I disagree with your assertion about "no decent classical recordings", as from my point of view in the audience I think a lot of today's and yesterday's recording engineers and producers do a nice job of recording orchestras, though not necessarily replicating the concert experience. And the engineers do use a good deal of spot miking to bring out different instruments in a mix beyond what you might hear in the hall, if they, the producer and the artist want it.
I see your point of view, though. You might want to get a copy of the Telarc multichannel SACD of the Cincinnati Orchestra's recording with Stravinski's Petrushka, my understanding is that the recording was made more from the conductor's standpoint than from the audience's. Also, DG makes recordings that often spotlight instruments in a way that is not necessarily what you'd hear in a concert hall but what the people making the recording felt was musically appropriate, that might be along the lines you're thinking of.
Mercury Living Presence 35 MM recordings from late 50s early 60s will change the way you think about classical music recording forever.
Be careful what you wish for.
In the case of a classical symphony orchestra, to present the kind of detail you appear to be looking for a recording would likely have to be made with dozens of microphones spaced throughout the orchestra and placed close to the performers, with the outputs of those mics recorded on dozens of tracks, with those tracks being subsequently mixed and extensively processed on elaborate electronic consoles. Many such recordings have been issued over the years, on various labels including DG that was mentioned, and in addition to sounding nothing like what is heard in a concert hall they generally sound awful IMO/IME.
The best and most realistic recordings, such as the early Mercury recordings Geoff rightly suggested, as well as many early recordings from RCA and Decca, as well as many recordings or reissues on audiophile-oriented labels such as Chesky, Telarc, Reference Recordings, etc. were recorded with "purist" techniques using a minimal number of microphones (often just two or three), and were engineered with minimal electronic post-processing.
I don't think composers necessarily wrote for concerts - in the same way, the Beatles did not write songs to sing live..
What is wrong with dozens of mics? The cost of a mic in the scheme of things is nothing, and it is hardly much effort to collate the sounds with all the messing around and remixing that goes on. Days and days are wasted (spent) on messing around so that aspect is not a problem.
I am not sure that the word "purist" should be necessarily linked to the words "using a minimal number of microphones" One has no need for the other.
Many of the classical composers were very happy at providing shocks to their public, even getting banned on many occasions. I would imagine they would have loved to hear their works so that we could hear more exactly what they had written, as so much is submerged in the whole presentation. You would only need to look at any manuscript to see what we are just not hearing.
"I don't think composers necessarily wrote for concerts....".
Could be I'm taking that out of context and, as a result, misunderstanding, but in the days before mass media and electronics, how else would a composer have their work heard other than by live performance, i.e., in a concert?
What I am saying is that in those days the composer wrote the music.... and the only outlet was a concert. Doesn't mean he wrote to accommodate concert precepts
In a similar way, Tchaikowski wrote his violin concerto without understanding the violin - hence it is so difficult
They write the music - and then get it presented in whatever way is infradig at the time
I disagree with your assumption that classical composers would '
would have been excited if they could have presented their music in effectively another dimension', given that their music was either presented in a concert hall or salon(for small ensembles). To me the homogenizing of various instruments is what makes a classical piece worth listening to.
-Just listen to late Mozart when his use of winds and horns really shine.
If you record each instrument closely you lose the effect the composer was trying to make.
Am I incorrect in assuming you (tatyana69) are speaking of orchestras, music written for them, and performed in a large concert hall? Well, there is also "Classical" music written for smaller ensembles meant to be performed in smaller venues. "Classical" is used as a category for all "composer-written" music, but there are, as you may know, different periods within that form. During the Baroque period (1600-1750) there was a lot of music written for solo instruments (harpsichord, cello, violin) and small ensembles. And there are many incredible recordings of this music, where the intimate details of each instrument can be clearly heard from a close perspective, not dissimilar from those in "Pop" recordings. I have some harpsichord recordings which put the instrument right in front of me in my room. Or, even better, me right in front of the instrument in the room in which the recording was made. Look for Trevor Pinnock performing music for harpsichord on the British CRD label (on LP) for some electrifying music, recordings, and reproductions in your music room!
"Someone will say well that is not how you listen at a concert, but that
is just archaic. "
It's not archaic--it's real, it's natural. Guitarists and engineers go far out of their way to eliminate those string noises that you think you want to hear. As those noises are real and natural I'm okay with them, but if they can be reduced without otherwise diminishing the overall listening experience then I'm in favor of that. It's what we call signal-to-noise ratio.
BDP, I agree--I've been really enjoying harpsichord recordings lately, especially an old LP of Ralph Kirpatrick playing Scarlatti and a two-record box of Igor Kipnis playing assorted English pieces. The sound is frighteningly real!
two and three microphone classical and jazz recordings shine because of the microphones which are capturing the layering of the instruments in the space. No dropped in multi tracking. There is no phase issues, simulated imaging, etc. you hear the natural timbre and decay
try going to the symphony, closing your eyes and picking out each violist, viola or cello.
if they play in unison you should hear them as one albiet with a width and depth to the emsemble section
you hear the orchestra, you hear the room
the minimal mics pick this up spectacularly
i wish more pop musicians would do straight takes with minimal mikes in the studio with a lot of acoustic instruments and electronics played at matched volumes. Sure you can’t isolate an anoying mistake here or there but the imaging is to die for.
Classical Recordings - they practically give away used classical records from the analog era which nearly always are in mint condition.
there are a few chamber pieces where each instrument is recorded in the round ala 5.1
does the cello have to jump out from behind you?
not my cup of tea
Yeah yeah tostado, Kirkpatrick and Kipnis are fantastic players and interpreters. Kipnis even did some audiophile label recordings. I have more of these two players on CD though, which I assume will be okay with the OP, assuming he is interested in the music. Scarlatti is very difficult to play, and equally as exciting to listen to. Keyboard works is my single favorite and most listened to genre.
tatyana69 - Hi Fi & recordings are observational; enjoyed as the audience. If you want to experience the sound from the perspective of a player then sell your system & join an orchestra.
I would like to hear some people's worst nightmare. That would be to mic every instrument individually, and then have the conductor work with audio engineers to bring the piece back to life.
"mic every instrument individually, and then have the conductor work with audio engineers to bring the piece back to life."
it's not a nightmare, it can be done. the best solution is to store the individual instrument recordings as master. Then have the different recording engineers /studios to "mix" the different instruments recordings according to their "taste" then market under their on labels . Since each audiophile have their different perception on the correctness & presentation of complex works, i guess this way we could have higher chance of getting the music style we each prefers.
I find that most classical recordings deliver more detail, particularly for higher frequencies, than I hear in actual concerts. Yes, someone on stage, like the OP has a different perspective, but, the records are meant to sound somewhat like what the audience hears. Most recordings are made to sound vibrant and alive by kicking up the top end just a little bit more than natural, but, I sort of like this when I am listening at home.
As for dynamic range of recordings, this is deliberately compressed for most classical recordings of large orchestral pieces. I have a few supposedly uncompressed recordings that come with a big warning on the front of the CD about how loud it can get. The extreme range makes it quite hard to play the recording with any kind of noise in the room whatsoever, and at full volume one has to worry a bit about how hard the speakers are being pushed. I know someone who blew out a tweeter on such a recording and he swears it was not playing that loudly at that time. I can see why recording companies don't make uncompressed orchestral music on a regular basis.
I find that most classical recordings deliver more detail, particularly for higher frequencies, than I hear in actual concerts.... Most recordings are made to sound vibrant and alive by kicking up the top end just a little bit more than natural, but, I sort of like this when I am listening at home.
As you most likely realize, Larry, that will happen to a significant degree even if no electronic equalization is applied during the engineering of the recording, since even if just two or three mics are utilized those mics will usually be positioned closer to the performers than most of the seats in a concert hall. And as distance increases treble frequencies attenuate more rapidly in air than lower frequencies.
The difficulty in recording and reproducing large orchestras is why old-timers like J. Gordon Holt considered reproducing such recordings the ultimate challenge and test of a music system's capabilities. For the exact reason Al just explained, getting the high frequencies right, so that playback on speakers sounds like what listeners in the concert hall hear, is the hardest to accomplish. Should speakers be designed to sound "right" with recordings made using only a stereo pair of mics (some audiophile labels), a trio (as were the Mercury and RCA's of the 50's and early 60's), or many "mono" mics placed close to the instrument(s)? Each style of micing requires a different loudspeaker high frequency balance to produce the kind of sound audience members hear. Pop/Rock recordings are entirely different, a reference to live audience sound being non-existent.
Tanya, I am sorry to say that what you suggest is...not how it should be. We listen with two ears, I certainly do. Two mikes. Not three or five or fifty - two.
I also have two ears, but I can listen to 360 degrees. When I walk down the road I can hear maybe the car to my side, the plane above, the dog barking to my left etc etc. I have 7 surround speakers all playing nice separated sounds as far as recordings can facilitate. I am not interested in recreating the sound in a concert - that is my point - it is pretty one dimensional. It is a matter of taste and habit, but we are still listening to old habits of centuries. A bit old hat now methinks - time to move on. As I have written earlier, I am sure the composers would have revelled in breaking away from a strict concert format if they knew how. I am sure there are enough old recordings out there to satiate all old school wishes.
Nah, I'll stay old school, thanks.
perhaps its the ambience of symphony hall that is missing at home? in which case you just need a bigger room with a suitable system for playback. Not likely that recordings will get much better than they have to-date so I would not bank on that.
Exactly. Our rooms, with few exceptions, are very small boxes, not suitable for large scale music.
+ 1 inna. It's the room. Mine is nothing like a concert hall.
I agree that a larger room may be helpful to the OP, but not for the reasons that seem to be implied in the recent posts. The OP is looking for more detail than most classical recordings provide, corresponding to a very close-up perspective on the instruments. An increase in ambience would seem to work in the opposite direction.
Everything else being equal, a larger room will tend to lessen the effects of room reflections, that may tend to smear the detail the OP is looking for. That potential benefit will occur due to a reduction in the amplitude of room reflections as perceived at the listening position, and also as a result of the increase in delay time between the arrivals of direct and reflected sound.
Also, the lessened effects of a larger room would presumably tend to allow the ambience that has been captured on the recording to be more accurately revealed. Although in general hall ambience can be expected to be captured to the greatest degree and with the most accuracy on recordings that are produced with a minimal number of microphones and with minimal post-processing. Which as has been said by me and others will tend to result in the most realistic reproduction of a concert hall experience, but is not what the OP is looking for.
For a perspective similar to sitting in teh middle of the orchestra, perhaps some of the quadraphonic recordings from years back played back on quad gear if any still around. That went over really well..... :^)
I think, she is looking for the impossible - to be at the same time in the middle of orchestra and in the audience. Sorry, this is not quantum physics world, thank god.
You might try omnidirectional speakers or something along those lines in order to be able to get multiple perspectives similar to the concert hall based on where you listen from. Stand in between them and you might get something llike what you would hear if one were in the orchestra. My OHM Walsh speakers work that way for example. mbl would as well.
Or to be surrounded as one would be sitting in middle of an orchestra, maybe there is a modern Blue Ray or DVD with surround sound that might take a crack assuming all surround speakers are all equally up to the task as one would expect only mains to be normally.
But with only two speakers in front of you chances are you will at best get a perspective similar to sitting in the audience with your room and its acoustics your concert hall experience. No two channel recording will change that
I also have two ears, but I can listen to 360 degrees. When I walk down the road I can hear maybe the car to my side, the plane above, the dog barking to my left etc etc.
This has no relation to listening to music.
That there is technology capable of reproducing live music as well as it does is essentially a miracle that everyone should be thankful for. When hifi first hit the mainstream it was a big deal and resulted in many very high quality recordings in short time because there was appreciation for such things. Now it’s taken for granted or deemed not good enough like so many things these days. How jaded we all are!
No matter how good and big the room is, it will not make a average recording come alive. I believe the COST of making records sound great from big scale works or orchestra are the primary contraint. The venue from where the music are recorded plays a key factor here. Many were recorded in large studio instead of stage hall. The equipments used in recording directly from a hall cost a lot more and the manpower involved multiplies. Experienced recording engineers aren't cheap too.
As mentioned earlier, many records sound compressed or smeared perhaps due to poor recording environment and modest equipments used in the first place. There's a limit on how much a mixing engineer can do to replicate that event if the original master tape are poorly done.
I've heard great records done by Japanese labels, their CDs don't come cheap even today. Try YouTube for Joe Hisaishi, he's the top composer, conductor and pianist himself. His productions on CDs and DVDs are always great. From the beginning to the end of making a CD, it takes a lot of effort, time and money for an orchestra to sound good.
I saw an quite interesting musical presentation several years back at Inhotim Museum and Botanical Gardens in Minas Gerais Brazil. It consisted of 40 B&W monitor speakers setting up an oval with the listener in the middle. of this quite large space. The musical selection was a Bach piece. Each speaker represented a voice or instrument. Each instrument/voice made an individual entry as is often typical in Baroque music but I must say there was nothing at all typical about the presentation. By the time all voices/instruments were playing one was surrounded by all these individual voices/instruments clear and discernable. The ultimate surround sound, maybe better than live? :)
I have several uniquely recorded albums (LP's) on the "Repeat" label. They were recorded without using microphones in producing the master tapes.
According to the liner notes, "all musical instruments employed being equipped with specially-designed transducing systems which convert the energy of the original sound source into a corresponding electrical signal. This output is then fed directly through the recording mixer and onto tape."
These recordings have the most "presence" of individual instruments in my entire collection, including any of the so-called audiophile recordings I own. Do they sound "better?" Well, yes, from a "presence" standpoint ... but there is something that is just not right. Oh yes, they have the "wow" factor, but as a steady diet? No way. Totally interesting though.
Here's the titles if your intersted in tracking them down:
1. Western Swing - Noel Boggs on steel guitar along with fiddles, guitar, drums and bass.
2. Rural Rythm - Fiddle, fife guitar and bass.
3. Borodin string quartet #2 in D Major. The Da Sallo String Quartet.
4. Dvorak Quintet in G, Opus 77. Two violins, Viola, Cello and bass.
Anyone of these LP's will satisfy the most detail and presence audiophile freak on the planet. Really fun to listen to ... for the first few times. Great for demonstrating your stereo to friends. Lot's of "wow" factor.
So, all of that "extra presence" the OP is seeking is/was available, but a steady diet of it? I don't think so.
Jump on this one, guys: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Norman-Whistler-Ted-Nash-Rural-Rhythm-Repeat-Records-RS-300-4-Dee-Ford-/1219...http://www.ebay.com/itm/NORMAN-WHISTLER-THE-RURAL-RYTHM-MASTERS-RURAL-RYTHM-VINYL-LP-REPEAT-RECORDS-...
One little-mentioned label that offered Classical music with a very "immediate" sound that included low-level instrument sounds was Ark Records (LP only), Robert Fulton's (70's speaker designer) label. REALLY good sounding recordings, like direct-to-disc.
I think Tatyana69 is focusing on listening to the sound, texture, and detail of each instrument. If taken to an extreme, most music lovers would consider this secondary enhancement or detraction from a musical experience. To me this emphasis is the tail wagging the dog. The power of a string quartet is not hearing the body cavity resonances of each instrument (though if captured realisticly it could be an enhancement), but the music itself.
"The power of a string quartet is not hearing the body cavity resonances of each instrument (though if captured realistically it could be an enhancement), but the music itself.""
If you played in a string quartet or concert (playing is surely one of the best listening options too) your sound image is quite different to listening and you get the sound texture - which is my desire. Where do they stick the microphones on normal recordings? At the front?
Surely a few bang in the middle gives half a chance of presenting the music. And there are so so many dull recordings out there. The majority it seems. When I was younger (in olden times) I had to go from shop to shop to find different and half decent versions of my favourite pieces. Now that is not possible so it is very hit and miss about coming across something worthwhile.
And why was Von Karajan so popular? Always had the most dull as dishwater interpretations ever possible! Killed the music!
As I mentioned, if you want recordings with mikes throughout the orchestra, check out the Deutsche Gramophone catalog. They place mikes throughout the orchestra (almost in the laps of the musicians, in the early years), run everything through a mixer, and let their tonmeister, together with the artist, decide on the final balances. Ironic that you call out a DG artist (HVK) who used the very technique you're calling for. There are also plenty of mikes throughout the orchestra used by most recording engineers--Decca, EMI, Reference Recordings and most labels, in addition to their arrays in front of the orchestra, liberally use spot mikes in various sections, especially over the woodwinds or a soloist, to add presence to those instruments, depending on the particular piece being recorded.
I found it illuminating when I listened to master recording files of the NJ Symphony Orchestra and other artists (such as the Kissin recital at Carnegie Hall) with Tim Martyn, their recording engineer, on my system running through his mixing console. We were able to play with the levels of all of the many spot mikes throughout the orchestra, as well as the Decca tree with outriggers in front of the orchestra and the spaced omnis out in the hall used for picking up the hall ambience. I found that I'm not a purist by any means--if I were, I'd prefer just the omnis for the sound I heard in the hall, but that sounded way too vague and distant, and not at all what I'd heard in the hall. This was especially true with the Kissin concert, where adding the mikes placed over the piano to the omnis out in the hall gave the performance life and presence that the omnis by themselves lacked. Tim, as do many of today's classical recording engineers in conjunction with the artists, will use the spot mikes judiciously to add that presence and life to the music. You would call for more of that, I guess, but as an amateur performer (singer in a number of choruses and vocal ensembles) and member of the audience I far prefer a slightly more distant perspective so I can hear the blend of voices and instruments called for by the composer. To each his own.
Many thanks for those excellent comments. Yes Deutsche Gramafon recordings are ruined by Von Karajan lifeless presentation. I could bash a tin can with more feeling than all his recordings put together.And there were FAR to many of them.
I wonder how I can search a catalogue for specifics of recording techniques, as you have mentioned?
It is very dispiriting. For example I must have 7 or 8 recordings of Schubert Impromptus and also of Tchaikowsky Violin Concerto (No 1 ha ..ha) yet only one of each is half decent. Strangely the best recording (sound and interpretation) of the Tchaikowsky was my cheapest - a vinyl lp at 99p. Quality seems to have no correlation with price, but we all know that ! .
And recordings of the most well known orchestras are often disappointing when compared with those lower down the hierarchy And don't get me started on overrated engineers. Most of them couldn't tell a trumpet from a cornet, or a violin from a viola.
How do I track down the good ones????
Actually, I wouldn't overrate the engineers, it's the producers who have the most say in the final mix, along with the artists. I would rate most Harmonia Mundi recordings, particularly those produced by Robina Young, as among the best I have heard on a consistent basis. Take any recording of Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque, for example, those might satisfy your craving for both musical values and recordings with texture to the instruments (they're a small enough ensemble for that to work, I think). That they had Peter McGrath and Tony Faulkner as recording engineers was a plus as well. Also, Craig Dory's recordings of the Baltimore Consort on Dorian also might be worth your time. Finally, as a rule I have felt Decca recordings, particularly where the recording engineer was Kenneth Wilkinson, seem to strike a reasonable balance between a broad picture of the orchestra and adding a little presence through some spot miking.
Hi been audiogoner for about 6years first recap i know exactly what you mean if want excellent classical recording it's called great Russian classics includes tchaikovskys1812 overtures my best clasicals cd knock your socks off let me know. Jeff
A hearty seconding of rcprince's recommendation of the Harmonia Mundi label recordings. Great sound, great repertoire, great artists and performances. My favorite contemporary Classical label, by far.
Very interesting and accurate comments on mic'ing techniques. And thanks for sharing your mixing experience.
As for Karajan, look how many of his DG recordings were later remixed and remastered due to his insistence on overseeing the engineering process.
I far prefer a slightly more distant perspective so I can hear the blend of voices and instruments called for by the composer.
Well said; that is my preference as well. I attend the symphony each season and enjoy a mid-hall sound experience.
Let me respectfully disagree re. Herbert von Karajan legacy, his Beethoven and Bruckner cycles will outlive all of us and our great-grandkids! Just because he embraced digital and DG used skewed RIAA does not make him inherently Evil! True, his Tchaikovsky sounds wrong to the slavic ears, but how could he (or anyone) present the 4th the "right way" if he'd never been immersed into "the birch in the meadow" Russian folk song playing nonstop from almost everywhere?!?
True, unlike Bernstein he did not waste his life on interpreting Mahler, he (or anyone outside Mama Russia) had never had a chance to present Tchaikovsky the way Mravinsky did, so what?!?! I still choose Monteaux for the simple beauty of the music, without those extras of "Russian Soul" anguish.
Let me clarify, Karajan is Not my all-time favorite (I dont have any) but to dismiss him as lifeless and digital Evil seems absolutely wrong to my slavic ears...
@tatyana69 check "music in the round" column of Stereophile mag, I cannot afford decent surround but if I could I would have started there. Love your point that given a chance more composers would have used surround-sound effects. Stockhausen with his three orchestras comes to mind but, again, where are the recordings, and where is my surround B&W 800-series speakers :-( Until then I am going old-school
While "enhancing" instrumental balances and spatial effects may improve the "ear candy" appeal of some Classical music recordings, it will rarely improve the musical intent of the composer or the performers; and will most likely detract from it. It is a well established idea that composers did and do consider the audience’s perspective in a concert hall when composing and scoring. This consideration affects how they score the composition and partly determines which instruments or combination of instruments are assigned to specific musical lines. Some instruments, besides having their own unique tonal color, are capable of "projecting" more than others and this is taken into account. Additionally, good orchestral performers take great pains to blend with their musical colleagues in a way that serves the composer’s intent as indicated by dynamic markings in the score and by established performance values. In an orchestral (and chamber) performance setting this attention to balance and blend is one of the things that creates an environment condusive to really good music making. A good Classical music recording is one that does not interfere with the composer’s or performers’ musical intent. It takes a truly musically astute producer/engineer to not destroy those balances and who will "enhance" only when the limitations of the recording process and venue do not serve the composer’s and performers’ vision. Usually, less is more.
"I have yet to come across any classical recording that grabs me in the way it should, or could."
Clearly you have done very very little listening to classical music in recordings where even in boxy mono a Toscanini, Furtwangler, or Mengelberg could grab you by the throat let alone all the way up to the Mercury and Living stereo recordings which are astonishing and jaw dropping.
That is a very naughty thing to say Vindanpar. People look for different things in music. The main thrust of my argument is that little has progressed in presentation of classical music for many many years. Maybe a few people here and there think about what can be achieved, but generally they are shameful in sticking to old rut fomulae. Maybe there are enough old skool people out there listening happily to combined sounds for a blob of music, but I doubt it. You will of course disagree, and so be it. Hail mono. So many old composers loved to push sensitivity and listening experiences, and were often getting into trouble. As I have written before, I would imagine that their fertile minds would leap at the opportunities today. Probably most of the marketplace is pretty conservative, so any reaching out would generally be self indulgent and pointless and will pretty well almost die in due course.
I hate jazz, but was caught up in listening to Box Biedebecke. I kept on wondering how many were in the group. After listening more specifically I realised it was the same number, but they kept on swapping instruments. Why? Well apart from being impressive it lent different textures to basically the same refrains. They understood this concept nearly 100 years ago - but it has meandered nowhere since - especially of you want to listen to the blob of music from 20 yards away without the detail. You look at the score of any symphony and I would take huge sums of money off you betting you could not hear more than 30% of what was going on.
Did composers write so you only heard an impression of what they wrote? Of course not. They wrote all the extra bits you just will not hear because they knew they were writing to satisfy their own mind.
You can hear the blob music on Itunes and so many people are clearly happy at all the limitations of that.
As a young girl who worked for me once said "Who are the Beatles?"
If recording is important for you in clasical music try try labels like
"Chandos or L'oiseau-Lyre or Harmunia Mundi they have the best recording, concerning Jazz look for ECM specialy the recording done by