Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by George P, May 29, 2015.
This is the box I have:
Having largely completed my purge of duplicate 78s, I'm turning my attention to LPs. This morning, while sifting through a mountain of the things destined to go away, I had Toscanini's 1951 commercial recording of the Verdi Requiem, made when the conductor was 84 years old, running for company.
On the basis of the Dies Irae section as presented there, that is one Almighty God whose anger you do not want to incur!
Among the LPs, there are three other Toscanini accounts of the Verdi Requiem, all concert recordings, all probably pretty dubious transfers.
5/27/1938 Helge Roswaenge, Zinka Milanov, Kerstin Thorborg, Nicola Moscona; BBCSO (Arturo Toscanini Society ATS 1108/1109)
11/23/1940 Jussi Bjorling, Zinka Milanov, Bruna Castagna, Nicola Moscona; NBCSO (Arturo Toscanini Society THS 65031/2)
6/24/1950 Giacinto Prandelli, Renata Tebaldi, Chloe Elmo, Cesare Siepi; La Scala Or. (ERR Historical Operatic Treasures ERR 115-2)
Anybody have any opinions about how these stack up against the RCA commercial release? Any thoughts about how these masterings compare to other, later issues? Some snooping around suggests at least some critics like the 1940 one better or at least consider it a strong complement to the RCA; I found next to nothing about the La Scala one.
Today seems to be a good day for masses, or at least a day when I'm listening, er, en masse. A while back you asked for recommendations of Baroque music, and I just finished revisiting one work worth mentioning that didn't come up earlier: Musica Antiqua Koln joining forces with the Gabrieli Consort in the Missa Salisburgensis of 1682, thought to have been composed by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (later Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber). If you have a 5-channel system and multichannel SACD player, this disc will give every side of it a powerful workout--no "front channels plus ambiance" here, as the work was written to come at its spectators from all directions in the Salzburg Cathedral.
As a celebratory, ceremonial occasional piece marking the 1100th anniversary of Salzburg as a center of Christianity, it was designed to instill awe, and boy does it. Baroque circumstance just doesn't get any more pompous than this. Needless to say, the performers here are not shy about seizing every opportunity to put the work over the top.
The attribution to Biber is likely but not certain. I can say, however, that Biber is one of my favorite Baroque composers, whose music has a habit of being delightfully eccentric. He was a devoted exponent of scordatura, which is adopting an unconventional tuning for the the violin (or other string instrument). His so-called "mystery sonatas" (named because they echo the mysteries of the rosary, not because of the tuning) are a prime example. Well worth exploring in general, mass or no mass.
Oh, a word of warning, should you get the Missa: it opens with distant trumpet fanfares. Don't turn them up to normal listening level, because one track later the chorus comes in at full, up front and personal volume and will blast you out of the room.
Now enjoying a lovely performance of the Scriabin Piano Concerto from the above CD.
Another great romantic concerto, played by one of the best pianists I've ever heard.
Many thanks. I’ll try to listen over the weekend. I only have a two channel system though not 5.1.
Not to worry. With my usual focus on 78s and early LPs, I'm much more likely to indulge in "one channel" listening myself. I do think multichannel has some value, however, for works like the Missa Salisburgensis or the Berlioz Requiem, which were designed as immersive experiences in the first place; those pieces folks like Gabrielli wrote for St. Mark's in Venice would be another example. For some strange reason, however, those works seldom seem to get the multichannel treatment; instead, it usually seems to end up either reproducing back-of-hall echo for soloists or plopping the listener down in the middle of an ensemble for a possibly interesting but unnatural "music in the round" approach. I wouldn't even bother with it except that it makes possible hearing some of those three-channel masterings from the early days of stereo as they were recorded rather than mixed down into two. Even so, I haven't invested much in multichannel, and I seldom take the trouble to fire it all up; my "5 channel" system (no sub) is cobbled together from gear scavenged (mostly) out of every closet in the house--three amps, three unmatched brands of speaker, and a player I picked up off the roadside from somebody's trash, the one I bought for the purpose years ago having quit working.
I am confused. What do you mean by "back-of-hall echo for soloists?" Most multichannel recordings that I have capture the ambiance of the recording site fairly well with the performers positioned as they are for regular live performances. This includes works such as those you have identified. Are you suggesting that some other performer arrangement should be adopted for recording purposes?
If I may surmise from your sig line, I'm guessing you're into multichannel in a big way. (Sorry, for no hostile reason not a regular reader of Stereophile--just not enough hours in the day for all the stuff I need to do, which includes writing for TNT-Audio, mostly on matters related to vintage audio.) This thread isn't the place to debate strictly "audio gear" matters--it's deliberately limited to matters directly related to classical music, or nearly so--but suffice it to say what you call "ambiance" I call "hall echo." I don't think that's worth the hassle, but you and others are free to disagree; as noted I'm primarily interested in recordings from the pre-stereo era, and my multichannel setup is an improvisation. I merely mentioned it in the previous post in an effort to reassure Ian Roberts he needn't bypass the recording for want of multichannel capability.
I couldn't access my Toscanini 1951 version, but I knew I had the Verdi Requiem (Van Kempen) waiting in a stack of CDs to be heard. It is with the Orchestra ... di Santa Cecilia, recorded in 1955 by Philips. An image of the original LP covers:
I am diving into your articles in the vintage section at tnt as time allows.
Insomnia? Or just brave? Either way, I hope you enjoy, and thanks!
I placed an order for this, thanks for posting!
Now enjoying this very special performance of the Ballades.
Has anyone here heard these recordings of Bach's organ works? I saw a copy of this set available for a reasonable price and wanted your two cents.
Scottish chamber Orchestra Wind Soloists
Ohhh...I need that!
Nice write up on the Vessel cartridge for 78s. I am enjoying their LP cartridge for my 33 rpms.
Forgive me if this is not the correct thread - I just acquired about 100 or so classical records that appear to be from the 50s and 60s. As a new classical fan, are there any things I should be looking out for specifically, say certain labels or orchestras?
This by all means is the right thread, and if I may steal a march on founder and de facto moderator George P., welcome!
By "look out for," do you mean $$$? Mercury Living Presence and RCA Living Stereo from that period are in collectors' demand, if they are in good condition and if they are sufficiently uncommon (in other words, the Van Cliburn record of Tchaikowsky's 1st Piano Concerto sold like hotcakes and, by the laws of supply and demand, is not especially "hot" as a collectible). Early Deutsche Gramophon "tulip label" issues are more desirable than later ones. Otherwise, it's hard to generalize; your best bet is to consult completed auction listings and the like, as some particular records are in demand and others aren't. For example, on the early '50s budget Remington label, recordings by the pianist Etelka Freund tend to go for elevated prices; those by the pianist Felicitas Karrer do not. A set of the Bach violin sonatas by violinist/composer George Enescu on Continental (a relative label of Remington) used to go for huge money; I think they've come down some in recent years. Records of violinist Albert Spalding on Remington went for good money; dunno if they have come down, too. Records of violinist Walter Schneiderhan on Remington may be worth a few dollars at most. And so it goes.
If you're talking "recording quality," the reason for popularity of those RCA and Mercury issues is their reputation for excellent recorded sound. On the former, it's really hard to go wrong with the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner, who pulled off the neat and uncommon trick of mating truly top-notch performances to truly top-notch recorded sound, more often than not. Pre-stereo RCA can be variable; for example, the recordings of Arturo Toscanini mate often incandescent performances with problematic sonics. Conductor Leopold Stokowski's recordings usually were technically excellent, but he could be willful as an interpreter. Columbia doesn't get a lot of love in regard to recorded sound, but it had a stable of performers on tap second to none. Those Remingtons I mentioned above had lousy surfaces to begin with and assume far, far more than standard treble rolloff (RIAA equalization had not yet become the norm when they were made), but they captured a surprising number of important veteran artists in their last years and important artists to be early on (and also a lot of artists whose main virtue was that they would record for peanuts). DG was much admired way back when for its silent surfaces, but it doesn't get as much respect for its recording quality, particularly as the label marched into the stereo era. London (English Decca in its US trade name) FFRR and FFSS (for "full frequency range recording" and "full frequency stereo sound") are much admired. Angel (US trade name for EMI) generally isn't. But bear in mind, these are all broad generalities, and individual recordings can vary from them in either direction.
If you're talking music, well, that's going to be a matter of your personal taste. My advice would be to play the records and find out what you like. Keep those records out in regular rotation; put the others away for a while and then come back to them. As you get used to the "language" of classical music, which reflects several centuries of changing ideas about how music should sound and how it should be put together, you'll undoubtedly find that at least some pieces initially in the "hard nut to crack" category turn into "I really love this." Also, keep track of which performers are involved in your favorites; if several of your favorites involve, say, Arturo Toscanini or pianist Rudolf Serkin, that's a good clue that you might enjoy exploring more of their recordings down the line.
Happy exploring! Please keep us apprised of how it goes. If you want to list some of the records, I'm sure many of the denizens here will be more than happy to chime in about them.
That is a fine Scriabin PC. I think I will give it a listen.
Really appreciate the warm welcome and your informative post. My main thought was to sort out the better sounding records and then give them a listen to determine whether I’d like to keep them or not. Unfortunately I don’t believe there are Living Stereo records as I was familiar with that while sorting through and didn’t pull any. I did find a Living Presence, and there are possibly more in the batch I haven’t sorted through. Most seem to be Columbia and Nonesuch.
Are there any specifics to know about Columbia or Nonesuch? I’m a jazz collector so I’m aware of the Columbia labels 6-eye and beyond. Also, assuming there’s a significant portion of the collection I won’t want to keep for myself, what’s the best thing to do with them? Will record stores be interested or would I have trouble giving them away?
From my own limited, local experience, in this day and age, the vast majority of Columbia vintage will not fetch more than a couple of bucks, at best (and in perfect condition). The Nonesuch'es will do better if contemporary material.
What would be considered contemporary material? Apologies, my knowledge is very limited
Separate names with a comma.