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Subject: Re: Callas remasterings
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 24 Feb 2017 13:12:18 -0800

text/plain (123 lines)

Jason, I can let Les speak for himself but I didn't read into his use of "mitigated" what you did.

I've been listening to these on 24/96 downloads and the Japanese SACD releases and they are really excellent. What I experience and what I think Les meant, was that passages that had some unsteadiness or stridency were previously made worse by a layer of distortion that has now been removed.

To me, the actual sound of her voice on the new issues does not sound much different at all from the original blue/gold (mono) and blue/silver (stereo) UK Columbia LPs I've been listening to. The background is quieter and the dynamic range is wider on the new issues. That similarity leads me to highly doubt that any intrusive cosmetic touch-ups were done.  Up until now, I've had to go back to LP to hear an agreeable sounding "O patria mia" or "Si, vendetta" (in the latter, on the last digitization before the new set, her high E-flat was ear lacerating).

Actually, I'm really impressed at the overall quality given the age of these recordings: clearly, EMI has done a better job than some (like Decca) at storing and preserving their tapes. It could also have to do with the tape formulation used.

While the big red Callas box attracted justifiable major attention, there have been similar, really excellent remasterings done in a very similar way by Warner at Abbey Road of a large number of EMI Karajan recordings (with real revelations in the remasterings of the 1940s Vienna shellacs) but, unfortunately so far, this has covered few of his opera recordings.

Before EMI sold to Warner, their Japanese Toshiba partner had sponsered a similar cleanup (also done by the same Abbey Road crew) of their Furtwängler catalogue, including operas, that has been maintained by Warner. Some of these are available on high res downloads, others on Japanese SACDs. The remastered sound of the Rome "Ring" is strikingly improved.

Not Warner or EMI, but two additional (admittedly expensive) Japanese SACD sets of note are their issues of the 1950 Furtwängler La Scala "Ring" with Flagstad and 1957 Knappertsbusch Bayreuth "Ring" (with Nilsson as Sieglinde and a stunning 3rd Norn and Elisabeth Grümmer as Gutrune). Both sound notably better than any previous issues I've heard (and I've heard many attempts at the Furtwängler/Scala set).

Max Paley

Sent from my iPhone

> On Feb 24, 2017, at 12:19, Jason Victor Serinus <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Les suggests that the Callas remasterings in 24/96, which are, without
> question, the best sounding issues of her voice on CD and hi-rez download,
> actually tampered with the voice and smoothed out vocal unsteadiness. This
> is not what I was told at the time the recordings were issued, and I
> reported on them for Stereophile.
> I am inclined to believe this assessment incorrect. Barring a personal
> side-by-side comparison, which I don't have time to perform, I'm checking
> with Warner on this.
> jason victor serinus
> Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Callas remembered
> I believe that Idia was asking about the book on Callas by Nadia Stanicof=
> f.
> I personally don't care much for it because it deals with the post-l965
> Callas and tells nothing about the attributes that made her what she was =
> and
> is.  It's not a happy read, and it (to me, anyway) shows that La Callas,
> especially in those last years, was not a happy lady and may well have be=
> en
> in desperate need of psychiatric help.=20
> In view of her war-time experiences in Greece, her fractured relationship=
> with her mother, her on and off relationship with Artisotle Onassis, her
> poor sense of judgement, this is obviously a probability.  Her close
> relationships with international celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Richa=
> rd
> Burton, Omar Scariff, and so many others in the "jet set" did nothing to
> alleviate her misery.  Hers was not a happy life, especially during the
> last fifteen years.  And then there was her addiction to sleeping pills,
> which is well documented.=20=20
>      Speaking of Callas, I cannot recommend highly enough that Warners b=
> ig
> red box that contains all of her studio recordings.  They all sound
> wonderful, and they put a very different complexion on the Callas voice.=20=
> The recordings that surprise me most are the stereo operas and recitals t=
> hat
> were recorded in the very late 1950s and early 1960's.  The real surprise=
> for me is the 1959 Lucia and the 1960 Norma.  The remastering done by
> Warners has mitigated much of the vocal unsteadiness as heard on the EMI
> versions.  Have listened to the 1960 Norma many times, and I find that it=
> is
> a much more towering performance than the one she recorded six years
> earlier.  The quiet singing is very beautiful, and again the blatant voca=
> l
> problems on high have been greatly minimized by the remastering.
> This makes me wonder whether EMI ever really captured her as faithfully a=
> s
> they could have.  The musical and interpretative genius of course still
> remains, but the voice itself (even in the later recordings of the 1960's=
> )
> sounds far more even, secure, and balanced that they did on the previous =
> editions.  Bur for me, the real revelation is the 1960 Norma, for me stil=
> l
> THE Norma of Norma recordings.  But what do I know?=20=20
>      Interesting how the lady refuses to be forgotten.=20=20
> ---
> Jason Victor Serinus     Whistler
> Extraordinaire: **The Voice of Woodstock • The Pavarotti of Pucker**
> Music and audiophile critic: Seattle Times, Port Townsend Leader,
> Stereophile, Listen, San Francisco Classical Voice, Bay Area Reporter, Gay
> City News, American Record Guide, Classical Voice North America, Stanford
> Live, Opera Now, Copper, and more
> "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the
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> we will not be silenced, we will not be stopped, we will not go back into
> the closet. Together, we will love.” — JVS at our Orlando Massacre Support
> Rally in Port Townsend, WA
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