On 18/11/2014, Tom Fine 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. 

There is a big difference between Eastern Europe, which has a long
tradition of classical music and was the home of many great composers,
and the Far East, where this music is a second language. Czechs, Poles
etc have the music in their blood.

> 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. 

Even so, live performances by Klemperer, Beecham, Toscanini and others
show them at their best. The sound quality is naturally not so good.

I have never heard a better performance of Beethoven's "Emperor" than
the live one by Rubinstein with Ormandy and the Philharmonia (London

> 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.
Of course there are many superb studio recordings, especially the ones
on Mercury and Living Stereo, and many from Decca and other companies.

But I don't mind a few wrong notes if the feeling and communication are
there. The wood is more important than the trees. The performance is
more important than the sound. Very occasionally, you get an outstanding
performance in excellent sound with no wrong notes.

Don Cox
[log in to unmask]