggling in its power to move the listener - a classic Decca Tree recording from 1956 by the master, Mr. Kenneth Wilkinson
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*NOTE: There is a mark that plays 6 times lightly about 2" into side 1. (Find me a copy without one!)
Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG
Last time around it took us three years -- and a lot of hard work and a fair amount of luck -- to get this shootout going. Now that we've learned some important lessons from that shootout -- mostly what the better stamper numbers tend to be -- we are back with another outstanding Hot Stamper.
The tympani and bass drum on this recording have few equals in our experience. This is the way HUGE and POWERFUL drums sound in concert. Those of you who go to classical concerts regularly will recognize that sound immediately. You probably also know that finding Golden Age recordings with this kind of deep bass is unusual to say the least.
The space and dynamic power of these sides are really something to hear on this groundbreaking work. Lush when quiet, clear and undistorted when loud, not many copies of Rite of Spring can do what these two sides can.
What The Best Sides Of The Rite of Spring 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.
It Seems Like Only Yesterday...
Some time around 2009 we surveyed the recordings of the work we had on hand, close to a dozen I would think, and found them all wanting, save one: Monteux's 1956 early stereo recording in Paris for Decca/RCA. So many recordings failed to capture the size, weight and power of the orchestra. Too much multi-miking was ruinous to some; screechy strings and horns to others.
The later recordings we played by Solti, Mehta and their contemporaries were profoundly unnatural, lacking transparency and the relaxed sense of involvement that eases your ability to trick yourself into thinking "you are there."
We owe a great debt to everyone involved in this recording: Pierre Monteux; the Paris Conservatoire; John Culshaw, the producer; as well as Kenneth Wilkinson and the rest of the Decca engineering staff. If you know much about Golden Age classical recordings, you recognize these names as giants who strode the earth many years ago.
65 years later we continue to be astonished by their achievements.
What We're Listening For On this Classical Masterpiece
- 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.
This is an excellent record for adjusting tracking weight, VTA, azimuth and the like. Classical music is really the ultimate test for proper turntable/arm/cartridge setup (and evaluation). A huge and powerful recording such as this quickly separates the men from the boys stereo-wise. Recordings of this quality are the reason there are $10,000+ front ends in the first place. You don't need to spend that kind of money to play this record, but if you do, this is the record that will show you what you got for your hard-earned money.
Ideally you would want to work your setup magic at home with this record, then take it to a friend's house and see if you can achieve the same results. I've done this sort of thing for years. Sadly, not so much anymore; nobody I know can play records like these the way we can. Playing and critically evaluating records all day, every day, year after year, you get pretty good at it. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Properly set VTA is especially critical on this record, as it is on most classical recordings. The smallest change will dramatically affect the timbre, texture and harmonic information of the strings, as well as the rest of instruments of the orchestra.
A Tough Record to Play
A very Difficult Record to Reproduce. Do not attempt to play it using anything other than the highest quality equipment.
Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies -- the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound -- can have problems. Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you've got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.
This is a record that's going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you're up to the challenge. If you don't mind putting in a little hard work, here's a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area many audiophiles neglect).
- First Part - The Fertility Of The Earth
- Second Part - The Sacrifice
The Rite of Spring
PBS's Keeping Score
You never know when or where revolutions will start. They can be social or political or artistic. Often, these artistic revolutions—revolutions in taste—seem to predict other changes in society. That's exactly the case with The Rite of Spring. Igor Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring in 1913. It redefined 20th-century music, much as Beethoven's Eroica had transformed music a century before.
With it, Stravinsky took himself far into the realm of the unconscious. The music seemed designed with no apparent order but driven by pure gut feeling.Russian Influences
In turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg, everything fashionable seemed to be from anyplace but Russia. The architecture, the music, even the language that the "best" people spoke was French.
But artists of all kinds in Russia revolted against this dependence on European ideas. They wanted to establish a nationalist, Russian identity. A powerful mover among them was Stravinsky's teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov.
Rimsky had been a member of the so-called “Mighty Handful,” a group of adventurous, original young composers who began writing music that sounded truly Russian. They were inspired by the old myths and epics and fairy tales. And they all used folksongs and chants to give their music a very particular Russian flavor.
Composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov provided lushly orchestrated music that served as the soundtrack for lavish operas and ballets at the imperial theater. But the imperial theater could bog down in bureaucracy and favoritism, stifling the most creative and ambitious artists of the day.Diaghilev and Paris
Among those artists was Serge Diaghilev, a producer and aesthete with great energy and vision. He believed in the artistic future of all things authentically Russian. In the face of controversy with the imperial theater, Diaghilev went abroad.
Diaghilev knew that Parisian audiences were fascinated by Russian culture, which made Paris the perfect place for Diaghilev's revolutionary Ballets Russes.
Diaghilev created a new ballet company built on the Parisian fantasies of old Russia. Featuring the exotic, the erotic, and the occult, the Ballets Russes astonished the world in its first season.
For the company's second season, Diaghilev had promised a daring new ballet, but a crisis loomed when two Russian composers failed to deliver an acceptable score.
Desperate, Diaghilev turned to the young, untried Igor Stravinsky to write the music we now know as The Firebird, which premiered in Paris in 1910. Based on the Slavic myth of a phoenix-like creature who helps a prince triumph over evil, The Firebird was a huge success.Russian Village Music
Stravinsky wanted to bring music back to the origins of dance. He frequently summered in Ustilug, where he was exposed to the old Russian culture that thrived in villages surrounding his family's country home.
In the villages, people celebrated the times of planting and harvesting, and the mysteries of gods and fate. Naturally, the villagers celebrated with music, made with whatever they had—their natural, untrained voices, their hands and feet, and instruments which they had often built themselves. The result was a wild, enthusiastic mixture of song and noise.
This kind of music-making made an enormous impression on the young Stravinsky. He wanted to use the sophisticated symphony orchestra to evoke the wild power of village music—the way it sounded and the way it must have felt to the people making it.The Rite of Spring
By 1913, Paris adored the Ballets Russes, with its lavish productions that star dancer Vaslav Nijinsky choreographed. The opulent sets were designed by Nicholas Roerich, and the brilliant scores were written by the now resident composer, Igor Stravinsky.
And then came the most famous opening-night scandal in history: the premiere of The Rite of Spring. As the crowd arrived on opening night, expectations were high.
The Théàtre des Champs Élysées had just opened, and audience members came to see and be seen. Stravinsky was nervous because he knew that avant-garde pieces were risky in Paris.
Decades before, Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser had been booed off the stage at the Opera. But danger was the exciting part. Stravinsky had had great success here in the past with The Firebird and Petrushka.
As the curtain went up and the opening notes were heard, a ruckus broke out in the auditorium. The opening bassoon solo was set so high that the audience didn’t know what instrument they were hearing.
As the lights came up on the first tableau of dancers, people began yelling, and a wilder and wilder shouting match began. It became difficult to hear the music.
As he heard the roar of the audience begin to build, Stravinsky panicked and ran backstage to intervene. By the time he reached the wings, things were in complete chaos.
But the performance continued. Diaghilev may have expected there would be some kind of ruckus at the performance. Unbeknownst to Stravinsky and Nijinsky, he had instructed the conductor, Pierre Monteux, to keep going no matter what happened.
Stravinsky had taken the orchestra, which was associated with high society and culture, and brought it to this carnal, bestial, earthy level. The audience was making so much noise that the dancers could not hear the music and stay in sync.
So Nijinsky climbed on a chair and leaned out so far into the set that Stravinsky had to grab him by his coattails to keep him from falling over.
Amidst the huge racket of the orchestra and the crowd and the pounding of the dancers’ feet, Nijinsky was there yelling out the numbers: 19, 20, 21, 22!Back to Russian Folk Roots
What did Stravinsky write that was so powerful? He wanted to recreate ancient times, a time of a huge, untouched landscape within which a few tribal people gathered once a year to celebrate their relationship to the earth.
For the raw material, Stravinsky turned to a book that contained all kinds of folksongs with roots in those pagan rituals. Stravinsky knew this music well from his summers in Ustilug.
But he had to figure out what instruments could play these folk sounds. The orchestra is made up of modern instruments of great sophistication. These instruments have no relationship to the instruments that people make with their own hands.
Stravinsky’s solution was to write for the instruments of the modern orchestra in bizarre ways. He pushed them to the extreme heights and depths of their ranges. He put them in uncomfortable positions which resulted in that strained, weird quality he was looking for. He mimicked the authentic village sound by adding grace notes to the lines, which suggested the vocal breaks of untutored singers.
Village dances were made up of teams moving in different patterns. In much the same way, teams of instruments play in the Rite. The alternation of these teams, splitting up to form and reform, maintain the excitement of the piece.
Sometimes the teams alternate, but sometimes they keep playing until they create a huge pile-up of sound, in which no one is willing to stop or give in to anyone else. The point of this is sensory overload, until the conflict takes us to complete burnout.
What makes this piece stand apart from anything written before is the rawness and vitality of the rhythmic elements.
The Rite of Spring may not be as shocking today as it was at that scandalous premiere in 1913, but more than 90 years later, it still has that edgy, intense, almost out-of-control feeling that makes it as exhilarating—and liberating—as music can be.