Tragic "Big Name" Recordings

Discussion in 'Live Sound' started by DavidSpearritt, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Home Page:
    Just purchased the new Zimerman Rach concertos 1 and 2 on DG, and boy is it a shithouse recording and production. The big name engineers, producer and Emil Berliner studios should be ashamed of themselves.

    The piano is way to close and completely swamps the orchestra, but both are compressed to buggery. The piano sounds like it was recorded in someone's bedroom and the orchestra in a different bedroom in a different country. I cannot believe it, what a train wreck of a disc. Mr Zimerman should be very cross as his playing is fantastic, although its difficult to tell sometimes. Beware of this one!

    Just interested in any other Big Name recordings that should be flushed down the loo. Anyone?
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I find that staggering when it happens.....there I am, having spent good money for a fine recording, sitting back in a rare moment of peace & quiet about to enjoy something done so well, and: "Bam!" It hits you...what were they THINKING!?!?

    I'd really like to hear what you're describing, but I doubt I'll shell out the $$ for something that bad.

    I've got one from the early dayze of digital recording: A Christmas CD of The Philadelphia Singers, with Benita Valente, Michael Korn Music Director, on RCA Red Seal. (mid 80's, now out of print). I was asked to do a "Safety" transfer not too long ago of one of their last copies, since it was going out of print and disappearing fast.

    Always curious to hear what my peers are up to, I gave it a listen......and nearly fell out of my chair at how stunningly bad it is.

    Strange reverbertion (possibly fake anyway) off to the right side, and too heavy. CHoir panned a bit off as well, sounds like they're singing at the mouth of a cave....but the worst part was the mic technique and/or processing of Ms. Valente. It sounded like they put the mic DOWN HER THROAT, literally. The balance is god-awful, and I really have no idea what they were going for. To be fair, it's one of those early-on CD recordings, from who knows what source....might have even been an analog tape that they transferred and gooped up. (Still doesn't explain the bad balance and poor mic technique.)

    No idea who engineered it, but I wouldn't want MY name on it, regardless. It always makes me wonder what these people are thinking....
  3. bap

    bap Guest

    There's an old CBS Masterworks [Mastersound] art song recording of Frederica Von Stade with Martin Katz [my old teacher] on piano. My wife has had it since before we were married and I never used to notice anything odd about it.

    The other night I came home and she had it on the platter [vinyl from 1982] and I couldn't help but to comment immediately on how offensive the sound was to me. Not the singing or playing - just the sound. The voice was 'in yo' face' and hard sounding while the piano was almost muffled and very much in the background. My wife reminded me that it was a 'live' recording so I looked at the back cover.

    Digital recordings were a novelty back then and it listed all of the equipment used - "Digitally recorded using the Sony UMATIC Recorder and the Sony PCM 1600 Converter/Microphones used: Neumann U87, Neumann KM-84/Mastered from....etc.

    Things have certainly come a long way.

    David, I don't own the Zimmerman Liszt Concerto recordings but have enjoyed them on the radio when while driving. How do the Rach. ones compare? He's an amazing musician and a super-human technician!
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    I've got a couple stink-piles of recordings:

    Bruno Walter and Columbia Symphony performing Mahler 1 and 2. I have the vinyl, which sounds decent. However, the transfer to CD - there is more noise than I could possibly imagine. It also serves to point out how shitty the musicians (particularly the 1st trumpet player) played on these recordings.

    Canadian Brass - a Christmas disc involving the NYPhil brass section. The recording is overly bright and sappy and the horns and trumpets can't tune a lawn-mower, much less their instruments.

    Cala Records - The London Horn Sound. While I love this disc and the amazingly talented horn players on it, the recording is utter $*^t. This was a Decca Tree done in studio at Abbey Road and it sounds like they used SM57s on each horn. Rough, bright, brittle - all the things London hornplayers aren't. (Okay, they're a tad bright, but they make it sound "sweet" not painful!)

    Any "Phase 4" Vinyl pressing from the 60s and 70s. They are really touting their new version of stereo recording. The records are unlistenable due to awful seperation and massive distortion - not the good vinyl kind, the crackly, overly bass-heavy vinyl type.

    I'll think of a few more too - unfortunately, there are quite a few. :cry:
  5. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2004
    I don't know if I'm commiting blasphemy here, but I find Herbert von Karajan's Beethoven symphonies sound so streamlined, it's almost like the sort of in-store background music!

    I've heard some recordings of Gould playing Bach that sound crap, but I think it's just a case of poorly mastered CDs, as all of my vynil, and most of my CDs sound wonderful.
  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Home Page:
    Yes he certainly is. I have his Debusy preludes and it is wonderful, although I still love Michelangeli doing these.

    The Rach would be good if the sound was not completely horrible, I cannot believe how bad it is. I am going to use this disk as an example of how bad modern technnology can stuff up and squander a great opportunity for recording a great artist.
  7. bap

    bap Guest

    Haven't heard Michelangeli play Debusy. I adore his playing of much solo Brahms. He's incomparable when not staring too hard at his own naval.

    Debusy isn't a very popular piano composer in these times. His music does not fare well in competitions [Ravel's the one] and isn't written for large concert halls. When played well in a correct setting his music is truly remarkable. I will look for the "Michelangeli Preludes".

    John, I grew up listening to von Karajan's first Beethoven set and still have the vinyl. I LOVE them. I've never heard the second recording. I prefer Gould's first recording of Goldberg Variations and Horowitz's first recording of the Liszt B minor. Have you heard the early Horowitz Liszt? It fits on a single side of the LP and breathes fire!
  8. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    This one is easy--- listen to the Reiner/Chicago 1812 on RCA. it is LOUD.

    Now put on the Barenboim/CSO 1812 on DG. It is NOISEY. Can you say "phase distortion"? At least 24 mics during this era (error?) for DG!

  9. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2001
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    Speaking of tragic 1812 recordings, how about that one of the Montreal Symphony under Dutoit that uses a synth part?

  10. ozmorphasis

    ozmorphasis Guest

    The Walter recordings of that time(with Columbia Symphony) were recorded in the worst of the worst acoustics. I forget the room, but it is atrocious at best.

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