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Berlioz / Symphonie Fantastique / Bernstein

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: berlisymfa_col_2011) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Super Hot Stamper sound or BETTER for side two of this mid-'60s Columbia 360 (white arrows) pressing, and both sides offer up masterful performances by Bernstein and the New York Phil. This is a very difficult record to find in playable condition on the early label; most pressings are just beat whenever you are fortunate enough to find them.

More of the music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein


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Bernstein / The Music of Leonard Bernstein / Rogers

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: bernsmusic_2012) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence's, EMI's and Decca's we've ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein


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Bizet / Carmen - Bernstein (3 LP Box Set)

  (Item #: bizetcarme_1) 


TAS List. Three mostly Minty looking DG German Import LPs with excellent sound. Side three has some light marks and plays about M-. The other five sides should play Near Mint to M- after a good Disc Doctoring. Big, beautiful sound!
More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)


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Chabrier / Espana & more / Bernstein

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: chabrespan_col_2011) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The Chabrier side of this 360 label record has SUPER HOT STAMPER sound, which is positively SHOCKING for a Columbia recording. Dry, shrill and lean, most Columbia pressings don't last ten seconds on our turntable these days -- but this one sure did! Played it all the way through as a matter of fact. (We love Espana. Who doesn't?)

Is it as rich and tubey magical as the best Londons, RCAs and Vanguards from the Golden Age? No, not really -- that would be a bit much to expect. It does have some of that sound, and that alone is remarkable considering how few Columbia pressings have any at all.

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier


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Everything But the Beer / Fiedler Conducts a Boston Pops Concert

Reviewed in 2012

  (Item #: varioevery_6082_2012) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This VERY RARE 2 LP Shaded Dog pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound. Much of what's good about Golden Age recordings is heard here, with side one for example having the sound of a HUGE hall and that Three-Dimensional quality that the best vintage recordings are able to convey so well.

We constantly knock Heavy Vinyl here at Better Records for the simple reason that we play vintage recordings such as this by the score every month and can hear what they do so well. Unfortunately the huge hall and the 3-D soundstaging they effortlessly reproduce cannot be found on any Heavy Vinyl pressing we know of.

See more recordings conducted by Arthur Fiedler


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Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue / Bernstein

What To Listen For

  (Item #: gershrhaps_6091_wtlf) 



This original Six Eye LP has the smooth brass and full-bodied strings that allow this wonderful music to astound the listener.

Smooth and solid, not brash or blary, what really impressed about the sound here was how full it was, yet it was never thick or murky. Instead it was transparent in the lower mids and below, and that sound was just glorious after listening to too many thin and brash pressings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and very percussive -- there is no tubey Old School smear to be heard, and that too was a surprise.

More of the music of George Gershwin


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Grofe / Grand Canyon Suite / Bernstein

  (Item #: grofegrand_6618) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Minty Columbia Grey label Stereo LP is one of the most amazing copies ever! You will be hard pressed to find a better sounding Grand Canyon suite. Bernstein’s Columbia recordings usually leave much to be desired. This is a notable exception. The normal Columbia shrillness is gone, replaced by sweet and liquid sound. I wish more of his records sounded like this one: I'd be picking them up left and right.

More of the music of (or music conducted or performed by) Leonard Bernstein


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Leonard Bernstein - Conducts Symphonic Dances...

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: bernssymph_2015) 




A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

One of the great Columbia recordings. I suspected it might have been done at the legendary 30th St studios in New York but I was wrong, Manhattan Center's huge stage served as the venue. Either way the sound is no less glorious.

More of the music of (or music conducted or performed by) Leonard Bernstein


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Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: bernswests_2015) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

SUPERB sound can be found on these two Columbia stereo pressings of the Broadway Cast recording. This is a huge, spacious, natural, exciting All-Tube Golden Age recording that impressed us no end here at Better Records.

We heard an amazing sounding copy many years ago, and the only reason we haven't done the shootout since then is that we just couldn't find enough clean copies with which to do it. To be clear, we're not talking quiet vinyl, we're talking about not beat-to-death, not all-scractched-up vinyl. People loved this music and they played the hell out of it.

More of the music of (or music conducted or performed by) Leonard Bernstein


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Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story Soundtrack

Our Shootout Winner from 2014

  (Item #: bernswests_2014) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This minty CBS Masterworks reissue LP may have been pressed in the '70s but it sure doesn't sound like it. In fact it sounds about as TUBEY MAGICAL as a record from the '60s would.

If you prize richness, sweetness and correct tonality you will no doubt find this record satisfying. It's got that beautiful Columbia sound that we love here at Better Records.

More of the music of (or music conducted or performed by) Leonard Bernstein


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MS 6069

A Columbia Record We Can't Recommend

  (Item #: rimsk_6069) 



Another recording that we auditioned and found wanting. Without going into too many specifics, we'll just say the album suffers from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore deserves a place in our Hall of Shame.

The performance here is far too slow to be taken seriously.

A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)


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Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein

Reviewed in 2013

  (Item #: prokopeter_2013) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Bernstein and the NY Phil's performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1961 is one of our favorite recordings of the work here at Better Records, and with better than Super Hot Stamper sound, this copy really brings Prokofiev's charming musical fable to life.

We had a whole stack of these pressings to play, and this copy came out pretty close to the top. You will have a very hard time finding this piece of music recorded, mastered and pressed with better sound than on this very side one.

See more of the music of Sergei Prokofiev


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Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein

What to Listen For

  (Item #: prokopeter_wtlf) 



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

What makes this an especially good Peter and the Wolf? The timbre of the solo instruments -- bassoon, oboe, flute -- each of which serves to represent a character in the story. Shockingly lifelike, the tonality is unerringly Right On The Money (ROTM) throughout. That makes this pressing both a superb Demo Disc as well as a top quality Audio Test Disc.

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)


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Rossini et al. / William Tell and other Overtures - Bernstein

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: rossiwilli_2008) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This is a SUPERB SOUNDING Columbia Masterworks LP of favorite overtures, energetically conducted by Leonard Bernstein. It’s exceedingly rare to find a Columbia pressing with sound like this: there’s tons of tubey magic; the string tone is surprisingly good; there's huge amounts of depth and the overall presentation is tonally rich, sweet, and correct in the best golden age tradition.

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein


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Shostakovich & Ravel / Piano Concerto No. 2 & more / Bernstein

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: shostpiano_col_2011) 



A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Super Hot Stamper or BETTER sound for the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.2, which is positively SUPERB on this later Columbia pressing. It's shockingly transparent, rich and sweet, with wonderful depth and clarity. Where is the shrill, upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound we've come to expect from '60s Columbia recordings like this one?

Well, dear reader, I'll tell you. Right here on this very side two, the Ravel side. It's typical Columbia from the period, with nasally, pinched upper-mids, the kind which make the strings and brass screech and blare at you in the worst way.

More of the music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein


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Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 - Bernstein

Cisco Reviewed

  (Item #: shostsymph_6115) 



Sonic Grade: B

This Cisco 180 gram LP has EXCELLENT SOUND. Without a doubt this pressing is a HUGE improvement over the majority of shrill originals. Robert Pincus, Mr. Record himself, loaned me his best original Columbia pressing for the shootout. Not surprisingly it sounded every bit as hard, shrill and aggressive as others I have heard. Sounds lovely in the quiet passages, but you better cover your ears in the tuttis.

That’s why you see so few Columbia classical LPs on our site; the sound is usually terrible, and almost always in the same way: boosted upper midrange/ lower highs.

More of the music written or performed by Leonard Bernstein


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The Music of Leonard Bernstein

Hot Stampers Revealed

  (Item #: bernsmusic_stampers) 



Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper locally on your own? Easy -- all the best Decca and London copies (UK pressed only of course) are 1L on both sides. I suppose it's only fair to point out that all the worst copies are 1L on both sides, the reason being that all the copies are 1L on both sides, regardless of how they sound. And here you thought we were actually trying to be helpful.

But we are being helpful. We're being honest with you. Stamper numbers are often misleading. They're misleading in the same way that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The numbers only tell a part of the story, and more often than not they tell the wrong part of the story.

More from our Thinking About Hot Stampers series


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