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Five Greats From
Classic Records:

Heifetz Playing the Rozsa Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Heifetz Playing the Bruch Concerto in G Minor

Satchmo Plays King Oliver 

Crosby, Stills and Nash 

Overtures and Dances: Reiner/Chicago Symphony

By Dave Glackin
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Heifetz Playing the Rozsa Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Heifetz Playing the Rozsa Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
(Classic Records LP, LSC-2767)

  Miklos Rozsa is of Hungarian origin, and his music is suitably lyrical and soul-stirring. It's unlike anything else, although portions are somewhat evocative of Prokofiev. Heifetz is in fine form, showing phenomenal technique in which he combines rapid, intricate passages with slower ones of lyricism and beauty. The music flows and carries you along with it, with Heifetz's violin riding atop a solid orchestral foundation. This record demonstrates that not all outstanding Heifetz recordings were done with Reiner and Chicago. This one was done with Walter Hendl and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and they acquit themselves admirably. The liner notes quote Rozsa as saying that he was "fortunate to have Heifetz as a guiding spirit," and that the two worked together extensively. Perhaps that is why Heifetz sounds so comfortable with this music, and emotionally warmer than he often is.

Classic Records has done a beautiful job of remastering this recording. Mastering engineer Bernie Grundman has achieved an absolutely beautiful string tone. There is no sign of the old solid state signature, and Bernie's tubed signal path is really paying off. The Classic Records version has excellent transparency to boot, and subtleties of bowing are easy to hear. The dead-quiet vinyl surfaces on this RTI pressing are also appreciated. The original LP is a later Shaded Dog, from 1964. (The original mono version of this work was released as side A of LM-2027 in the late 50's.) In this case, I don't have an original stereo Shaded Dog with which to compare the Classic, but based on my other original RCA/Classic comparisons following the inception of Bernie's tubed signal chain, the Classic is likely as good if not better.

Mike Hobson is due some real kudos for deciding to reissue the Heifetz catalog, and for arranging the licensing to make it happen. These reissues should be very exciting to any lover of Heifetz, and to any lover of classical music for that matter. There's not much more that one could ask. Many thanks to Classic for reissuing the Heifetz catalog!

Oh, yeah, the flip side is the Benjamin Romantic Fantasy for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, with William Primrose on viola, and the RCA Victor Orchestra. Here the orchestra is showcased as much as Heifetz and Primrose. (Note that these two gentlemen played together on many recordings.)

The music is energetic and spirited, with good use of percussion and winds. The performance is characterized by an optimistic verve and drive, offset by more lyrical passages, and punctuated by sparkling percussion. This is not a world-class composition by any means, but nonetheless a beautiful B-side piece worthy of your attention.

This LP is very highly recommended.

 

Enjoyment: 90

Sound Quality: 90

 

Heifetz Playing the Bruch Concerto in G Minor

Heifetz Playing the Bruch Concerto in G Minor
(Classic Records LP, LSC-2652)

On this recording, Heifetz plays with the New Symphony Orchestra of London, with Malcolm Sargent conducting. The Bruch is melodic, romantic, and spirited music, well played and reasonably well recorded. Heifetz throws off fast, complex passages with ease, and he is brilliant as usual. It is easy to hear the nuances of his bowing and his technique in this Classic Records reissue.

This recording features a big but somewhat dark and recessed orchestral sound, not as transparent as it should be. This is one of those Heifetz recordings where the orchestra is definitely secondary to the soloist. Based on the few other Heifetz recordings that have this quality, and the other Classic Records Heifetz reissues that I have auditioned, I get the definite feeling that Classic has recreated a faithful reproduction of what is on the master tape.

The flip side features the Mozart Concerto in D Major. Oh, there's the orchestra. I haven't listened to this piece in a long time, and it's quite beautiful and enjoyable. It exudes optimism and joy, and as usual Heifetz is up to the demands of the most intricate passages in the score, and he sounds like he's enjoying himself in the process. This is Heifetz-in-your-room time. He has a palpable presence on the Classic reissue, and once again Bernie Grundman's move to an all-tube signal chain has proven to be the right one. The tonal colors are beautiful, and the instruments sound believably placed within the sound stage (oh, that I had an original Shaded Dog in my collection to compare this to). My only minor quibble is the fast fades that it sounds like Bernie applied after every movement, which are a little distracting.

I'd buy the record for this side, and enjoy.

 

Enjoyment: 90

Sound Quality: 90

 

Satchmo Plays King Oliver

Satchmo Plays King Oliver
(Classic Records ST-91058-45)

Classic Records has done the audiophile and music worlds a great service by reissuing this recording. The original LP on the Audio Fidelity label is highly prized and much sought after, but it's virtually impossible to find in anything but the most trashed condition. I should know. One of the most memorable events of the show was when Keith Herron played his copy for me at the 2000 Las Vegas CES. This LP shot right to the top of the jazz portion of my LPs-to-buy list, but to no avail. Discovering at the 2001 CES that Classic has reissued this recording as 33 and 45 rpm LPs evoked the kind of excitement that I felt in the 70's and 80's over various audiophile LPs. Those who were there know that this feeling is harder to elicit today.

Forget everything you've ever read about palpable presence. Try the 45 rpm version of two cuts from the 33 rpm LP. This is palpable presence. On the justifiably famous cut "St. James Infirmary," Louis Armstrong's horn, and his formidable voice, are in your listening room. It's scary. It's riveting. Anyone who talks through this cut, or even breathes more than a few times, has to have his/her head examined. And musically, it's a great performance, period. Buy the 33 rpm LP for the whole disc, and the 45 rpm, containing two cuts, for the ultimate in fidelity.

This is an unqualified rave. The 45 rpm version is off my grading scale. Simply astounding. Bravo, Classic Records. Special thanks from the bottom of my heart to Coleman Brice.

 

Enjoyment: 100

Sound Quality: 100

 

Crosby, Stills and Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash
(Classic Records SD-8229)

This is a classic late-60's recording, harkening back to Woodstock and a more innocent time when anything seemed possible. The music transports me right back to high school, when many of you probably think the Earth was still cooling (well, central Florida was sure warm then...). The compositions on this record are all originals, and they still hit home after all this time. The harmonies that David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills were able to create in the studio are legendary, and their instrumentals are superb and often sublime.

This record was a revelation when it was released, but I have never heard it sound as good as in this Classic Records reissue. I compared it to my pristine original copy on Atlantic. The original has a midrange peakiness that makes it somewhat hard to take on a revealing audio system (this is obvious from the first note out of the guitar in the left channel on track 1). Bernie's re-cut is far more neutral and listenable. He has clearly applied some judiciously chosen EQ to substantially improve this recording.

Every track on this LP is a well-crafted classic. There isn't a dud in the bunch. "Marrakesh Express", "Guinnevere", "You Don't Have to Cry", and "Helplessly Hoping" are especially memorable for me. If you weren't around in the late 60's, this record is a great way to get a feeling for the era. And if you were around then, you heard this music, and this version will definitely make your ears perk up.

Classic Records is really doing a bang-up job with their reissues these days. My only minor quibble is that the original cover was textured, and this one is smooth. But maybe that's an easy way to pick out the one from your collection that you want to play (the smooth one).

 

Enjoyment: 100

Sound Quality: 100

 

 

Overtures and Dances: Reiner/Chicago Symphony
(Classic Records LP, VICS-1424)

This LP is a collection of recordings from the dawn of the stereo era, the earliest of which was recorded on March 8, 1954 (Strauss' Salome, Dance of the Seven Veils). The RCA recording team must have been very busy then, for the day after that they recorded Strauss' Ein Heldenleben with Reiner and Chicago, and then the next day they recorded the famed Strauss work Also Sprach Zarathustra. That was the first stereo Shaded Dog to be released (LSC 1806…and keep your mitts off my mint copy, if you please). See my article way back in Positive Feedback Vol. 5 No. 2 for more details.

The LP in question here contains some very powerful works, and they demonstrate that RCA had its act together from the very dawn of the stereo era. The recording has wide open dynamics, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the firm hand of Reiner really pulls out all the stops. Instrumental tone/timbre is outstanding, as is the transparency of this recording. The imaging is also excellent (with the exception of the "Smetena Bartered Bride" cut, which suffers a little from left/right syndrome). If you have never heard how good stereo recording was 47 years ago, buy this record and find out. It'll show you what a lot of record companies forgot (or never learned). It'll also make your downloaded mp3 files sound like crap (no, make that compressed crap). Bernie Grundman and the Classic Records team have done an outstanding job with this reissue.

During the late 50's through the early 60's a magical combination of circumstances coalesced: conductors, orchestras, recording companies, and recording engineers using simple mic'ing techniques and tubed electronics, who were allowed to control their own product. Many of the recordings that came out of that era speak volumes about that magic, and this LP is definitely one of them. Classic is to be congratulated for producing such a great reissue.

 

Enjoyment: 100

Sound Quality: 90

See Classic Records' Article
"How to Reissue a Record"
By Clicking Here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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