Tom wrote: "Live concerts can be more sloppy because of audience enthusiasm. They tend not to hold up as well to repeated listening outside of the live venue. A great recording is closer to perfection as far as each note being rendered correctly within the larger context of the music."
For me, it depends on what one wants from a recording. I prefer listening to broadcast performances of live concerts. With all of the editing done these days, I am drawn to the days when broadcasts were live. I prefer a manic live performance by a Munch, Koussevitzky or a Mitropoulos over anything done (live or studio) by a Szell, Karajan, Solti, etc. These latter conductors were remarkable musicians, but If I want "perfection," I simply open the score and read.
I find most studio recordings to be sterile. Having done some conducting in my past, I found I would take chances in concert…sometimes to the frustration of the musicians. In my limited experience as a producer, I find it all but impossible to get musicians to recreate the spontaneity and visceral excitement of a live performance. It is that visceral excitement I look for, and I don't get bored by hearing it repeatedly.
I am reminded of the story of when another conductor was substituting for Munch. He asked Munch, "what tempi did you want me to use." Munch supposedly replied, "I never know what tempi I will use until I get on the podium."
Thinking about this, I am reminded of listening, last night, to the first performance of the Dutilleux Second Symphony, conducted by Munch. Was it a note perfect performance…no. Was it perfectly balanced…no. Yet with perhaps a dozen recordings of it to choose from, I can't imagine listening to any other performance. To my ears, even Munch's commercial recording palls in comparison.
As to the thread of recording technology…for me, it is the same as performance. Each engineer, as each conductor, will bring their own perspective. I can appreciate a John Eargle, John Newton and Lewis Layton, just as I can appreciate the perspective of different conductors. Some will stimulate me and others will not.
Should you mic Wagner the same way you mic Berlioz. As I would teach in my orchestration class. Wagner's orchestration was absorptive and Berlioz…his was differentiative…Wagner wanted a molding of sound…hence the design of the orchestra pit at Bayreuth. Berlioz wanted the oboe to sound like an oboe. Do you mic a Walter Piston Symphony the same way you mic a Shostakovich Symphony? Well, you can, but each approach gives you a different perspective. As an engineer, do you see your responsibility to record the "orchestra" and rely on the composer's orchestration to convey the intent? Or do you try and adopt your approach to recording to support the compositional and coloristic intent of the piece. For me, "one size, does not fit all."
Similarly, I am reminded of a live performance I have of Koussevitzky conducting a Chopin Concerto. He plays the first movement as though it was a Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. Is it Chopin, no, its Koussevitzky's vision of Chopin. Yet, the real question for me, is "does it work for me?"
On one of our CDs we featured Scriabin playing some of his own music. (Welte rolls) While you can argue over the dynamics and other particulars, the pitches and their duration are fixed on the roll. Scriabin played his music very freely. Brahms would complain that musicians played his music too literally. There is that phrase, "great art transcends the intent of its creator." Likewise, I believe we are free to reinvent interpretation and our approach to recording…for me, both are a science and an art. Was Glenn Gould's approach to Bach, "authentic?" I doubt it. Does it work for you? Great! Personally, I hate it.
On Tuesday, November 18, 2014 9:51 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The small boutique labels probably work on a shoestring budget with second-tier non-union orchestras
and conductors willing to work for 1/10th of what Karajan got. It's doable, but certainly not easy.
There are a lot of well-trained musicians in eastern Europe and Asia. Notice that big orchestras
like the LSO and Chicago have gotten into releasing their own recordings (mostly just concert
recordings, but occasionally a real-deal produced classical recording somewhat akin to what used to
be done). My own taste does not favor any of this stuff to the best "golden age" recordings. I don't
need "new" when it's not "better."
Don, you are wrong about musicians playing "better" live, not if they're good musicians. Perhaps
today, orchestral players have so few opportunities to do real recording sessions that they don't
know how to do them anymore. But, back in the "golden age," both the best orchestras and the most
successfully-recorded conductors were very clear on the fact that a recording session is different
from a live performance and were very good at the kind of super-precise and quick-on-the-draw
music-making that is required for successful recordings. Live concerts can be more sloppy because of
audience enthusiasm. They tend not to hold up as well to repeated listening outside of the live
venue. A great recording is closer to perfection as far as each note being rendered correctly within
the larger context of the music. Conductors like Dorati, Reiner, Szell and Solti (coincidentally,
all Hungarians, and there were many other "golden age" conductors of other nationalities who made
long-loved recordings) really understood this and made many great recordings.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording technology
> On 18/11/2014, Tom Fine wrote:
>> Find a top-rate orchestra in a good acoustic space, get some serious
>> funding to restore the vintage equipment (last I checked, Schoeps
>> wants several thousand dollars per mic to factory-restore M201's, and
>> they can't guarantee results since they have no original parts on
>> hand; Steve Jackson at Pulse Techniques can make near-clones of the
>> Pultec preamps for several thousand dollars per channel), gather up a
>> whole bunch of digital gear to test, and we're ready to roll, just for
>> the feasibility-testing stage though! I won't hold my breath. ;)
>> Seriously, I thought about this at one point and came up with a $25k
>> budget just to get started, just for gear and gear restoration (figure
>> several multiples of that to pay a producer/editor, recording engineer
>> and mastering engineer). Maybe 10-15 albums per year, at a cost of
>> about $15k per album factoring in travel costs, and then add more for
>> manufacturing of the end product (which is what? single CDs? they're
>> supposedly toxic to profits in the classical business. SACDs? can't
>> live on sales of a few thousand units. downloads? what format? how
>> will you market them?), marketing, etc. There is no classical
>> recording business plan except a crazy rich patron that works for that
>> kind of craftsmanship today.
> I wonder how companies such as CPO or BIS manage to finance their steady
> stream of issues of single CDs of often little-known orchestral works.
> Don Cox
> [log in to unmask]