One man's opinions ...
1. the early CD's "Great Performances of the Century" or whatever the series was called, with the
fake "newspaper front page" artwork, generally sucked.
2. Dennis Rooney produced a good series of reissues in the late 90's, Masterworks Heritage. I have
those versions of Szell/Cleveland, whatever was released in the series, and it is fantastic.
3. I thought much more care was taken and better quality resulted with the Bernstein Edition
reissues of the 90's, vs the earlier reissues.
4. A lot of the better second-generation reissues seem to have been re-packaged in that dirt-cheap
"essential" series, which has cheezy artwork and sketchy recording/production details but sometimes
quite good sound. Some of them sound like they are "Great Performances of the 20th Century"
first-generation transfers repackaged, but I might be wrong on that.
5. In general, to my ears, Columbia's recordings were of inconsistent quality. Sometimes they did
really well, sometimes not. I tend to hear through their inadequate recordings if it's a Szell or a
great Bernstein performance. If it's a lackluster Bernstein or a so-so Ormandy, I can't cotton to
the poor-sounding recordings. Columbia always used several to many mics, so the big problem they
have is the same all over-mic'd classical recordings have -- unnatural ambience, congested and
un-detailed sound when everyone is playing loud, shifting placement of instruments depending on
their volume levels (ie bleed into a number of mics), and dynamics controlled at the mixing board
rather than by the orchestra. When they got into Andy Kazdan sonic productions, that's a different
way of making a classical record and it sometimes has its benefits, but it's definitely a "produced"
sound vs. a "recorded" sound. There's a difference between a produced performance -- all great
classical albums are "produced" in the sense that they are super-perfect and super-real compared to
all but a few spontaneous performances -- and a produced sound, which means that the overall sound
quality is a production of mixing and adding echo and the like, it's not something that can happen
at all in real-time in a real space. Like I said, sometimes it's very interesting and works well, so
I'm not blanket condemning it. Columbia was definitely very into "produced sound" for their
classical records from the late 60's onward. I discussed this in my presentation at the AES in NY
last year, including details on Columbia's 1975 Grammy Award-winning recording of "Daphnis and
Chloe" that involved 32 microphones and separate mixes for stereo and quad. In my opinion, it works
as a vehicle to get into the music (for instance, the details of every voice in the chorus, the
details of every little nuance of sound from the solo instruments, very clear details within
sections as long as not too many people were playing at the same time), but it's definitely a
produced sound. Some in the audience very much didn't like the Columbia approach vs. earlier few-mic
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "L. Hunter Kevil" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 5:09 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Who needs vinyl?
> Steve and Richard,
> Can you give us any clues as to how to identify which Sony reissues have
> been outstandingly remastered and which have not?
> Hunter Kevil
> On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 3:09 PM, [Richard A Kaplan] <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> Sony's release of Bernstein's Mahler cycle last year in new masterings from
>> session tapes was revelatory; it shows (a) what they're capable of when
>> they're willing to use the resources, and (b) how inadequate the huge
>> bulk of
>> their CD reissues have (has?) been. I'm with Steve: More!
>> Rich Kaplan
>> In a message dated 6/1/2012 3:05:07 P.M. Central Daylight Time,
>> [log in to unmask] writes:
>> I recently heard the last 2 movements of the Beethoven 3d Piano Concero
>> the radio and was amazed. I had no idea who was before the public at
>> present who played the piece this well. What particularly grabbed me was
>> rich the piano tone was, how clear the various piiano voices and
>> parts were and how well the whole thing sounded together.
>> Imagine my surprise. It was Leon Fleisher, George Szell and the Cleveland
>> Orchestra, made in 1959.
>> After a bit of investigation, I learned it was a new, 2012 24 bit ransfer
>> from Sony. I orderd the box of the 5 Beethoven and two Brahms Concerti
>> night. When it arrived, it also proved to contain the Brahms Handel
>> Variations, the op. 39 Waltzes and Mozarrt's 25th Concerto.
>> I'm playing the 3d now through my office listening set-up. It's far more
>> than the radio disclosed.
>> Though I've yet to see a review that addresses it, this is clearly (!) a
>> huge improvement over all previous releases in any format.
>> I am assuming they've used Capstan as there is no wow or flutter-
>> to which my my ear is particulary sensitive. The crispness of the sound
>> indicates corrections to problems caused by slight misphasings, firmly and
>> distinctly positioning the instruments within the orchestra. A slight cut
>> made here at about 2700 cycles allows the piano to sound completely
>> equalized throughout its range with no notes suddenly sticking out. The
>> occassional buzzy noise I used to think were defects in the recording are
>> now revealed as piano problems. I can't hear any tape hiss at all. The
>> negative is that the time between movements is often too short and
>> to the music's pulse.
>> Oh, yes. Setting aside a few missed notes in a few of the more elaboate
>> passages, the 3d is a terrific performance. They are well enough known by
>> now not to require a review.
>> The digital millenium has arrived. More! More!
>> Steve Smolian