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Best classical recordings...ever! - Page 107

post #1591 of 8936
This is my own transfer from a 1935 z shellac pressing. It's a lot better sounding than the CD releases.
post #1592 of 8936
Quote:
Originally Posted by perhapss View Post

 

Looks very interesting.

I've heard several other great recordings on the Alpha label as well.

They do fabulous work IMO.

 

I recently got their release of Alexei Lubimov playing three of LvB's sonatas on a reproduction of an Érard fortepiano owned by the man himself. The performance and recording are top notch, but I was especially impressed by the liner notes, a pretty thick booklet describing the process of reproduction, the differences in playing an old Érard vs a modern grand, there's even copy from the documentation that accompanied the reproduction basically explaining why it's fragile and how not to destroy it. I hate these discs with fancy packaging and liner notes that are glued to some kind of cardboard mess - all my discs go in tyvek sleeves anyway, and if I can't get the booklet in there, it's not much use to me - but I did, for once, thoroughly enjoy the thick booklet that came with this disc. Gives me a good impression of Alpha, a label I had previously been unfamiliar with.

post #1593 of 8936
Quote:
Originally Posted by edgeworth View Post
 

I don't know if this deserves a separate thread, but in thinking about great recordings, I wanted to solicit opinions on how tolerant Head-Fi'ers are of poor or historical sound.

 

For myself, I think of sound as an integral part of the listening experience, but I understand the importance of tradeoffs.  As a general rule of thumb, my preference is for clear analog sound from the early 70s a la Decca as the near ideal (or in audiophiledom, the best from Reference Recordings).  Some of this is about recording equipment and some of it is about microphone placement.  I adore the Culshaw opera recordings and generally downgrade vocal recordings where the singers stand in one place and the miking over favors singers vs. the orchestra.  I am also very forgiving of mild tape hiss but I despise overly etched digital highs. I tend to downgrade stuff that is multimiked and sounds as if it was blended and deprived of naturalness and soundstage depth.

 

Since I enjoy going to  live concerts that are almost always going to be worse than the best recorded performances we can buy, it's obvious that great sound and the live experience can trump weaker than ideal performances.  Anyone who says otherwise is saying that they never enjoy 99% of live concerts from even the top conductors.  So recordings occupy a middle ground with amazing sound elevating some good performances and horrible sound destroying some great work.

 

As a default minimum, I consider good mid fifties mono to be good enough.  Examples include the Callas Tosca or the Furtwangler Tristan.  But they have to be exceptional performances or else why bother when newer versions abound.  Noisy, distorted productions from the 1930s are usually out for me no matter how great the performance.  For the 1940s it usually depends.  Are there only modest irritants?  Is it truly an unusual performance?  How sonically complex is the piece?  For me that means that some Furtwangler is ok whereas most of Toscanini is not.  In general, I am less forgiving of early symphonic recordings and more tolerant of great operas when there are voices I want to hear.  But even then I struggle with many so-called "classics."

 

What are your views on this?

 

The Music quality is what matters to me.

Any way I can get it but  if better masterings/transfers are available of something I want to hear them.

post #1594 of 8936
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

This is my own transfer from a 1935 z shellac pressing. It's a lot better sounding than the CD releases.

 

Your transfers are always a treat IMO.:smile:

post #1595 of 8936
That particular record set cost me a lot of money at eBay, but it's one of the greatest recordings of Wagner ever made and none of the commercial CD releases do it justice. In particular, I've never heard the bass in the overture or the nuances of Melchior's voice sound like this on CD.
post #1596 of 8936

It's a really nice transfer Bigshot.  The voices are absolutely lovely.  Melchior and Lehmann are otherworldly.  But the orchestra still sounds constricted and muffled to me although it matters less for this segment of Walkure.  As I said, opera is a bit easier for me as voices can be captured even though the feel of a live performance is lost.  Still, this is miles ahead of most 30s material and is better than lots of 50s stuff.  But I still can't handle the Reiner Tristan with Flagstad that someone gave me years ago and that I really want to listen through. Maybe the newer transfers are better.  I only have what looks to be a pressing from some cheapo third tier label that sounds distorted and just weird.

post #1597 of 8936

Digital technology has really opened up the possibility of making historical recordings sound a lot better. The technology I used to do the restoration of that act from Walkure didn't exist ten years ago.

 

For instance, the Toscanini box set that came out last year is light years ahead of what previous releases of the Toscanini catalog sounded like. Sony is at the forefront, putting out some of the best restorations and remastering out there.

post #1598 of 8936
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

Digital technology has really opened up the possibility of making historical recordings sound a lot better. The technology I used to do the restoration of that act from Walkure didn't exist ten years ago.

 

For instance, the Toscanini box set that came out last year is light years ahead of what previous releases of the Toscanini catalog sounded like. Sony is at the forefront, putting out some of the best restorations and remastering out there.


Would you mind sharing the plug in's used to do that?

post #1599 of 8936

I used Mac based plugins. One isn't available any more, but I'm sure there are equivalents.

 

I used SparkXL's Declicker program to remove impulse noise. It isn't made any more, but the nice thing about it was that it only applied filtering to the tiny slice of time where the click occurred. It wasn't broadband noise reduction.

 

After I was done declicking, I used SoundSoap's surface noise recognition to isolate the noise in a silent part of the groove to apply as a pattern filter across the whole track. This filter required a very careful hand to get right.

 

I also used equalization to prep the track for denoising and to rebalance afterwards (kind of like Dolby).

 

I did a lot of detail work getting the side joins to be unobtrusive (the Wagner was 18 sides) and to balance equalization between them. Also some waveform editing with a pencil tool to smooth out big bumps.

 

This recording took me about 25 hours of work altogether.

post #1600 of 8936
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

I used Mac based plugins. One isn't available any more, but I'm sure there are equivalents.

 

I used SparkXL's Declicker program to remove impulse noise. It isn't made any more, but the nice thing about it was that it only applied filtering to the tiny slice of time where the click occurred. It wasn't broadband noise reduction.

 

After I was done declicking, I used SoundSoap's surface noise recognition to isolate the noise in a silent part of the groove to apply as a pattern filter across the whole track. This filter required a very careful hand to get right.

 

I also used equalization to prep the track for denoising and to rebalance afterwards (kind of like Dolby).

 

I did a lot of detail work getting the side joins to be unobtrusive (the Wagner was 18 sides) and to balance equalization between them. Also some waveform editing with a pencil tool to smooth out big bumps.

 

This recording took me about 25 hours of work altogether.


Thanks for that info. Yes you don't go into this without realizing it is a long haul. The reward though is well worth it. Some of the older recordings are none short of genius and will never be relicated no matter how good musicians or vocalists are today. Pure budget restraints limit what can be done with a classical recording these days.

post #1601 of 8936

Throughout the 70's, I bought multiple versions of many favorites always looking for better sound. In those days, LPs suffered badly from surface noise, warping, inner-groove distortion, and scratches. Some companies had better pressings than others - London (Decca) seemed to have a better sound than Columbia (now Sony) ever did. So the CD was a god send - but not perfect. Early cds were fraught with problems, like steely strings, overload distortion and so on. But still a vast improvement on LPs. So yes, for me, primarily a headphone listener, sound quality is a major concern. Listening to Bernstein's Mahler 2nd on Columbia with headphones was torture with LPs, not so bad with CDs. Yes, the performance matters - it matters a lot, but I'll say something hear that others will likely think stupid or uninformed: Today's conductors and orchestras and soloists are the equal of anything from the past. (I will admit today we fall far short in the area of opera singers.) How can this be? Because today's performers are, for the most part, much more respectful of the composer and the music - they play it as the composer wrote it, not as they wish it had been written. You add in a lot of performing experience from concerts and recordings and you have a collected wisdom that can't be beat.

 

Just a couple of examples. Claudio Abbado's Mahler cycle on Blu Ray with his hand-chosen orchestra is superb in every way: playing, conducting, recording. Those recordings yield nothing to Bernstein, Tennstedt, Horenstein, Walter, Solti or any other esteemed Mahler conductor of the past 100 years. The sound is utterly sensational and opens sonic vistas just not possible even 20 years ago.

 

One of my favorite works of all time is Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, of which I have collected easily 30 recordings. The best is a relatively new one: Anima Eterna with Jos von Immerseel. The sound is standard cd, but clear, vibrant, and exciting. Orchestral execution is flawless - something that cannot be said of more than a few hallowed favorites. The conductor doesn't interfere - and the music is all the better for it: exciting, sensuous and completely satisfying. The sound is beyond criticism and makes listening with headphones a pleasure. Every orchestral detail comes through. And no tampering with the stupendous score is another bonus - you'd be amazed how many recordings have the orchestration altered, or how many times the percussion sections screws up.

 

How to sum this diatribe up: Sound matters a lot, but so does the music making, and you can have both: today's recording standards matched with today's superb musicians makes for some wonderful listening. Furtwangler maybe have been great with Brahms on EMI, but the sound is atrocious. Barenboim with Chicago doing Brahms in glorious Warner digital sound is even better!

post #1602 of 8936
The difference between conducting of the past and today is a completely different intent. Today, the focus is on creating a "best" performance for all time... back then, it was about creating an ephemeral performance that reflected that particular moment in time. The diffferences between the way Toscanini and Stokowski conducted the same work was a million times more different than anything today. The range of approaches was kaliedoscopic. You could tell Stoki and the Philadelphia or Toscanini / NBC from the very first note without looking at the liner notes or album cover. Try to identify Abbado, Zinman or Bruggen by sound.

The era of the superstar expressive conductor is gone. Today, we have "appropriate" and "informed" conductors. It's a different thing. Modern recordings have their own charms, but they don't replace historical recordings.

Of course for a beginner in classical music, the individuality of the conductors of the past isn't as evident or even desirable. They're still becoming familiar with the works themselves and aren't ready to add the more complex level of interpretation to that. Historical performances are more relevant to you once you are completely familiar with the work and the typical approach to it. I probably have at many as 40 different versions of many works in my collection, ranging over the better part of a century. Rarely is there only one among the 40 that I feel is the "correct" one. The differences between them are what make them interesting.

Mahler is a great example... Abbado treads right down the middle. But I would MUCH rather listen to the vastly different performances by Walter and Bernstein.

viva le difference!
Edited by bigshot - 4/9/14 at 11:36am
post #1603 of 8936

Well put Bigshot...I agree, the room behind the notes is were composer meets performer(s)  and that's where it gets interesting :D


Edited by Quinto - 4/9/14 at 12:24pm
post #1604 of 8936
In the 1980s, there was a shift in tastes in classical music. You started seeing reviews that said conductors "let the music do the talking" by "not getting the the way of the music". To me, if you're going to do that, you might as well invent a machine to follow the notations in the score precisely and present the music without a personal point of view.

Conductors like Stokowski and Toscanini had a thorough knowledge of and faithfulness to the intent of the composer. But they weren't afraid to contribute to the music themselves. Half of the music making was on the paper, and half of it was inspiration in the room. That sort of participation is discouraged now, and it's ironic because with all the hundreds and hundreds of great recordings of "appropriate" performances of core repetoire over the past few decades, one would think that there isn't much need for another.

I have dozens and dozens of versions of Beethoven's Eroica symphony. Many of them are fantastic sounding analogue or digital recordings, but a lot of them are pretty much interchangable. No other performance of the Eroica comes close to Toscanini's in importance. It is electrifying and never fails to put my jaw on the floor- bad sound and all. If I had to pare my collection down to just one recording of the third, sound quality would not even enter into the decision of which one to keep.

Sound quality is nice, but performance is everything. Again, I think this is a realization that a classical music fan comes to after they become familiar with the music they are listening to.
post #1605 of 8936

Indeed, I listen to Beethoven string quartets a lot lately and it really gets much more interesting if you know the music and can think a fraction ahead of the music..

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