Classical Recordings from the Golden Age


Hello All,After having accidentally damaged Quad 2905 panels in both speakers, I’ve been sending speaker after speaker out for panel replacements. So currently, I am right back in mono mode while having a speaker sent out for said repair. The logical choice in a situation like this would be, to strictly play mono recordings. My CD collection is for the most part made up of stereo recordings however, I should add that many of my favorite CD’s are mono remasters from the golden age on labels like Andate, Orfeo d’Or, Music and Arts of America, Testament and Pearl, Great Pianists of the 20th Century, etc.... And, those that especially stand out as favorites are live recordings, i.e.the Salzburg Festival.One major priority when CD shopping is to look for well done remasters from the original sources. The Andante label was far and above a stand out when it came to digital remastering and I so wish they were still in business. However, Orfeo d’Or is a black belt label and now my primary go to for historical recordings. I should note that the Clara Haskil Salzburg Festival recording is remarkable as is the Irmgard Seefried Recordings 1944-67 box set. The Gerard Souzay disc on Testament is a treasure.I could go on listing my favorites but I’m wondering if others also collect mono remasters and if so, what are your recommendations?
goofyfoot
Sorry, for some reason Audiogon is not allowing me to create paragraphs in the above post.
You can play stereo CDs using the mono switch on your preamp (if it has one). If not, then a y-connector (2 males to either 1 m/f) from your preamp's two left-right outputs will work.
I like to listen to mono LPs and CDs on my stereo system. Image is centered between the two speakers.
I believe that's a generational thing roberjerman as people once only owned one speaker. Yes, I have a cable running between the left and  right sub outputs which renders the amp mono.

I have kept my ARC LS-1 all these years expressly for it’s mode switch---Stereo/Reverse/Mono/Left/Right. Before the current rash of 60’s albums issued in Mono on LP and CD (Dylan, The Beatles), the Stereo pressings of albums I wanted to hear in Mono (not having a Mono cartridge) would go into my main pre-amp, the Stereo signal sent out the tape out jacks to the LS-1, where the Mono switch would be engaged. The now Mono signal would be sent back to the main pre via the main output jacks of the LS-1 (the Mode switch is located after the tape output in the circuit) to be heard. Sure, the extra signal processing (extra pre-amp and two pair of ic cables) resulted in a loss of ultimate transparency, but those 60’s albums don’t have that great of sound anyway. I have always played my Mono LP’s with a Stereo cartridge, but a Mono cartridge is in my sights.

A Mode switch is also fun for listening to the Left and Right channels of 60's albums that have the instruments on one, the vocals and other overdubs (tambourine, etc.) on the other. Early Beatles, for instance. You can also switch between the two to hear the God-awful sound of "Electronically Reprocessed For Stereo" (Mono mixes with phase and frequency distortions added) 60's albums, offered for $1 more than the Mono version. In the late-60's, all the early-mid 60's Mono albums of The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, etc. were cut-out of the label's catalogs, a hole was drilled in the cover or a corner of it cut off, and sold for 59 or 69 cents in drug stores, markets, etc. We collectors made the rounds of the stores regularly, looking for copies for either our collections or to sell/trade to/with other collectors. I still have hundreds of them in my LP racks.

Yes bdp, mono recordings are being reintroduced for there audiophile significance, i.e. MOFI 'Surrealistic Pillow'.  In some ways, I still believe that splitting the recording into two channels to create a stereo recording is somewhat of a gimmick. And while mono remasters are on the rise, they pale in comparison to the number of stereo recordings available. 
My interest in mono classical recordings doesn't lye so much in the mono recorded listening experience, as it does in the artists performances from a time period while recorded music was still in its earliest stages. And with technological advancements making early recordings more listenable, I still find the selection of these reissues limited. Given the lack of response to my post, I believe that my subject matter may be too arcane for a larger audience. Nevertheless, please feel free to list any mono titles you'd recommend!
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 - Szigeti/Beecham on Naxos (transfer by Mark Obert-Thorne)

https://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.110973
Thanks daverz, if I’m not mistaken this Prokofiev concerto was recorded at Abbey Road with the LSO on August 23rd 1935. I have a digitally remastered recording of this as well as the Bartok and Bloch pieces but on the Andante Label. If you’re a fanatical Szigeti fan,the Andante Szigeti is a four disc set but it’s out of print.http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Feb02/Szigeti.htm

@goofyfoot ,
My interest in mono classical recordings doesn't lye so much in the mono recorded listening experience, as it does in the artists performances from a time period while recorded music was still in its earliest stages.

Same here. I have a collection of classical mono based on my love of the great conductors and the noteworthy performances we seldom hear.
  I have a vast CD collection of modern classical; I prefer minimal mic techniques, but that stopped in the 1970s.

I have a limited knowledge of good quality classical recordings from the early years. I've been mostly disappointed in the SQ of my purchases. So far, Music & Arts and Orfeo d’Or are the standouts.
I recently went on a tear of buying Horenstein CDs and had to stop due to the uneven SQ. Some recordings from the 40's are distorted and I have no way of knowing if that's from the original, or if distortion was introduced during many generations of dubbing over the years.

Is there a guide to the best recordings or do I need to keep searching classical forums?


Forgot to mention the Testament label as one that I look for. I usually purchase CD remasters since the original issues are tough to enjoy.
  FYI, I'm not a novice, I worked in analogue studios. I believe hiss is a good thing in a remaster, it means it wasn't over-processed.

Thanks lowrider! Seems you've resurrected this thread so thank you. As far as Testament, I do have a few. My last purchase was a Richter recording of Schubert on the APR label.

What I've been looking for recently are live radio broadcasts. The Salzburg Festival is plentiful in this regard. Less common but near to my heart are WDR Köln related recordings however SWR are easier to come across. 

As far as a guide, I typically will look at label websites directly and cross reference them with arkivmusic.com. The Audite and the Hänssler Classic labels seem to offer several historical recordings but I've yet to purchase any.
@goofyfoot ,
That’s some good info, thanks. I have been directed to the record label websites when using Google. I should go to the label sites more often, good idea.

I have a couple of Salzburg Festival discs; think I will start Googling them. I also have some live broadcasts on CD. They’re all listenable as historical recordings, although some have better SQ than others. The best quality recordings by radio stations were performances that were to be aired at a later date or were tape-delayed. Most of them were air checks by the stations of live broadcasts and then issued to the public on vinyl or tape. These are lesser quality probably due to slower recording speeds and recording the signal after it had been transmitted. As you know, in those days the goal was to broadcast a live concert to the public, not cut a record.
In any event, many are great performances and that’s what I look for.

When I started buying classical, I was only interested in the best SQ. Then I realised I was missing out on some great performances. I have many mono CDs of the great conductors, such as Furtwängler’s
Bruckner performance for the Nazi elite.
  
I now prefer listening to early mono performances by Toscanini, Klemperer, et al, rather than their later work.


lowrider, you may enjoy reading this citation by Rachmaninoff,
https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/rachmaninov-on-the-future-of-broadcasting

The Orfeo d'Or live radio broadcast recordings are vey good. Most are from the Salzburg Festival. I highly recommend the Clara Haskil,
https://www.orfeo-international.de/pages/cd_c706061b_e.html

Also, I don't know if your familiar with the now defunct Andante label but those recordings are some of my favorites. They have been out of print for some time but you can find them throughout the internet, though sometimes with an inflated asking price.

I believe my next purchase will be an Audite download of Von Karajan conducting Mozart with Wilhelm Kempff at piano. Yes, I did say download; https://www.audite.de/en/product/CD/95602-edition_von_karajan_ii_w_a_mozart_piano_concerto_no_20_sym...

Lastly I'd like to add that I wish websites would start distinguishing mono from stereo on their product descriptions.
Very interesting comments made by Rachmaninoff in 1931...

"To me it seems that the modern gramophone and modern methods of recording are musically superior to wireless transmission in every way"
This sounds like the current debate of the SQ of physical media vs. streaming.

   And I like this quote...
"through the medium of the gramophone we can now offer the public performances closely similar to those we give on the concert platform. Our records should not disappoint the most critical listener who has heard us in the flesh: to the millions who have no opportunity of doing so, they convey a just and accurate impression of our work."


Orfeo has an excellent website. Is the music for sale or is this only an archive? I didn't see any pricing.
I'm really interested in the Salzburg Festival section of live broadcasts. There are so many available.

I'm going to spend some time looking thru their catalog. Many thanks.

lowrider, I borrowed the d'Orfeo George Szell box set from the library via its state wide borrowing system. I've also purchased a number of box sets i.e. Irmgard Seefried, Mozart Piano Sonatas (various artists), Wilhelm Furtwangler. I believe I either ordered them from arkivmusic or from Amazon. But regarding the entire catalogue, I'm not sure what is still in production and what isn't.

For vinyl remasters, I'm looking at the Anlogphonic catalogue on Elusive Disc and Acoustic Sounds.

Please let me know what stands out and/or your impressions of!
Szell is one of my absolute favs. Dont think I've heard any young Szell performances. That's a very expensive set, I'll look for some of his early work.

I wanted to expand on my thoughts of buying early performances, even if they're remasters. I'm a bit gun shy since buying the quite pricey Horenstein CDs only to find there was a lot of distortion. I'd like to collect more of his work, but not if it is poor quality.

I will however trust the labels you have mentioned. 
No LPs for me right now since my new preamp is linestage only.

lowrider, I forgot to ask, any knowledge about the source of these radio recordings, i.e. the Orfeo Salzburg recordings and how these were recorded? How much reference or hifi from these sources can be reasonably expected given their age and from where they were obtained?
The major labels have some very good transfers on their earlier recordings.

The Decca Mono box is extraordinary and a must have for any classical enthusiast no matter their stripe. 

DG and EMI have a number of Furtwangler recordings. I find on quite a few of his radio recordings the audience noise too distracting. Especially after the war everybody in Austria and Germany seems to have come down with a terrible collective cold and can't help but cough through Bruckner. 

Another must have is the Toscanini HMV Recordings Icon box set now on Warners.

Plenty of early Von Karajan in Warner box sets recorded by Walter Legge in the 40s and 50s.

And the great Mengelberg has a box set on Decca. 

Another great smaller label is Tahra. Up there with Testament as a very fine private label with some really incredible Furtwangler and Scherchen.

There's a lot of stuff out there.


I dont know how the early Salzburg was recorded. In the 1930s there were no regional radio stations so the live broadcasts were via shortwave.
I dont know how many of these performances were recorded, or if they were recorded.

In the golden age of radio, I'll bet the recordings were of the highest quality for that era. Knowing Germans as I do, it probably was SOTA. Also, the festival was so popular by this time that recording the event would have been of utmost importance.
I'd love to know how the recording setup was implemented.

Thanks Roxy, I have been looking at the Decca mono box set for a few months now and am glad that you give it such high praise. With respect to the Tahra label, they are now unfortunately finito. I do own a few CD's on the Tahra label.
Yes Tahra is gone but sometimes their recordings can still be found on Amazon.
Music and Arts another excellent historical label I think is still in business. They have a great Furtwangler Brahms cycle.
BMG has a Toscanini Philadelphia set which many think in terms of sound has been greatly improved and better sound than his NBC recordings.
Any classical enthusiast must get the Mitropoulos Mahler 1st on Masterworks Heritage.

For vocal works despite the compromised sound the Callas/DiStefano  '51 Tosca from Mexico City is beyond belief it is so harrowing.
Pearl despite the noise has wonderful Schipa, Pinza, Leider, Tenors From the Bolshoi and so many others.
Ferrier has the great box set on Decca and there is the early mono Schwarzkopf box set on Warners.
One cannot do without Toscanini's Falstaff and Otello. Karajan's Cosi, the Sawallisch Capriccio.

Lipatti, Neveu, Kapell, Rabin, Cantelli...the list goes on.
Elizabeth, do you know if the Pearl label has closed shop? They are no longer listed on the arkivmusic website and I can't find a home website for them. Yes, EMI, DG, Phillips, etc..., all of the larger labels have reissued a vast catalogue of historical recordings however I don't believe all of their previous releases come from the original source. I know that Music and Arts will reveal that part of a particular recording did not derive from the original source tapes where and when it applies. And Orfeo has proudly stated that the source tapes for a particular recording were pristine and of the chest quality.

However, as remaster reissues are becoming good for business, some larger labels are beginning to invest in them by using original sources and by hiring the best people for remixing and remastering. In the DECCA Sound; The Mono Years description it states,  'and for the most part transferred from the best possible sources. ' So, this follows good logic in that if a label goes through the trouble of sourcing and remastering at the highest level, they'll make claim to it.
lowrider, I've seen the entire RCO anthology collection for as low as $350.00-ish. The prices may continue to fall, which is what I'm waiting for. That Volume 1 that you cite is pretty hard to find by itself. I also believe that Mengelberg is the director throughout volume 1, where as van Beinum is direct throughout volume 2.
I really like the lineup of Volume 2 but I'll wait for a better price...$40 for a worn Good Will copy, no thanks. 
It's good to see many performances being released on orchestra record labels. The few I've heard are good quality.

I think I'll go for the Toscanini Philadelphia on BMG. I could never listen to the NBC studio sound for very long.

lowrider, I'm not sure if the RCO anthologies are still in print. However,  prices regarding arcane classical titles always seem to plunge over time.

I only have Toscanini on vinyl, the complete Beethoven and Brahms box sets with the NBC. My thought is that the NBC is extremely idiosyncratic and can become tiresome though the quality of playing is obviously high.
I've always had the same opinion of Emanuel Ax.

Last time we chatted on this subject, we were discussing the early van Karajan Beethoven recordings on DG and found that there was a Japanese reissue of the 7th.The possibility of amazing sounding Japanese reissues keeps me intrigued also.
I have the Toscanini LvB box set 1951,52 on CD. Very good remasters. What I should have said was the quality of the live 1940s NBC is tough to stay with.

I have Karajan's 1957 BPO Bruckner, which is slow and thoughtful and wonderful...would like to find more like this early reading.  
Is the early Karajan with the Philharmonia?

I believe he DG box set is of the 1963 recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic. As far as the Japanese reissue of the 7th, I can't find it listed but my memory tells me that it comes from the above said collection and that it was the best recording of the whole.

Wasn't there a complete symphony collection from the 50's; I can't find it anywhere.
I have the 1963 BPO remastered... Fantastisch !!  Sound quality is far superior to the original issue.
https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphonies-Gundula-Janowitz/dp/B0000C03AH/ref=sr_1_18?s=music&i...

The 1950's mono cycle (remastered)
https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Symphonies-KARAJAN-PHILHARMONIA-ORCH/dp/B000ZBPQF8

The samples from the mono album sound very good. I like this early interpretation very much.
I checked some timings, this earlier cycle is slightly slower. It's interesting that the timings of the 5th are virtually identical.


Thanks lowrider, I didn't realize the earlier recordings were on EMI.
In my mind, von Karajan stands out as a Beethoven conductor but his Brahms interpretations are also super fantastic but Brahms is close to my heart. These are recommended on the Arkiv page;

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/albumList.jsp?name_id1=1441&name_role1=1&name_id2=56047&...