Telarc - Bishop Reiner
Mercury - You are there!
Hans Zimmer (don't care for the music but good quality productioins)
I see you missed these - so perhaps your group don't care for minimal microphone recordings but prefer the "multi-miked" mixes....it is a matter of taste....or perhaps youprefer vinyl again a matter of taste.
Mercury is in the list I posted. And, this simply is my personal set of preferences based on 35+ years of vinyl accumulation, not that of a group. If you look at my list of recording engineers and have any sense of their work, you would know that these engineers all focus on direct minimal miking: its the only way to achieve what is for me a priority: " 'natural-sounding' recording that captures the performers and instruments in a real acoustic space."
As to Telarc, it's always good to share additional points of view - I don't happen to care for the sound of Telarc's digital recordings but loved their very early analog work. Thus, not on my list, but glad to see you mention them.
And yes, my preference is for vinyl and that is the perspective from which I created my list. You may note that this is posted in the Analog forum. :-)
Thanks for contributing.
I would probably add the Cozart-Fine and Mohr-Layton teams from the 50-60's Mercury and RCA recordings among your recording engineers. The latter's recordings sometimes come across a little bright or hi-fi to me, but for the most part their recordings were top notch, and they had some great orchestras to record. Keith Johnson at Reference Recordings has generally made superb recordings, both in analog and digital, though some of the early performances he recorded were not the greatest. Were you to venture into digital, I'd add Delos/John Eargle and Dorian /Craig Dory to your labels and recording engineers, and for organ recordings I would recommend the Priory label, a lot of different engineers but generally well-recorded. I don't think you can overlook the producers in these teams, as they have as much, if not more, of a say in the sound of a record. Robina Young at Harmonia Mundi and Amelia Heygood (I think, going from memory) at Delos always seemed to produce excellent records.
I had not realized it was David Jones who made those great piano recordings. They even sound great on the VAI CDs that were made from those tapes--some of the best digital recordings of piano I've ever heard on redbook CD.
Russ, I agree with your thoughts. John Earle and Craig Dory made excellent recordings that I've enjoyed immensely - always regretted not having their work represented much on vinyl. And I share your view of the producers you mention. I'd also add Charles Gerhardt
, Christopher Bishop, EMI, and Joanna Nickrenz
, whose work with her long time partner Marc Aubort is some of the best we have.
Rushton - In your list I don't see Deutsche Grammophon. What do you think of that label, its recordings, and its engineers? Thanks.
my personal favorite are the columbia-360 grey/blue labeled recordings- Berstein and the NYP/Columbia Symphony O. as well as eugene ormandy and the philidelphia orch. are very dynamic with very low noise levels and quiet pressings. the bernstein recordings of 1.gershwin riblue and amiparis and 2.william tell and other favorite overtures are imho two records that still "snap, crackle, and pop". they even sounded good on the BSR turntable my parent's bought (a nightmare, i know, but it still played records).
Rgurney, I find Deutsche Grammophon orchestral recordings to be very hit or miss, and mostly miss sonically. I generally avoid them unless for a particular performance. For me, the problem with the majority of the DGG orchestral recordings is that they tend to be massively multimiked and very frequently compressed. DGG moved to multimiking in the early 1960s contemporaneously with a change in ornwership, sometime around 1961/62 if I recall correctly. Add to this that I'm particularly fond Karajan's conducting from his DGG era nor Ozawa's, both of whom make up a large portion of the DGG catalog. I do have quite a few DGG recordings in my music library, but I typically avoid them except for particular performances (e.g., the Leitner/Kempff Beethoven piano concertos, 138774/138775, the Ozawa/Perlman Stravinsky Violin Concerto, 2531110).
On the other hand, many DGG chamber music recordings are quite good, imo. It's as though these were produced by an entirely different and autonomous group. Similarly with the DGG subsidiary label Archiv, focused on early music and included in my personal list.
Again, this is entirely my personal preference based on my listening priorities, and the list I offered was of those record labels I purchase without hesitation even if I don't know the performance.
Hope this helps,
What about ECM New Series? There are too many stunning Arvo Part and Hilliard Ensemble recordings to list, and that only scratches the surface of what this label has to offer.
The (fairly) recent John Holloway (baroque violin) releases of works by Biber, Schmelzer, and Veracini . . . and the Bach solo partitas, are particularly highly recommended.
Kirkus, I agree with you about ECM: a good label with excellent artists, performances and sonics. Their classical catalog was somewhat limited in the vinyl era and I haven't kept track of what more they may have done in their CD catalog over the years.
On DG, I will chime in (as I always do) that I believe that a DG recording generally is not produced with the goal of accurately portraying a musical event (i.e., a concert performance), but rather the music itself--they are, and admit that they are, aiming their recordings at music lovers, not audiophiles. As a result, the engineer sets up a lot of mikes (more than Decca and EMI, who had plenty of spot mikes but mainly used them for compensating for hall anomolies and correcting imbalances they had not caught when the recording was made), which feed into a large mixing console, and it is the tonemeister (I guess equivalent to a producer) who decides how to mix the mike feeds for the final product. On chamber music and smaller scale orchestral music, this is not that much of a problem--in fact, I believe Archiv is a DG affiliate that specializes in Baroque and earlier classical music, and their recordings in general are quite good, though perhaps a little on the bright side. But for full orchestral recordings with large orchestras and complex music the result can be oversized solo instruments (not just the featured soloist--which most labels are guilty of to some extent, Decca the least IMO--but also a spotlight on a particular instrument in a passage) and a lack of a concert hall perspective. The effectiveness of this technique depends on the musical sensibilities of the tonemeister more than the ability of the orchestra; hence, there are a lot of musically satisfying DG recordings, but it's hit or miss. In addition, I find many of the DG recordings from the past (surprisingly, this has gotten better in the last few years) to be lightweight in the deepest bass and often overwhelmingly bright, almost as if the thought of reproducing a bass drum was too vulgar for them.
I agree point for point with Rcprince's comments about the DG recordings overall. The Archiv recordings are frequently of period instruments using both gut strings and higher tuning. This may account for the perception that these can be a bit brighter and, in my experiences, its this difference in the instruments.
I grew up with RCA Living Stereo Shaded Dogs being played constantly at home...Anything engineered by Lewis Layton was always in high esteem.
Count me as a fan of ECM - not only do they have fantastic recordings, but I also love their design sense. It's a shame that they're CD-only now.
Actually, I believe the earliest Everest had a black/silver label. I have the Everest Antil Corrobebee w/said label and it's quite good. I would also add Vox, with Abort/Nickrenz (sp) recording team. Yes, lp manufacture can be disappointing with regard to surface noise, but to me the lp's deliver enough to reveal the often great engineering.
Period groups that use gut strings (and curved bows)usually play at a LOWER "temperment". 415 vs 440 for example. so that would have nothing to do with the bright brittle sound they might have had.
As for personal favorites,I have to say Argo and British EMI dominate my collection. So many great English recordings from the 60s and 70s that I bought new.
I also have a place in my heart for Lyrita,Harmonia Mundi,Hyperion.
I would like to obtain some Proprius,but the prices on Ebay have been exorbitant. And since I can't read Swedish,I am not sure what I am getting sometimes.
Thanks to all the thoughtful Audiogon members who have already registered their impressions.
Being a "senior citizen" chronologically, I've had the opportunity to experience virtually the entire evolution of high fidelity recordings for home listening.
In terms of recording labels and engineers, starting with vinyl, my large collection was built on many excellent Columbia CS360's from the late '50s and early 60's, as well as RCA Living Stereo LSC categories. The pressings were far more reliable on Columbia than RCA, in terms of general surface noise, thumps, pops and the like. I too, loved the Mercury SR releases, especially because of the plethora of American composers, and particularly the work of Frederick Fennell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.
Imported records were hard to find in those days of the '50s and early '60s, even in NYC where I lived and had access to big stores like Sam Goody, The Record Hunter and the like. But superlative EMI's and early DGG European pressings were occasionally very rewarding purchases (at the generally lofty price of $5.98, rather than $2.99 for domestic labels on frequent sale!) I agree that the Decca/Londons were often wonderful, as well. I have many fine recordings from Ernest Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra on that label. Later, the Phase 4 series emphasized somewhat "gimmicky" audio quality, but for their time, they were great demonstration records.
Philips came in the late '60s and early '70s, and perhaps produced the finest massed-produced disks in terms of superlative, noise-free pressings. Of course, having Sir Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink, with the London Symphony and Concertgebouw orchestras respectively made for some incredible listening, particularly Davis' beautiful intepretations of Berlioz works, that in my opinion, are yet to be exceeded.
Direct Disk recording- a brief entrance and exit from the audio arena, but I still think my Doug Sax-produced and engineered Sheffield recordings compete with the very best of my CD's. A very limited repertoire to be sure, but the revitalization of this pre-tape recording technique makes for some very special listening, particularly with a turntable/arm/cartridge combination worthy of these rarities (which I now own). Bert Whyte made a few amazing Direct Disk recordings on Crystal Clear records with Virgil Fox, after his pioneering engineering work on Everest Recordings.
In terms of recording engineers specifically, I agree with many readers in treasuring the following masters' work:
Lewis Layton- simply amazing RCA recordings, often done with just a few (two or three) Telefuken mikes. Beautiful balance and thrilling dynamics. Check out the following vinyl recordings- Alexander Nevsky- Reiner, and Chicago Symphony, as well as Daphnis and Chloe complete ballet with Munch/BSO (not issued on CD). His murder in the the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC was a tragedy for those who appreciated his unique skills. Thanks to Lew, long live analog, in my opinion!
Edward "Bud" Graham- a very versatile Columbia engineer, who could bounce from Broadway to Gabrieli, and delivered gorgeous Philadelphia Orchestra recordings, NOT in the acoustically dead Academy of Music which was home to this orchestra, but in other sonically kinder venues, including Manhattan Center. One of my favorites- works of Frederick Delius, from 1962, including Brigg Fair.
C. Robert Fine- A legend, period. Made Mercury an early audioiphile's dream label. Countless superb recordings, that live on, through the kindness of his late wife and producer, Wilma Cozart. Many fine engineers today consider Bob their adopted "father."
Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz- agree completely that their work, which propelled Nonesuch to greatness, stands as landmark efforts for a then-new niche budget priced label, Nonesuch.
Kenneth Wilkinson- Fabulous recordings made in Kingsway Hall in London. Did a masterful job on the Charles Gerhardt series of movie score recordings for RCA. Of course, his many wide range, highly musical recordings include the famous "Kingsway rumble" of the nearby London Underground trains, at no extra charge!
Enter the digital age, and the explosion of work from around the world available in the first music megastore- Tower Records, and later Virgin Records (pre-internet shopping was more physically demanding, but fun in its own way).
Telarc Records- founded by a professional musician, and audiophile giant- Jack Renner. Unlike some of the other commentators in this thread, I greatly admire and own dozens of his CD's- my particular favorite is "Uptown," with Andre Previn, Mundell Lowe, Ray Brown. It is as natural a sound as you can get, in my opinion. I am honored to have Jack now as a personal friend, and he has given his "thumbs up" to my system, as well! His wife, Ms. Barbara Pease, is a top piano technican (who cares for my own Bosendorfer), and prepared the pianos for many of Jack and Andre's recordings. Having also met Mr. Previn in person, he echoes my great respect for Jack and Barbara. Jack used the minimalist mike technique, wherever possible, and pioneered by Bob Fine, whom he admires greatly, and has won over 20 Grammy awards. Now in retirement, but still with one of the keenest set of ears on earth, and a warm, witty persona to boot. He has said simply that his goal was to make a recording that put the listener "in the best seat in the house," by no means easily accomplished in such a consistent fashion!
Reference Recordings- Keith Johnson. Another extraordinary figure in audio. You can't go wrong with virtually any of this label's 100+ recordings, ranging from Jazz to Classical, to brass ensembles and pipe organ recordings. Keith, like Jack, is a recording genius, and has pioneered major developments in the field, including the HDCD system, as well as a fine line of high end audio gear, named Spectral.
Hyperion Recordings- Antony Howell- amazing liturgical recordings, including pipe organ, from massive British cathedrals, with exemplary sound clarity, despite the challenges of a huge, reverberant recording space. Also, Tony Faulkner- many fine recordings for the same label. Admired greatly by Jack Renner, for whom Tony did special modifications of the Sony digital recorder that succeeded the Soundstream machine that launched the digital era.
Delos Recordings- John Eargle- was a master at recording pipe organs, but did many fine orchestral and solo piano recordings for this label. Also favored minimalist mike work. Check out this wonderful label. Sadly, one of its founders, Ms. Amelia Haygood, passed away recently. Her co-founder, Ms. Carol Rosenberger, has made many fine piano recordings for the label.
Gothic Recordings- for those who love the pipe organ, this label is a treasure trove of fine CD's. Eugene Kimball, Joe Bellamy and Harry Munz have made fine recordings of pipe organs from all over the USA, including Hawaii. You will be rewarded with beautiful performances and recordings to complement them.
Chandos Recordings- A nearly 30 year record of countless fine recordings, many engineered by Brian Couzens. The uncanny sense of space that many of these performances provide make it a very consistently rewarding listening experience. The sound is usually crystalline, without being harsh. Many lesser known British composers finally found a deserved place on modern recordings, thanks to this wonderful label.
DGG- A gigantic repository of memorable recordings, but with variable recording quality. Some will overwhelm you, in terms of sound quality. Rainer Mallard is a particularly fine recording engineer.
John Newton- an award-winning free lance engineer, who owns Soundmirror, here in Boston. He knows the acoustics of Symphony Hall intimately. Won the Best Recording Grammy for his Daphnis and Chloe recording with James Levine and the Boston Symphony. Has made many fine recordings elsewhere, for Philips, Naxos and other labels.
For now, that's what I can recall, but perhaps other participants will reawaken memories of other worthy people in the field to be recognized and remembered.
Enjoy your listening!
Jonathan Kleefield, MD
Your post is a wonderful Christmas gift to us all, Jonathan (Slew43). Thank you!
Just to clarify: Earlier Lyrita pressings, produced by Decca, are thicker and sound better balanced than later pressings by Nimbus, which tend to sound a bit bright.
And the Lyrita Nimbus pressings tend to be more transparent and resolving through the midrange, with a bit more clarity and detail. I certainly have never been disappointed with a Nimbus pressing, as I have with some of the Decca pressings. YMMV.
Thanks so much, Rushton, for your very kind words, and Happy New Year!
Another recording engineer deserves recognition, though not in the audio-only world- Sean Murphy. His work is heard in many "blockbuster" movies, and John Williams has the highest praise for him, as does Jack Renner. Sean did some wonderful recordings of Williams and the Boston Pops in the 80's and 90's in Symphony Hall. A particularly spectacular recording is "Summon the Heroes," released as a CD on the Sony label in 1996. It is a collection of music, some composed by Williams as Olympic fanfares, and quite familiar to any sports devotee. Other compositions are included, some of which are rarities and most worthy of a listen. Mr. Murphy captured the Symphony Hall ambience superbly, and the recording has wide dynamic range, yet excellent instrumental clarity- a recommended demonstration-class recording.
Historically, though, check out some of the work of Murray Spivack, a drummer, who had a major influence on recorded film sound, beginning with his landmark engineering for the original, 1933 version of King Kong. One of his last projects was West Side Story, in 1961, made for United Artists, in multitrack stereo, and wonderfully restored on DVD. Quite a career, indeed.
Happy listening, fellow Audiogoners!
Great info on this thread.
Much of it jibes with my own experience/perception, plus I've learned some brand new things too.
My Thanks to the Contributors!
Great thread, just saw it for the first time. A couple of thoughts - I agree that some Columbia's are great, some are not. Someone told me once that Columbia did not use the same RIAA curve as everyone else all the time, and alot of the ones that sound bad can be corrected if you have a phonostage with that capability. Would be interested to hear opinions on that. Most of the 6 eyes and 2 eyes that I have sound good.
I have found RCA "shaded dogs" to be very hit or miss. Some of my biggest disappointments have come from shaded dogs, but some sound great.
IMO, I think Angel gets a very bad rap. It is certainly hit or miss, but there are some great sounding recordings on this label, and they had one of the greatest artist rosters of all time, and almost all are worth listening to for the performances alone. And many of them sound much better than advertised, even the US ones. Just tonight I listened to a couple of fantastic ones, including a 1962 recording of Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore doing Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin. Extremely well performed and recorded.
I'm taking a Poll on two very influential jazz recording engineers. Please visit my website and vote for your favorite jazz engineer: Rudy Van Gelder or Roy DuNann and spread the word. TIA.
Wow, what an amazing post!! Thanks to all.
Sorry for the geologically slow time in responding. So glad you enjoyed my little compendium of a lifetime of musical enjoyment. We are truly blessed with an enormous amount of fine recordings- one should only live long enough to get through even a portion of them!
To the many fine labels which have been mentioned, I would add the series of recordings that were issued on vinyl by the French label Astrée ca. 1973-1985, when that label was under the control of its founder, Michel Bernstein (who had previously founded Valois, which was mentioned earlier by Rushton).
In particular, the several Astrée LP's I have of Paul Badura-Skoda performing on early 1800's fortepianos are among my most treasured recordings, musically and most certainly sonically.
Almarg, I have the Paul Badura-Skoda LP's as well. all that you say and more !
He may not be the best pianist in the world, but he is beyond doubt the most under-rated one.
IMO only Radu Lupu can match him in Schubert.
All that said, day in , day out , BIS is my go-to lable.
Al, I enthusiastically concur with your addition of the Astrée label. Excellent recording quality and performances.
Great list, I would add the Signoricci Vinyl series from fone in Italy. Recorded by Giulio Cesare Ricci. Many are in a "Club of the 496" - they only print 496 copies. So they are expensive and sound great.
I would also add King Super Analogue for their reissues of the great London recordings. The pressings are always flat and quiet.
And aren't we lucky to have Quality Records reissues of superb quality?
Thanks for putting the list together. Looks like a survey of my record collection.
Apologies if this is a repeat.
1. What happened to Erato? Some amazing sounding LPs especially the Messiaen recordings.
2. Tony Faulkner. Don't have the original but check out the MHS reissue of Songs From the Fayrfax Manuscript. Sensational and he has many other good recordings.
3. Can't agree about the Golden Imports. They have that Phillips sound and are really compressed, missing information and sound like a blanket was thrown over the stage compared to the original release. YMMV....
To this otherwise excellent compendium, I would add fone from Italy. Their vinyl recordings are of acoustic instruments and feature Salvatore Accardo and other great artists.
The recording engine
er and producer is Giulio Cesare Ricci. Many of the records are from limited editions of 496, so the records are great pressings. The recording chain is all analog, records are pressed in Germany and Japan.
Two other notable reissue companies - King Super Analog for their London reissues, and Quality Records (Acoustic Sounds) for their numerous reissues including the RCA Living Stereo series.
All in all, this thread looks like a survey of my record collection.
A note about BIS. I understand that they used a Revox B77 with custom recording amplifiers. Records are reliably quiet and natural sounding.
Analogue Productions did some fine re-issues.
M&K Records did some interesting direct-to-disk recordings. Power and Glory (V1), features some extreme sound, including a 16 Hz tone reverberating through the stone cathedral in Los Angeles. If I remember correctly, Ken Kreisel was the recording engineer.
Oldvinyl, glad you have a record collection with such nice LPs! :-) I agree with you about Fone; a nice label with some very good recordings. Do you have the Rossini overtures LP with Chung/Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di S.Cecilia? One of my favorites.
Myles, Tony Faulker is listed and concur about the great work he's done over the years with Hyperion and other labels. The Fayrfax is a delight. Erato should have been included, good recommendation.
Rushton - yes, I have the Rossini on Fone, it is very good - incredible snap and dynamics. Currently, my favorite Fone recordings are Salvatore Accordo with the Paganini album and the Fritz Kreisler album.
And yes, I am lucky to have a great collection (approx 8,000) records. Many great stories to tell about how I came upon some of the records. One of my luckier finds was the Cisco King Super Analog when their importer went out of business. They were selling them for half off and in many cases way less than that.
Oooops, you are right. Missed that. Sorry!
For the original pressings of the Mercury Living Presence series, whenever Wilma Cozart Fine was involved, she was previewing the score as the master tape played, and signaled the mastering engineer when to widen or narrow the groove spacing depending on the demands of the dynamics.
This is how they managed to get up to 30 minutes on a side while preserving excellent dynamics.
It could also explain why the OP mentioned--concerning the Mercury SRI reissues--that "Philips crammed too much music on a side, resulting in some compression and sometimes rolled off bass..." If during remastering the groove spacing was averaged or automated, that could explain the compression and rolled off bass.
Wasn't there a second tape head reading the music ahead so that the spacing could be varied automatically? Or did that come later? In any event, the job was not done as well as it might have been as many Mercurys have music coming in very (I would say much too) close to the label.
Wasn't there a second tape head reading the music ahead so that the spacing could be varied automatically? Or did that come later?
That came later, and even with that, I think a preview tapehead with automatic spacing wouldn't have the range of manual control you'd have with Wilma Cozart reading the score a line or two ahead of the cut.
I don't see anyone mentioning Harmonia Mundi here or London Phase 4. Fabulous transparency on the HMs not to mention stellar performances of baroque and Renaissance music. The Phase 4s are spotty but the ones that work are like a party. Perhaps too closely recorded and at times too bright but they can be a lot of fun.
I don't see anyone mentioning Harmonia Mundi
Hmmm, how about the following references in the original post:
...(including Black Label, USA Label, and original French - outstanding!)
Peter McGrath (the Harmonia Mundi USA series)
Jean-Francois Pontefract (Harmonia Mundi, HM- series)
As to the London/Decca Phase 4 recordings, I didn't list them because they're not my cup of tea. They definitely can be exciting because they're so closely miked and multi-miked. It's a definite choice, but my preference has always been for more a natural soundstage and presentation of instruments in recordings.
Don't forget lyricon, s small Swedish label,whose the recording engineer is the same that proprius, Specialised in organ music and as excellent as proprius.
As I’m preparing for an upcoming music listening session with some friends where our theme will be "great recording engineers," I recalled this old thread. I now have two additions to the list of excellent recording engineers:
Bob Attiyeh - founder and principal recording engineer for Yarlung Records
. Bob has made some amazing recordings of both orchestral and chamber performances. He releases his recordings on vinyl, analog tape, CD and high resolution digital. I highly recommend exploring his discography.
Cesare Ricci - previously recommended by oldvinyl, above, I wanted to bring his name forward again because both he and Bob Attiyeh are actively making new classical recordings and releasing them on vinyl Ricci is the founder and principal recording engineer for Fonè Records, Italy
; he has made many delightful recordings that capture the sense of live performance. Some of his earlier recordings are a little closely miked for my tastes, but all are well worth hearing and adding to one’s collection.
Kenneth Wilkinson was responsible for a large number of the worlds greatest recordings. My favorite is sir Adrian boults concert favorites on chesky. They are also on the readers digest treasury. Night on bald mountain is incredible. My favorite version ever and it is an amazing recording. Also the Sheffield labs Moscow sessions is a fantastic vinyl collection.
Rushton, I believe you covered the bases very well and I would like to point out that one label was missing from your exemplary list, Astree of France and their outstanding chamber music recordings of Jordi Savall and many other great musicians by Dr Benjamin Bernfeld and company.
Also let’s not forget Pierre Studer and (Harmonia Mundi) Alberto Paulin’s recordings of the Clemencic Consort, Carmina Burana, Troubadours, Paniagua family and many others which they contributed with astounding excellence. Lastly, master Jean-Francois Pontefract is in a league of a few Saint’s & Sinner’s blessed with ears, that I would genuinely call golden!
Clemencic consort is excellent
spl, Astree is a great addition and is a label whose recordings I've long admired. Their chamber music recordings are some of the most realistic in my collection and I'm pleased to now know the name of Dr Benjamin Bernfeld as the author of many of those recordings.
Jean-Francois Pontefract is truly one of the great recording engineers, but I did fail to include
Alberto Paulin in my original (and somewhat random) listing. The Clemencic Consort and Paniagua family recordings over the years have been marvelous and I cherish the many I have.