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Liszt / Les Preludes / Dorati

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: lisztlespr_90214_2008) 



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

This copy with Philips stampers has a fairly quiet and good sounding side one, which is the work by Smetana and A Night On Bald Mountain. Side two is thin and bright. Dorati is excellent on material like this and plays it with great verve.

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Antal Dorati. This performance also includes Smetana's "The Moldau", Mussorgsky's "Night On Bald Mountain", and Sibelius' "Valse Triste".

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886)


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Mussorgsky et al. - Danse Infernale

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: mussodanse_2009) 



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

It took two copies -- one for side one, one for side two -- to find two sides this good. We love this album but most copies are unbelievably dreadful. (Actually, if you’ve played a fair number of DG recordings over the years you might not have any trouble believing how bad the average one is, so I take that back.)

This German Import has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND -- of a kind. Being a DG recording, one of the things you won’t be demonstrating with this record is natural string tone -- it’s just not part of the DG sound. But, this record is ALIVE.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky, Borodin, et al. / Orchestral Showpieces / Solti

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: mussonight_2011) 



This London Whiteback LP recorded in 1967 (CS 6503) has DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side two. Solti is the man for this music! He's on fire with this fiery material and the London engineers do him full justice -- at least they do on side two. (Side one has a long scratch and cannot be played.)

Don't go looking for the Tubey Magic of an earlier era. What you get instead is super low distortion, full bandwidth sound with deep powerful bass and lovely transparency. THIS is the way you want to hear Russian Orchestral Showpieces -- played with verve and dynamically ALIVE.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky et al. / Night On Bare Mountain CS 6785 / Solti

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: mussonight_6785_2012) 



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

Released as Romantic Russia by Decca in 1967, this London can also be found with a different cover and a different catalog number, CS 6503.

DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side one -- in some ways. Don't go looking for the Tubey Magic of an earlier era. What you get instead is super-low distortion, full-bandwidth sound with deep powerful bass and more transparency than most later Londons.

Solti is clearly the man for this music! He's on fire with this fiery material. THIS is the way you want to hear Russian Orchestral Showpieces -- played with verve and dynamically ALIVE.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky / Pictures at an Exhibition / Muti

Our Shootout Winner from 2012

  (Item #: mussopictu_3645_2012) 



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

This White Hot Stamper EMI Two-Pak gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition and the Firebird Suite with TOP PERFORMANCES and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last. It took two separate discs to make it happen, but we managed to find the two copies with sides that matched up in order to bring both of these works to LIFE.

Since this is my All Time Favorite performance of Pictures, this record of course comes very highly recommended. It's a piece of music that has been recorded countless times, and I've played scores of them, but the only one that truly satisfies is Muti's with the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1979.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky


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Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

  (Item #: mussopictu_6177) 



The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not recreate the full weight of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like no other. It's also tonally correct. It's not agressive. It's not irritating. It's just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That's what really caught my ear when I first played Ansermet's recording.

More Pictures at an Exhibition


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Mussorgsky - Ravel / Pictures at an Exhibition / Ashkenazy

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: mussopictu_6559_2011) 



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

This original London pressing of the solo piano version of Pictures has uncannily natural piano reproduction, which is why we are awarding this side one our highest sonic grade, A Triple Plus.

The fact that the recording takes place in Kingsway Hall in 1967 no doubt plays a large part in the superb sound. The hall is bigger here than on other copies, the piano even more solidly weighted, yet none of this comes at the expense of the clarity of the playing. There is no smear, allowing both the percussive aspects of the piano and the extended harmonics of the notes to be heard clearly and appreciated fully.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: mussopictu_classic_records) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The shrillness, the hardness, the sourness, the loss of texture to the strings, the phony boosted deep bass -- this is the kind of sound that makes my skin crawl. After a minute or two I’ve had it. And the performance is dreadful as well.

HP put this on his TAS List? Yes he did!

More Pictures at an Exhibition


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Mussorgsky - Pictures At An Exhibition - Ozawa

Our Shootout Winner from 2009

  (Item #: mussopictu_ozawa_2009) 



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

This Chicago Symphony recording by RCA in 1968 has that BIG HALL SOUND we love here at Better Records. Multi-miking is kept to a minimum, which allows the listener to visualize the orchestra from a more natural perspective than other recordings of the work you may have heard.

The sound is open and spacious, with lovely texture to the strings. The larger horns are especially well-captured here, Their dark and powerful sound, coupled with the fact that the recording is so dynamic and full-bodied, can really be quite moving. It might just send some shivers up your spine.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz

Awesome In Stereo (2007)

  (Item #: mussopower_2007) 



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

DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. We put two top copies together to bring you the ultimate-sounding Pictures At An Exhibition. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.

One side of each copy rates A Triple Plus -- our highest sonic grade. The sound is out of this world.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: mussopower_2011) 



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

This Shaded Dog pressing of the famous TAS List Super Disc title has TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a side two that is White Hot! We have never heard a copy with such a huge hall sound and so much weight down low. As we said last time we did a shootout for this title in 2007: "DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy."

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky - The Power of the Orchestra

Chesky Debunked

  (Item #: mussopower_chesky_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Record and another Remastered Audiophile Pressing debunked.

Lifeless, compressed and thin. It’s clean and transparent, I’ll give it that, which is no doubt why so many audiophiles have been fooled into thinking it actually sounds better than the original. But of course there is no original; there are thousands of them, and they all sound different.

The Hot Stamper commentary below is for a pair of records that proves our case in the clearest possible way.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz

Awesome In Mono

  (Item #: mussopower_mono) 



A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don't need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good -- in fact, how much BETTER -- this copy sounds than most of the stereo pressings out there.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of The Power Of The Orchestra, VCS 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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Mussorgsky on Vinyl

Three that Didn't Make the Grade

  (Item #: Mussorgsky) 



These are just some of the recordings of the music of Mussorgsky that we've auditioned and found wanting. Without going into specifics we'll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place on our site, in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.

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

Hot Stamper Pressings of Mussorgsky's Music

Pressings of Mussorgsky's Music We've Reviewed



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Saint-Saens et al. - Danse Macabre

Our Shootout Winner from 2011

  (Item #: saintdanse_2011) 



This is a Decca reissue that just happens to have the material found on one of the most famous and sought-after Shaded Dog pressings in the world, Witches' Brew, along with another track added, The Sorcerer's Apprentice conducted by Ansermet. (As a budget reissue they felt they needed to give you more music in order to get you to buy performances that were no longer current.)

This pressing is tonally much more natural from top to bottom. I used to think that it was the best way to hear the music on Witches' Brew. Like so much of what happens in the world of records, it is and it isn't.

More of the music of Camille Saint-Saens


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Music of Old Russia / Milstein / Irving

Our Shootout Winner from 2013

  (Item #: tchaimusic_2013) 



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

This rare, hard to find original Blue Angel stereo pressing has exquisite sound. As we noted in our listing for Milstein's Saint-Saens Third, it is the rare Heifetz album on Shaded Dog (or any other label) that could hope to compete with it.

We would rank this Angel recording/pressing with the best of Rabin and Milstein on Capitol, as well as the wonderful Ricci and Campoli discs on London/Decca.

The transparency of both sides lets you "see" the orchestra clearly, without sacrificing richness or weight.

More of the music of Tchaikovsky


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Various Composers / Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari

VICS 1206 - Reviewed in 2013

  (Item #: varioballe_1206_2013) 



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

Better than Super Hot Stamper sound on side one of this lovely Victrola reissue from 1960, one of the best in the entire series. Pay attention to the brass -- yes, it may have some tubey smear, but listen to how HUGE and POWERFUL it is! Drop the needle on the first side and watch (or listen) as the sound comes jumping out of your speakers. Modern records can't do that.

These Decca-derived recordings are highly sought after, and with good reason. It's hard to imagine a more wonderful audiophile disc, both in terms of the programme and the quality of the sound.

More Living Stereo


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Various Composers / Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari

Reviewed in 2011

  (Item #: varioballe_2400_2011) 



This Super Rare, Highly Collectible copy of LSC 2400 has vintage RCA Golden Age sound, for better and for worse. Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it's got a heavy dose of Living Stereo Tubey Magic. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the richness of the sound here.

And the hall is HUGE -- so spacious and three-dimensional it's almost shocking, especially if you've been playing the kind of dry, multi-miked modern recordings that the '70s ushered in for London and RCA. (EMI is super spacious but much of that space is weird, coming from out of phase back channels folded in to the stereo mix. And often so mid-hall and distant. Not our sound, sorry.)

More Living Stereo


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Various Composers / Ballet Music From The Opera / Fistoulari

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: varioballe_2400_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as one would have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we've played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance. In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price.

More Living Stereo


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Various Artists - Destination Stereo

Our Shootout Winner from 2015

  (Item #: variodesti_2015) 



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

Side one is White Hot, with some of the best 1959 Living Stereo we've ever heard. Explosive dynamics, HUGE space and size, with unerringly correct tonality, this is a Demo Disc like no other. When "in -the-know" audiophiles discuss soundstaging and depth, they had better be talking about a record that sounds like this. Shockingly real - proof positive that the cutting systems of the day are capable of much better sound than we normally assume.

More Living Stereo


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Festival of Russian Music / Reiner

Reviewed in 2008

  (Item #: variofesti_1068_2008) 



Excellent sound, more mid-hall than some other RCAs. This is the Victrola version of the Shaded Dog of Festival. Some of these pieces are amazing in Reiner''s hands, Marche Slave, for example. Russland and Ludmilla is also superb here. The sound is quite dynamic and powerful with very little distortion or noticeable compression. Reiner is excellent on music like this!

It should go without saying that this kills the Classic Records pressing.

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)


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Various / Witches' Brew / Gibson

Reviewed in 2007

  (Item #: variowitch_2225_2007) 



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

DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND, of a sort. As I've said elsewhere on the site, this is not my idea of natural tonality.

As for the music, I have long held that the Danse Macabre on this album is the best ever. I probably still agree with that, but so much of the material on this record is amazingly good that that's actually kind of a left-handed compliment. The entire side 2 is outstanding from start to finish.

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)


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