A great conductor can usually make a poor orchestra surpass itself.
I agree with that,Ansermet and the Suisse Romande is a good example.
There is a misconception that all old recordings have poor sound and modern recordings have superior sonics.
Using appropriate replay equipment many of the mono Decca LXT vinyl LP records sound absolutely superb.Recordings made by Kenneth Wilkinson for example at the Kingsway Hall from the late 1940s through to pre digital early 1980s are in my opinion some of the best ever made.
I'm as much as a "virtual poster" as you may be, Troyen. However, I like your poetic writing style in your last post (figment of our imagination, etc).
History Man, I agree with you that some old recordings sound better than quite a few new ones. We should not neglect that the producers and recording engineers of the time focused on the best possible result in the recording process. This is exactly what I defend: that we should focus on the quality of the recordings we buy in order to get the optimum listening result.
I think it is a bit condescending to describe the Suisse Romande Orchestra as 'poor'. I am sure that the surely highly qualified musicians in that orchestra see it differently, and with their outstanding recorded legacy one must admit that the evidence is in their favour - there's nothing 'poor' about those recordings.
Another excellent example of a conductor having a beneficial influence on an orchestra if Fricsay and the RIAS orchestra. At times, their sound is less cultivated than say the Berliners but there's nothing wrong with the spirit and the musicianship of their interpretations.
The excellent sound obtained by DG's engineers at the time is often overlooked - Decca, Mercury etc seem to get all the credit. Their Beethoven symphonies, Mozart operas, Strauss Waltzes, Kodaly, Bartok have a spatial clarity that I don't always find in say Decca's Sophiensaal recordings, impressive as they are. Walter Legge credited the DG engineers, in particular for their early stereo recordings.
Sad, how the know-how was lost however. I listened to Sinopoli's Manon Lescaut the other day (following some comments made on this forum) and the sound is purely dreadful, lacking focus. I think John Steane when reviewing the Terfel Falstaff recording described it as listening to a performance froom over the neighbour's garden fence. Which is spot on.
Yes, Parla I very much agree with this. With many older and 'historical' recordings the input from one's imagination, and I would add, recollection can be considerable. For example, I can get enormous pleasure from a rather poor recording of a performance I had attended myself. But for a work new to me, I need a better recording, even though I may ultimately come to prefer an older inferior recording if the performance specially resonates for me.
One of the great attractions of listening to chamber music at home (besides the music itself, obviously) is the ease with which one can imagine the instruments in one's own room, in a way that is not possible with larger ensembles.
One thing that you repeatedly write in this context does puzzle me Parla. Your experience with older recordings and your high end equipment is the complete opposite to mine. As I have improved my hi-fi equipment I have found that I recover more and more from some (not all) of these older recordings. Objectively, I know that the difference in sound quality between these and the best recent recordings becomes even greater, but there are many wonderful "off the air" recordings that give me more pleasure now than they ever did before. Perhaps it is more to do with the listener than the equipment?
I think it is a bit condescending to describe the Suisse Romande Orchestra as 'poor'.
Well said HMV.
History Man, I agree with you though that Ansermet was a very fine conductor.
I'm a fan of Ernest and the Suisse Romande. What I have in my collection isn't huge but great stuff: 2cd on Decca of Ravel orchestral works, Berg's Violin Concerto with Menuhin on Cascavelle - plus 3 fragments from Wozzeck and the Three Pieces for Orchestra opus 6, and a 2cd on Decca again of Frank Martin - including the violin concerto with Wolfgang Schneideran and In Terra Pax. Lastly, I have his Prokofiev 5.
Also a live recording on ORFEO from 1964 of Honegger's Symphonie Liturgique and a wonderful Brahms 3 on the same disc, this time Ansermet with the Bayerischen Rundfunks.
I think he had a real sense of depth somehow in his recordings with the Suisse Romande.
"Figment of the imagination", I thought, was a cliche.
What are you saying, that unless the performance has the finest engineering it is wortless as record?
I'm sure the aficionados of Furtwangler, Caruso, Kreisler, Schnabel et al might have something to say about that.
What to say about the Suise Romande orchestra?
It, clearly, even under Ansermet, was never in the top ten, reminding me in its occasional sourness and dodgy ensemble of a French orchestra but wasn't this an example of the finesse of the conducting brain that was Ernest Ansermet, particularly in the twentieth century French repertoire, that transcended the lack of a top flight orchestra and did he not, as often as not, achieve a transparency with this band missed by more august ensembles?
I'm sure many of us have a favourite Ansermet somewhere.
Sad, how the know-how was lost however. I listened to Sinopoli's Manon Lescaut the other day (following some comments made on this forum) and the sound is purely dreadful, lacking focus.
As is the Sinopoli Forza, the Sinopoli Nabucco, the Karajan Turandot. From producing some state of the art recordings in the 60s, DGG in the 70s and 80s had trouble issuing anything that matched what labels like Decca and Chandos at their best could produce. Even their own transfers to digital were woeful.
The disc the Bartok and Prokofiev PC3s with Katchen, originally on Ace of Clubs and still my favourite performances of these two works.
The Ace of Cubs reissue series (over 350) are excellent, in many cases the mastering is superior to the original LXTs.
I have many Ansermet recordings.My view is that the Victoria Hall,Geneva is a finer recording venue then the famed Kingsway Hall,London.
The one Ansermet recording that never fails to amaze me is his 1950 account of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with his Suisse Romande orchestra.The controlled ferocity of the performance is awe inspiring and the 60+year old sound comes up fresh as new paint.Ansermet's later 1957 stereo version unfortunately does not possess the same raw energy.
the finesse of the conducting brain that was Ernest Ansermet,
Well put, Troyen. I'm just glad that others like Ernest, as I'd always thought he was underated,even if there are some doubts about the orchestra he had at his disposal.
It is heartwarming to realise that recordings by interpreters such as Ansermet, K Richter, Sawallisch, Keilberth (I could go on) who have since been dismissed by critics in favour of Harnoncourt, Rattle, Abbado, Immerseel, etc., still holds sway in the seasoned listeners affection.
Don't give up hope just because your favourite musicians are out of fashion. They've usually fallen from grace due to issues scarcely connected to their music making. All you need to do to appreciate music is to (disregard that you are a knowledgeable fellow and) use your ears!
Keilberth, one of the greatest opera conductors of his generation.
I'll add Andre Cluytens, Albert Wolff and Anthony Collins.
With all due respect, HMV, but, even if you wish to "use only your ears", you will always make use (naturally) of all the other resources you have.
In any case, the great artists of the past can be appreciated for their intelligence and dedication to their art as well (not only for what they produced in the recording studio or at live performances of their time). However, bad recordings can deter younger generations from indulging in old recordings of the past glories and send them to some glorious true to life recordings of today.
Prompted by this thread I pulled out the Katchen/Ansermet Bartock PC3 last night. First thing that struck me was how fine the recording still sounded, despite it being one of the very first classical lps I bought over 40 years ago, which means it has been played countless times on every turntable I've owned going back to an entry level Garrard changer. The recording balance is excellent, piano in just the right perspective, all inner voices clean and clear, the low note on timpani in the last movement coming through beautifully. It also struck me how distinctive the winds sounded, slightly acidic. Come to think of it, that's how I remember the OSR. Was it a feature of this particular orchestra, or the recording or style of wind playing back then? Refreshing, anyway.
Then, mention of Liszt put me in the mood for a big romantic wallow and since I prefer Rachmaninov to Liszt I put on my old vinyl Svetlanov playing Symphony 3. Does anybody else have a soft spot for those old Melodiya discs featuring Kondrashin, Svetlanov and Rozhdestvensky? Good old fashioned no-holds-barred Russian playing, all the hysteria and gloom you can handle, brass vibrato a mile wide, ffff exactly that. What a treat! Forget recording refinement, this one just pinned your ears back.
Rachmaninov put Tagalia in romantic mode so we had to watch Brief Encounter and my gentlemanly breeding instructs me to draw a veil over the rest of the evening.