I have that recording as part of Sony's el-cheapo box set of the RCA Levine
Mahlers. Never heard it before. Based on the first movement, it is masterful
in every way. There is a bit of hum and just a trace of hiss audible in the
quiet passages midway through, impressive as there were a LOT of mics open.
The sound can be grainy at times. You wonder how it ended up at 44.1;
probably SRC from back in that day, which may have had significant
artifacts. The mix sounds a lot like other RCA Medinah projects, but without
the congestion during loud parts that afflicted analog sessions.
Roderick comments on the Bernstein discs. I have the CD-layer-of-the-SACDs
SONY set. On that, the 1st violins don't come off the best in Sym 2, pushed
way off to left. Pickup seems to focus on the first desks. It is close-in,
but that may have been required in such a resonant space with so much going
on. Anyway, it doesn't strike me as particularly bad for Columbia at that
time. It sounds the same way on the vintage LP, only worse. Otherwise I
think the sound is amazing and it takes me back to my first encounter of the
recording as a teenager, and of such overwhelming sonic, musical, emotional
Worse sonically than 2, to me, is the Sym 4. It is from the St. George
Hotel, the first of the cycle, in 1960. That sounds like the space is too
small and is overloaded by the orchestra. But, it's really hard say. There
are so many factors, not the least of which is the client - Lenny himself,
who I gather preferred a bold, vivid, podium perspective. What has surprised
me is how listenable the items from the dreaded Philharmonic Hall turn out
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of DAVID BURNHAM
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2012 1:06 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Early digital recording history -- RCA's first
(according to Billboard)
I don't know what other company releases it may have preceded but
Decca/London's first digital recording was a Christmas record by The Bach
Choir directed by David Willcocks.
I'm surprised about the Mahler 7th! I was sure I had that recording as a 2
LP set in 1981 and was impressed by the clean sound - particularly in the
> From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Sent: Friday, November 9, 2012 12:01:35 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Early digital recording history -- RCA's first
(according to Billboard)
>Ye olde Billboard via Google Books yields another tidbit ...
>Levine/CSO - Mahler #7 was RCA's first digital recording. Medinah Temple,
July 1980. The Soundstream system was used, and according to Billboard
interviews with both producer Thomas Z. Shepard and Soundstream head Thomas
Stockham, it was a more elaborate setup than previous Soundstream projects.
Stockham said that his tape machine (a Honeywell instrumentation recorder)
was capable of up to 8 tracks, although the typical Soundstream setup was 4
tracks and usually (in the case of Telarc at least), it was duplicate stereo
sends. For the Levine/CSO recording, Soundstream was sent 8 channels from
RCA's recording setup. So two Soundstream electronics units were sync'd
together and the 8 separate digital signals were fed to the tape recorder.
One can imagine how slow the editing was with 8 tracks loaded into the DEC
computer. This was all probably pushing the capabilities of the Soundstream
system. According to several different interwebs sources, the record
wasn't released until 1982. I wonder if there had to be some R&D at
Soundstream to get the project edited and mastered?
>-- Tom Fine