> I personally would not presume that I had a better idea of how a
> Mahler symphony should sound than Mahler did himself. I think that
> attitude is hubris.
Hubris to what?
Would you care to tell me WHEN does any musical work sound right?
Is that really possible?
In my extensive experience there is NEVER any time when it sounds right
as this depends on so many factors.
The hall, the orchestra, placement of the orchestra in the hall, the
conductor, the humidity, the temperature, the mood of the conductor, the
mood of the listener, where you sit in relation to the orchestra so on
Taking any recorded disk of any musical work my opinion is that if you
let 100 so called critics listen to any disk there is never any firm
conclusion at all since opinions differ all over the map to be very kind
In fact there is almost never ever any sort of agreement at all whatever
the point being discussed.
So what you are writing MUST be just your personal opinion and nothing
else and hubris has nothing to do with it at all.
Unless of course it is YOU who thinks that you and only you know exactly
what is the truth and all us mere mortals are just ignorant and then
surely it is you that have got hubris indeed.
I base this on the fact that in your opinion all disks sound to bright
and omni mics are useless and unless recorded by Blumlein it will in
fact sound like shit and its a lie that there can be mics on stage and
they were not in use.
Hubris indeed, Robert.
And you are the only one who knows how something should sound.
In my world there is an endless amount of possibilities and there is no
need to sulk because if I do not like a specific recording/performance
but as there is so many then I can always find something to my liking.
Or simply disregard completely the sound and just listen to the music.
The Dvorak Cello Concerto by Casals cannot be said to have a sound as
such, well maybe historic, as anything they tried to do in 1937 have
very little to do with reality at all in fact.
BUT the musical performance I like very much.
As to the sound balance everyone have an opinion and everyone thinks
that he is right and all the rest of us is wrong.....and what do you do
if the recording star thinks he knows exactly how a disk should sound?
Do you tell him that he is just a senile old man that should keep his
thoughts for himself and go out and play since we will not do as he
May I suggest that if you were the engineer or producer in this case,
Robert, you would be quickly removed and someone else put in charge to
do what the star wants.....since there can only be one dictator and in
this case it is not you for sure.
As they say "Speaking ones mind cost nothing" but when you are employed
in an organization and have to relate to all the rest of humanity who
all thinks they are right then your voice is just one among many and
will be ignored since only the STAR VIP person will have his wishes come
Most of the decisions that makes a sound recording are never to be told
upfront to the buying public but one such story WAS told by DECCA chief
producer John Culshaw in his autobiography:
Putting The Record Straight
By John Culshaw
Secker & Warburg
Page 213 onwards:
"Arthur Rubinstein came into London with his family and stayed at the
Savoy Hotel, where I contacted him soon after his arrival.
His was a legendary name to me.
The first recording I ever bought of the Tchaikovksy B flat minor
Concerto was by Rubinstein, and not long after the war he made a
stunning recording of Rachmaninov´s Paganini Rhapsody.
For me, and countless others, Rubinstein was a representative of a
generation of artists who had been in their absolute prime when we were
either too young to hear them or prevented from hearing them because of
the war. It was true that when I thought of Rubinstein it was in terms
of the big nineteenth century concertos or their equivalent in the solo
piano repertoire, and I did not associate Mozart with him at all.
But there was no trace of an advance judgement, let alone a prejudice in
my mind: the idols of youth tend to remain securely on their pedestals,
and so the chance of meeting and working with Rubinstein was something I
anticipated eagerly. I had also read of his interests outside of music:
his love of painting and literature, which suggested that he was one of
the few performing artists who had come to terms with the fact that
there is more to music than just music.
What followed was, for me, shattering. By that time I had been working
in music for about thirteen years and had met and worked with many of
the major artists of the time. I hope I was never arrogant, but equally
I had no cause to be obsequious. It was enough to be respectful and
professional, and to count ´sone privilege in working with such people
When I first telephoned to make myself known to Rubinstein I felt
encouraged by the practicality of his replies. I had offered to bring a
car to the Savoy to take him to the first session, but when he asked
where the hall was and I replied that it was only a short distance he
suggested it would be easier to meet in the hotel lobby and take a taxi,
which it certainly was.
Understandably, he wanted to be assured that the piano of his choice
would be in place and that a tuner would be standing by. I told him that
everything was in order.
Even in conditions of heavy traffic it is a very short ride from the
Savoy to Kingsway Hall, but in whatever time it took Rubinstein reminded
me over and over again about two things, the first of which was that he
was a poor old man (he was seventy-three at the time) and the second
that every note he played must be audible to HIS audience.
I did not at once realize the implications of the second remark, but
they became clear as soon as the sessions began. They meant that he
wanted the piano to be relentlessly lpod throughout, irrespective of
dynamics, tone quality, or whatever Mozart might have written for the
"I am an old man," he whined to the engineers when I introduced him.
"Please make me as loud as you can"
I wondered for a while whether he might be going deaf, in which case it
would all have been very sad. But he was not; indeed his hearing proved
to be surprisingly acute for one his age.
Matters were not helped by his chosen conductor, Josef Krips, although
it was soon evident why he had been chosen. Krips was nothing if not an
opportunist. Over the past ten years he had turned down many offers to
accompany distinguished soloists, but he had a particular reason for
wanting to work with Rubinstein, and Rubinstein knew it.
At that stage Krips was the musical director of a respectable American
orchestra of the second or third division. It would be a coup if Krips
could persuade Rubinstein to play with that orchestra in the future; it
would be even better if Rubinstein felt inclined to put in a word for
Krips with some of the first-division orchestras with which he regularly
Rubinstein begged him to keep the orchestra as low as possible and Krips
duly obliged. The result was an impossible situation for the balance
engineer, who in those days was recording directly on two tracks and
could not therefore subsequently "separate" the piano and the orchestra
to adjust the balance.
So Rubinstein´s piano came thundering through the piano microphones; but
if the engineer attempted to get more sound from the orchestra, which
Krips was suppressing as hard as he could, the effect merely that of
picking up still more piano from a distance.
The more we tried to explain that we could only get a reasonably
balance if the orchestra played normally, the louder Rubinstein played
and the more Krips subdued the orchestra.
I gave up; there was nothing else to do.
On the last session Rubinstein brought along one of his children, who
was obnoxious enough to comment that there wasn't enough piano.
This was finally too much for the normally taciturn first engineer,
Kenneth Wilkinson, who inquired coldly, "Enough for what?"
And at no point throughout the four sessions was there any mention about
Mercifully, there was very little editing, for Rubinstein´s choice
between two or three different versions of the same passage turned
entirely on which he considered to be loudest.
He said that was how his audience wanted to hear him.
RCA thought otherwise. I wrote a letter more in disappointment than in
anger to explain what had happened, and to say that no amount of
technical adjustment of the kind available at that time would make any
Eventually a replay came back to say that they had had to put up with
with his passion for fortissimo for some years and were prepared to
accept it in a virtuoso concerto; but they were prepared to write off
the costs rather than issue the Mozart concertos, now they had heard
them, and in fact they never appeared.
Nor, I hardly need to add, did I ever work again with Rubinstein again."
End page 216 mid side.
In 1976 DECCA issued the Beethoven piano concertos with Rubinstein on
the piano with Barenboim/ London Philharmonic, and one could then read
how the critics were criticizing the elephantine piano that completely
drowned the full symphony orchestra.
The "Late" here refers to Rubinstein, not Beethoven. The great pianist
was nearly ninety when these concertos were recorded. When this cycle of
Beethoven Concertos was originally released in 1976, the set was
generally panned by critics. One factor may have been the sound on the
original LPs: the piano was virtually in your lap, with the orchestra
far in the background and very poorly mixed. The sound gave the
impression of a bogged down "arthritic" performance. The audio has been
greatly improved here. The balance is natural, the orchestral sonority
But this time the DECCA engineers had learned about Rubinsteins wish for
constant fortissimo so this recording was done using multitrack
equipment so after Mr Rubinsteins death the whole lot was remixed to
give a much more natural sound balance.
Now whenever I hear a disk that sounds weird there is a chance that
somebody truly felt that this IS the way it´s going to sound and
unfortunately his/her STAR status was such that everyone just went along
with his/her wishes.
So much for "Hubris" that I will just forget as promptly as it was
written by you Robert as it is totally meaningless as regards any music
disk as there are so many opinons.
In my opinion you are sitting at home pontificating against anything
that you don´t like for reasons of your own with not a single clue why
it might sound the way it does.
Which has very little to do with balance engineers or producers in most
"Piano in your lap...orchestra far in the background...poorly mixed."
Was certainly not the doing of the production team at DECCA.
That I am absolutely certain of.
No doubt at all of any sort.
I really wonder if the "sound" experience would be transformed by the
magic of a single Blumlein pair in this instance, Robert?
Thoughts to ponder in bed.
The Mastering Room AB
Learn from the mistakes of others, you can never live long enough to
make them all yourself. - John Luther