A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan
New and noteworthy recordings, released on November 15, 2011.
Click here to see the list.
Click here to see a list of recordings released last week
Carlo Maria Giulini, recordings
November 15, 2011
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Didn’t recognize Eschenbach without the chrome dome. That one’s gonna have to go on the Christmas wish list, along with the Giulini . . . and if I’m being greedy, maybe the 10-CD Liszt piano collection, too!
I have some early Eschenbach in my LP collection … Mozart and superb.
I’d put the Decca set on my Christmas list if I thought anyone would buy it for me. I may spring for the Giulini myself.
This has nothing to do with recordings. It is simply a recommendation of a “new and noteworthy” performer. Tonight, as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoon, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall – brilliant Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva. Miss her at your own risk… She is much better live than in any clips that are available on YouTube.
Good to know, MarK, thanks. I have an appointment with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony tonight. Will send a report from the front tomorrow morn.
I love listening to recordings of recent performances, such as those on American Public Media. A short time ago, I was listening to the L.A. Philharmonic perform Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40 and, a bit later, the Boston Symphony playing Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat.
My initial impression is that both have a similar appeal. But after listening to one for awhile, and then listening to the other a bit later, and then reversing the two again, I realize that one performance does have the advantage of being encased in better acoustics.
After seeing your comments here for the last couple of years, it is very hard to believe that you needed several hearings to “realize” this acoustical difference. It is much more likely that you knew in advance – consciously or subconsciously – that you would come to such conclusion.
Acoustically speaking, both of these orchestras play in very fine houses. Your preference of one over the other does not mean that your favorite is “better” but simply that it is more attractive for you personally. Also, such an “advantage” in recordings may sometimes be explained by the superiority of one team of sound engineers over the other, as well as possibly by the superior quality of their equipment. And by the way, a hall that sounds well in recordings is not always best in live performance. The reverse is sometimes true too.
Finally, comparing Mozart with Richard Strauss is a very questionable enterprise in any case, no matter what aspect of the aural result one is trying to compare. The tonal requirements for the two composers are so completely different that a truly fair comparison (if the two performances are close in their quality level of course) is virtually impossible.
Here we go again? Really, Deborah, I think your point has been made, even if we disagree with it. I’m not sure why you keep bringing it up, especially on posts that have nothing to do with the subject. Just wondering.
It is much more likely that you knew in advance – consciously or subconsciously – that you would come to such conclusion.
Because the way hearing can be oddly capricious or contradictory, I say my initial reaction truly is different from when I go back and carefully pinpoint the similarities or differences in what I’ve just listened to. I notice my sense of hearing can be oddly subjective, but not in a way that’s based on pre-conceived notions. So, no, my first, honest response to, for example, the vibrancy of a performance of the Boston Symphony truly was about as positive as it was to the LA Philharmonic.
I’ve mentioned my listening to music before — including recordings — because isn’t this blog devoted to music and to people’s opinions on what they like or don’t like in the world of classical? (I prefer Strauss to Mozart, by the way) So people should instead talk about the weather, TV shows, fashion or restaurants!?
And, Tim, you make my occasional postings sound like they’ve initiated a bit of discussion in the past. I’m surprised by that because I don’t recall you or almost anyone else (other than a few random replies from MarK) either agreeing or disagreeing with the comments I’ve keyed in here.
If we take your word for it, then it looks like “subconsciously” would be the more appropriate choice of adverb in my sentence that you quoted.
Acoustics is not music but just one aspect of aural environment in which music created by composers and interpreted by performers is being delivered to listeners’ ears.
Well, I have to say that almost everyone pretty much responds to sound in a “subconscious” way. Even more so if the subconscious you’re pointing out in my case isn’t automatically and immediately — from the get-go — making me favor one of the two performances I described previously.
In general, I’m sure that various listeners will rate a performance at an either higher or lower level if they’re put through a test with a blindfold, and then when the blindfold is removed, suddenly discover who the conductor was, or who the musicians or orchestra was. Throw in the very subjective nature of people’s tastes and preferences, and what you’ll end up with is anyone’s guess.
Your first point here is absolutely correct – everyone’s response to music includes a subconscious element. However, writing comments is a conscious act and therefore one should be free to choose not to keep making the same point over and over again, especially when it is either completely irrelevant to the subject of the blog post or concerns a very minor detail of the issue being discussed.
I’m very interested in the Haydn sonatas, with the period instruments and the virtual rooms.
choose not to keep making the same point over and over again, especially when it is either completely irrelevant to the subject of the blog post or concerns a very minor detail of the issue being discussed.
By the same token, a person who makes the same point again and again about another person making the “same point again and again”?
As for irrelevant, since this is a blog about classical music, I guess to stay relevant, instead of talking about “classical recordings” — or listening to such recordings — I’ll write about the difference between Manolo and Prada shoes. Or how about my posting about the new movie “Breaking Dawn”? I guess I can comment about which restaurants were open or closed on Thanksgiving?
But I will admittedly stray briefly right now from the topic of “classical music,” if that doesn’t include offerings like a contemporary score for a newly written opera. I watched “Il Postino” on PBS last night and was rather disheartened that the music struck me as less than memorable. Based on several reviews, I was under the impression that the late Daniel Catan, who I liked to cheer for, had done better than that.
Deborah, there’s difference between a chat room and the comments section of a blog. You may know this.
But, for instance, instead of writing about “Il Postino” on this post, it would be more to everyone’s benefit if you wrote about “Il Postino” on any of the several posts on this blog dedicated to the topic of that opera, including my review of same. All you have to do is use the search term “Il Postino” in the search box in the upper right corner of this blog and you’ll find those posts.
Similarly, if you wanted to discuss the acoustics of various halls, you could search that term. If you don’t find a post dedicated to that subject, you could try entering into a discussion on that topic on another blog, several of which are linked in my blogroll (down the right hand side of the homepage.)
What’s more, if you’d like to discuss Manolo or Prado shoes, or the movie “Breaking Dawn,” I’m sure there are blogs for that too.
It’s a brave new world.
there’s difference between a chat room and the comments section of a blog
Tim, I know that some forums (meaning a comments page) are technically set up so that any new posting under a particular subject heading will automatically push that entire thread to the top. The format of your blog doesn’t provide that feature, so previous blog entries — and any replies or comments they generate — disappear rather quickly. I’m guessing your entry on Il Postino is several pages back, and some of us (okay, me!) are too lazy to go searching for older topic headings. :-I~
As for your entry on “Classical recordings,” not sure why scrutinizing the sound quality of a recording isn’t very much a part of — and quite pertinent to — the topic. Understanding and fine tuning one’s sense of sound seems very relevant to the subject of music overall, perhaps even more so when dealing with classical instead of, well, heavy metal, hip-hop or country.
I’m reminded of a time when a local radio station (not sure if it was KUSC or perhaps the old Kmozart) was making a big huzzah about their playing an old recording from the 1950s. I believe it was the Chicago Symphony conducted by Fritz Reiner. I just remember that the quality of the recording was so poor — due either to unsophisticated technology from over 50 years ago, or vinyl that hadn’t aged well — that as far as I’m concerned, it might just as well have been the sound of some high school orchestra captured for posterity.
This last admission by Deborah is quite sad but i guess we should appreciate her consistency and thank her for her honesty and candor. When a person’s listening priorities (and/or abilities) are consistently skewed toward valuing Packaging (quality of sound reproduction) far above Content (music itself plus all qualities of its interpretation and execution), it is not surprising that such person can’t tell the difference between an imperfect recording of the Chicago Symphony and a high school orchestra. This is a serious affliction and it may be terminal. Discussing it endlessly in blog comments is definitely not going to help anyone. Meanwhile, it reminds the rest of us – those who have the ability, sometimes taken by us for granted, to hear musical Substance that is easily discernible by our ears beneath the Surface limitations of recorded sound – how fortunate we are, because we can continue admiring and enjoying the incomparable artistry of such greats as Enrico Caruso, Fyodor Chaliapin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Artur Schnabel, Eugene Ysaye, Fritz Kreisler, Emanuel Feuermann, Amelita Galli-Curci, NBC Symphony with Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walter in his prime…as well as other musical giants from the first half of last century.
I would add that, a couple of years ago, I bought a Fritz Reiner/Chicago Symphony recording (vinyl) at a thrift store for 35 cents. It was in good condition and monoaural. It is one of the best sounding records in my collection, I kid you not. I’m amazed by it, as a recording production. You can hear the “space” in the way the orchestra is laid out, it has warmth and presence and depth and detail. You feel like you’re in the room with the orchestra. The performances (of Stravinsky and Prokofiev) are great too.
When a person’s listening priorities (and/or abilities) are consistently skewed toward valuing Packaging (quality of sound reproduction) far above Content (music itself plus all qualities of its interpretation and execution), it is not surprising that such person can’t tell the difference between an imperfect recording of the Chicago Symphony and a high school orchestra. This is a serious affliction and it may be terminal
MarK, your attitude makes me think of a person sitting at his keyboard full of resentment, with a big pout on his face. Why, I don’t know.
So the various music critics who were less than complimentary about the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel during its national tour earlier this year were “skewed” towards what? Too much about the quality of interpretation and execution far above sound quality in general?
The following is a quote in today’s Los Angeles Times from the general manager of the Boston Symphony. He is doing what? Skewing “packaging” over interpretation and execution?
The conductor also praises Symphony Hall, a brick edifice that has served as the orchestra’s home since 1900 and is regarded as among the finest concert venues in the world. But Volpe goes further, suggesting that the hall has actually influenced the ensemble’s character. “This hall has very much shaped the identity and culture of sound of the orchestra,” he said. “When the BSO goes on tour, we are one of the few ensembles to play in halls less good than our own.”
Mark Volpe appears to have a serious affliction and it may be terminal.
Imagining another commenter in one’s mind’s eye is certainly part of the fun. For example, i see Deborah as being an extremely attractive person with a charming demeanor and a very pleasant smile on her face, which makes discussing things with her that much more enjoyable for me. Since each of us is 50% likely to be correct in putting together such visual image, one of us probably is, but then the other is definitely not. And since i know that Deborah’s image of me is very wrong, i am practically certain that my image of her is quite accurate.
There was no “national tour” of the LA Phil “earlier this year”, unless you call a pair of concerts in San Francisco a “national tour”, but i wouldn’t. There was a European tour last season and a genuine national tour two seasons ago. In any case, the fact that reviews of the orchestra in other cities were mixed is a completely separate matter that has very little to do with our discussion here.
That statement by Mark Volpe is actually almost reasonable and its possible inaccuracies are easily explainable. It is indeed true that the acoustical peculiarities of a hall in which an orchestra performs regularly do influence the way that orchestra plays because musicians naturally adjust their playing to the way they hear it projected. He is certainly not saying that a high school orchestra can ever sound anywhere close to Boston Symphony, no matter on which stage you put either of them. In fact, he is doing quite the opposite because it is his job as their managing director – what i like to call “preventive damage control”: by emphasizing and slightly exaggerating the role of their hall in shaping their sound he makes sure that if audiences and/or critics in other cities are disappointed by his orchestra’s playing on this tour, he can always say that it is because the venue is not as good as or simply different from theirs.
In any case, the fact that reviews of the orchestra in other cities were mixed is a completely separate matter that has very little to do with our discussion here.
MarK, since we’re discussing the differing perceptions people have when listening to music, the LA Philharmonic’s performances during its “schadenfreude” national tour — which, yes, did take place in 2010, not this year (time is flying by too quickly!) — and the responses to them by various observers (or at least those with a public platform), was a perfect illustration of that.
by emphasizing and slightly exaggerating the role of their hall in shaping their sound
If the nature of the space surrounding an orchestra should be downplayed, as you feel it must be (why, I can’t figure out), then it is strangely contradictory to, on the other hand, place a lot of emphasis on the role of a conductor in affecting that same orchestra. Of course, I’m assuming the conductor in question will be somewhat talented and not noticeably second rate.
I’ve read music reviews through the years that strike me as hair-splitting reactions to the way an orchestra performed a piece because conductor A was leading instead of conductor B, or because orchestra A was playing instead of orchestra B. I’ve wanted to ask that member of the audience: “Are your eardrums as sensitive as those belonging to a dog?”
I’d direct that question to people like the major music critic of the New York Times, not just because he might be splitting hairs on one occasion, but because on another occasion he might not even notice the non-reverberant acoustics of, for example, Alice Tully Hall. Such a person, in turn, might want to ask me: “And other that THAT, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?!”
Yes, different responses to LAPhil’s (or anyone else’s) performances are a good illustration of the fact that perceptions are individual. It’s good to know we agree on that. But i have never said that “the space…should be downplayed”. All i am saying is that it should NOT be OVERplayed. What you said about “the role of a conductor” shows that you do not really understand what it is. To be fair, it is not a simple thing to understand fully and a rather complicated one to explain. Since this is Tim’s blog, he might want to do that if and when he feels like it.
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