Dear Tom,

In reply...


On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 7:45 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> 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.
Actually, that line was called "Great Performances" and was, indeed, done
mostly from Lp cutting masters ("two-tracks") often with little or no
expertise in the A/D transfer, audible splices unfiexed, etc.

> 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.
Essential Classics was something of a grab bag regarding audio quality but
after 1992 it improved when A&R rather than Marketing supervised the studio

> 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.

In general, the Columbia master tapes sound better than any Lp release.
Their true quality was much more accurately reflected in the CD reissues
from the early 90s on.*

> 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.

*Fred Plaut did not believe in stereo and Masterworks did not make a
regular stereo master until December, 1956 (the Bernstein MESSIAH). His mic
technique was referred to by many of his colleagues as "multi-mic mono".
Only one Columbia engineer, Harold Chapman ("Chappie"), had a true
understanding of stereophony and how to mic for it, which is why his
recordings possess a true stereo image.*

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 RCA approaches.

-- Tom Fine

*In truth, Columbia was "into a 'produced sound'" from 1939 on. All
33-1/3rpm lacquer masters produced after that date assumed post-production
in creating the 78rpm masters. EQ, reverb, and level adjustments were all
routine and the practice continued into the Lp era. Its 3-track, 1/2-in
stereo masters had all three tracks in constant motion. We automated
several mixes in doing a/d transfers of them and the sight of the faders
during playback was a sight to see. Andy Kazdin was certainly delighted
with "produced sound". He wanted no part of documentary reality. "We're
making MAGIC here!" was his motto.*

> ----- 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
>>>  on
>>> 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
>>> how
>>> rich the piano tone was, how clear the various piiano voices and
>>>  orchestral
>>> 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
>>> that
>>> 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-
>>> something
>>> 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
>>> only
>>> negative  is that the time between movements is often too short and
>>> unrelated
>>> 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

Dennis D. Rooney
303 W. 66th Street, 9HE
New York, NY 10023