Old vs New Recordings

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RE: Old vs New Recordings

Having just signed up for the new Gramophone digital edition + Archive, I just came across this:

 

"It is only the perfecting of [......] recording during the last three years combined with recent astonishing improvements in the gramophones themselves that has given us piano reproduction of a fidelity, a variety and depth of tone that could hardly be bettered.

I have no hesitation in saying that modern piano recordings do the pianist complete justice." 

 

You might think it came perhaps from Parla, discussing recent recordings on his hi-end system.

Actually though, it was Rachmaninoff, writing in the Gramophone in 1931!!  The word I removed [......](because it would have given the game away) was electrical.

I suppose, in years to come people will laugh at our naive beliefs in the perfection of modern recordings.

Looking forward to the new Archive and magazine.

Chris

 

I found the article simply by clicking on the info about the new Archive on the Gramophone home page!

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Old vs New Recordings

Interesting subject. I have dabbled in all media of classical and non-classical recordings. I must say my preference is for stereo derived from lp or high resolution digital downloads, like DSD or 24/96, 24/192 PCM.

Most important however is the provenance of the original recording, and, if "old" the quality of the master. A great recording engineer, even from the 50's and 60's could get good reproduction and have a natural sound.

I can think of the beethoven String Quartets by the Vegh quartet. The sound is impeccable, though an old recording. I treasure those old lps. Also recent recordings on the Linn label, Chesky, and iTrax have the advantage of recording natively in 24/192. You are listening to a duplicate of the master! Excellent recording technique, musical intuition, and a firm idea of what sound you are searching for trumps the media evey time.

Variey is the spice of life, so I still like hearing the different ideas of interpretation between the traditional school (Bohm?) and the modern HIP (Gardiner?). All is good and you need many versions of the great works. 

That said, I like clear sound with a good soundstage and am willing to pay for the equipment and the media to get it. I do purchase reissue Speaker's Corner lps, along with SACD and high res downloads.

David Olifant

RE: Old vs New Recordings

c hris johnson wrote:

Having just signed up for the new Gramophone digital edition + Archive, I just came across this:

..............Looking forward to the new Archive and magazine.

Chris

Chris, what are your initial impressions of the digital magazine and in particular the archive? It's the latter that will decide me on whether to subsribe and, more importantly, to buy an iPad or other such device.

Having got rid of decades-worth of my old Gramophone magazines on the mistaken assumption that Gramofile would continue to be available, the facility easily to locate various reviews for the purposse of comparison (in contrast to the spatchcock affair that is the current archive) is very tempting indeed.

A user review from you, perhaps?

JKH

RE: Mozarts integral conducted by Erich Leinsdorf

speaking about ancient recordings, Im hearing precisely now Mozarts symphonies integral with the Royal Philharmonic Orch, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, the first recorded integral of this works, and Ive confirmed my opinion in sense that the companies recorded better or so good at that time than today. And this nonetheles them were recorded between 1955 and 1961 years, and to be -more of them- mono recordings. Vigorous and dinamic conceptions, in my opinion preferables to Bruno Walter-Columbia, Josef Krips-Concertgebow or Karl Bohm-Vienna s versions, sometimes feeble and deslucid for my taste. This recordings were originally produced by USA Westminster label, disappeared today, which left to us superlative recordings, specially Gustav Mahlers 2th, 5th and 7th symphonies conducted by german conductor Hermann Scherchen, fortunately reedited today by Deutsche Gramophone division from Universal label. Ive got many Westminster s recordings from that series: Tchaikovskys violin concerto with austrian violinist Erica Morini-Artur Rodzinsky conductor, Berliozs Symphonie Fantastique conducted by Rene Leibowitz, etc, and I recommend it to you, fervently, obviously if you  are interested in it. Do you know those recordings?? Best regards oscar.olavarria

 

RE: Mozarts integral conducted by Erich Leinsdorf

Westminster was great.I have countless HMV Concert Classics Series records (XLP xxxxx) with "A Westminster Recording"printed on the upper right hand corner of the LP jacket.There was also many Westminster recordings licensed to the World Record Club and released in the UK.

As well as the orchestral works you mention Oscar, there are many superb chamber and piano recordings. The Barylli Quartet are a particular favorite of mine, but bigger names like the Smetana and Janacek Quartets also recorded for the label.

The US labels that get all the plaudits are Mercury and RCA,but Westminster and Vox are more interesting (and cheaper).

So, considering artistic and

So, considering artistic and technical demands in a recording, you are not all in for the former, instead, you try to get a good balance between them, the sweet spot being one that chooses, say, (just to give an idea) Ashkenazy or Osborne over Richter (Sofia Recital) when it comes to Mussorgsky's Pictures. Moravec or Rubinstein over Cortot or Lipatti regarding Chopin's piano works. Jansons or Gergiev over Mravinsky in Tchaikovsky's symphonies. Caballe over Callas in Puccini's Tosca.......and so forth.

 

I think your point is quite defendable. What I definitely turn my nose at is that trend among audiophiles to let sonic appeals dictate what to listen (despite their saying otherwise). Matter of fact, I take the same approach, perhaps putting a little more emphasis in the artistic aspect. I can listen to my old recordings and I think that many of them is still irreplaceable.

 

But one variable you did not mention and that I think is VERY important is your equipment. When I had a very transparent hi-fi system I simply could not stand those old ear-piercing recordings. There is a trend nowadays to emphasize that ethereal sound with all detail you can get, but, imo, this works very well with other musical genres (pop/rock/jazz....) where a warm midrange prevail but not necessarily with classical music with its quite different tonal balance.

 

In short, my point is that you can tailor your audio system so that those recordings become quite listenable and enjoyable! Then, you suddenly start listening to all your music library: no renegades (or just a few perhaps).

 

 

Old vs New Recordings

From personal experience I'd say older recordings are a mixed bag, some are fantastic others poor. Modern recording are on the whole more polite and refined, which with small chamber music is very good, not always with larger more dynamic works.

 

Some of the recordings from the late 1950's and 60's can and do stand up pretty well against anything made subsequently.

I can honestly say some of the Decca SXL series are truly the best recordings ever made. Try SXL6000 Khachaturian Sparticus/Gayanah which is very dynamic, sonically almost perfect, the CD is cheap performance peerless, being conducted by the composer.

I think if you listen to it you might forget it was recorded in 1962.

 

Then again possibly the last 50 years has seen a shift in taste, the audience in the early stereo years liked the 'big' sound wide soundstage and dynamics to show off their new stereo sets.

 

There are many great recordings, you just need to be choosy.

Old recordings

My goodness I seem to have my head screwed on differently then everyone else.  I think of Wallace Stevens' Peter Quince at the Clavier where he asks what does music have to do with sound?  I think of the old accoustic recordings where the harmonic distortion is so bad that the violins sound like flutes.  For me the real test is my ability to hear the individual instruments.  I love William Kempf's Beethoven sonatas even more than Schnabel's. In deed the only player who comes close for me is Annie Fisher in even worse sound.

 

The point is I can hear the individual lines in my mind.  And although it is tempting to talk of recordings in terms of the perfection of reproduction, I think the key is their ability to stimulate one's imagination.  But much of the older  orchestral recordings sound like mush.   I am far more tolerant of older recordings for solo instruents and chamber music than I am for full orchestra,.  Pre-HIP Mozart and baroque music suffers under a double handicap.  The performances were by our current taste mush to begin with and the recording process was unable to adequately reporduce them.

Ultimately music is something that takes place in the listener's mind.  The test of a great recording is not how well it sounds like a live performance, but its ability to stimulate the listener's mind and imagination.   What does music have to do with sound?

Alexander Rysman

alexanderr@comcast.net

What does music have to do with sound?

The answer to the last question in the previous post and the subject of this one is that music is sound! Thus, if the sound is not well-served, music is not either.

Besides, music is real. "It takes place in the listener's mind" because some actual performer(s) play it in a specific place, at a specific time. So, the recording does not have simply to "stimulate the listener's mind", but to provide the listener with the most accurate information of the actual composition. After this has achieved, the "mind" can fly (be stimulated) to any direction the music work may direct it.

Parla

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