The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*
Side Three: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*
Side Four: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*
- This stunning 2 LP set of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande's definitive performance boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on all FOUR sides
- Lovely string tone and texture, rich bass, a big hall, no smear, lovely transparency - the sound here hard to fault
- The miking is tasteful, with much less spotlighting than most of the classical recordings we play
- That gorgeous clarinet says it all, so rich and Tubey Magical - almost no other copy had the full measure of that sound
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*NOTE: These records were not noisy enough to rate our M-- to EX++ grade, but they're not quite up to our standards for Mint Minus Minus either. If you're looking for quiet vinyl, this is probably not the best copy for you.
This London UK import 2 LP set put every other recording of Swan Lake to shame. This is the one, folks, assuming you want a nearly complete performance of the work. (We have had some single LP highlight pressings on the site before. The Fistoulari on London can be especially good on the right pressing.)
I rank the performance here by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande second to none.
Ansermet is surely the man for this music, and the famously huge hall he recorded in just as surely contributes much to the wonderful sound here. (The Royal Gala Ballet is a good example. If you have the two grand to spend we highly recommend you find yourself a good one. And don’t waste your money on the Classic no matter what you may have read elsewhere.)
Speaking of bad sounding Heavy Vinyl, Speakers Corner reissued this very recording on 180g fifteen years ago or so and ruined it. Imagine that. (I happily admit their Nutcracker was quite good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue. It cannot hold a candle to a good vintage pressing but it will beat most of what’s out there on audiophile vinyl, which, truth be told, isn’t saying much.)
What The Best Sides Of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Ballet 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 1959
- 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 these records are 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 are the only way to find pressings that sound as good as these two do.
Production and Engineering
I believe, though have not been able to confirm, that James Walker was the producer and Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from 1958 in Geneva’s glorious-sounding 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 any other hall we know of. There is a richness to the sound that exceeds 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 and the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.
These are the kind of records 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 of them, can ever begin to sound the way this record sounds.
Quality record production is a lost art, and it’s been lost for a very long time.
What We're Listening For On Swan Lake
- 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.
Mint Minus Minus 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
Introduction (Moderato Assai)
- No. 1 Scène (Allegro Giusto)
- No. 4 Pas De Trois
- (a) Intrada (Allegro)
- (c) Allegro Semplice
- (d) Allegro Semplice
- (e) Allegro
- (f) Coda (Allegro Vivace)
- No. 7 Sujet
- No. 8 Danse Des Coupes (Tempo di Polacca)
- No. 10 Scène (Moderato)
- No. 11 Scène (Allegro Moderato)
- No. 12 Scène (Allegro)
- No. 13a Tempo Di Valse
- No. 13e Andante Non Troppo
- No. 13d Allegro Moderato
- No. 13f Tempo Di Valse
- No. 13b Moderato Assai
- No. 13g Coda (Allegro Vivace)
- No. 15 Allegro Giusto
- No. 17 Scène Et Valse
- No. 18 Scène (Allegro)
- No. 21 Danse Espagnole
- No. 22 Danse Neapolitaine
- No. 23 Mazurka
- No. 20 Danse Hongroise
- No. 5 Pas De Deux
- (a) Intrada (Tempo Di Valse)
- (b) Andante
- (c) Tempo Di Valse
- (d) Coda (Allegro Molto Vivace)
- No. 28 Scène (Allegro Agitato)
- No. 29 Scène Finale (Andante - Allegro Agitato)
Danse Des Cygnes
Today, Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake remain sure-fire hits for ballet companies around the world. It’s remarkable, then, that when Swan Lake was premiered in 1877, the reception it garnered was lukewarm at best. Never mind what the audiences back then thought: it was the dancers who gave the composer a particularly hard time, declaring his music to be simply too difficult to dance to. Music of such richness and depth was not, they thought, the kind that should accompany their balletic moves.
In Russian culture, the swan was the ultimate image of female purity; some have therefore argued that this was the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s music. More likely, though, is that the idea for Swan Lake came from a sweet children’s dance which the composer first heard at his sister’s country house in 1871.
Today, the ballet is adored by young and old: from the graceful Waltz in Act I to the playful Dance of the Cygnets, this is wonderfully innocent music. Tchaikovsky evidently enjoyed composing the music for Swan Lake, writing far more material than would ever be required. Indeed, the version most commonly encountered today is, in fact, an edited one, created after Tchaikovsky’s death and considerably shorter than the original, full-length work. It’s now the world’s most frequently performed ballet.
- Classic FM website