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Subject: Re: Callas remasterings
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:10:52 -0600
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<p>Max:
</p><p>      With no disrespect to Jason (whose postings and observations I admire very much respect and appreciate, I must say that you expressed exactly what I was trying to say.  Perhaps I didn't make myself clear which could have made Jason think I meant something else.   We all know that Callas' voice had inherent imperfections, and I recall many instances on LP where there was a lot of background noise and downright peaking and distortion, especially when Callas was negotiating top notes.  Most of the 1959 and 1960 Lucia and Norma recordings had their share of distortion and peaking.   The Warner remasters have eliminated these problems completely.  The result is that Callas' voice emerges in a considerably clearer and smoother manner.  The elimination of this distortion and peaking has benefited the Callas voice considerably.  Yes, there is still some unsteadiness, but its nowhere near as obtrusive as before as heard on the multiple EMI editions.  Her quiet singing is very beautiful in the middle and lower registers, and the top notes have been smoothed out by the lack of distortion, peaking and background noise.</p><p>      I now hear these recorded performances from 1952 to 1960 with new ears.  I no longer "wince" or have to "brace myself" for a wide pulsed top note because there is no more distortion and peaking.  Her voice was probably not an easy voice to record faithfully, and Warners have done an invaluable service by giving them the purity they deserve.   The voice itself is unchanged on the recordings, but it's been divested of all the encrusted problems that were inherent in the original masters.  Subsequent remasters through the years did nothing to alleviate the problems.   Warners has succeeded in doing just that.
</p><p>     It kind of surprises me that Walter Legge, for all of his meticulousness in making recordings with his much celebrated and justly legendary wife, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, could not have applied the same standards in his recordings with Callas


</p><blockquote><p>On February 24, 2017 at 3:12 PM Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:</p><p>Jason, I can let Les speak for himself but I didn't read into his use of "mitigated" what you did.</p><p>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.</p><p>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).</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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).</p><p>Max Paley</p><p>Sent from my iPhone</p><blockquote><p>On Feb 24, 2017, at 12:19, Jason Victor Serinus <[log in to unmask]> wrote:</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>jason victor serinus</p><p>Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Callas remembered</p><p>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=</p><p>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=</p><p>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=</p><p>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 =
EMI
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</p><p>Interesting how the lady refuses to be forgotten.=20=20</p><p>---
Jason Victor Serinus <a href="http://www.jasonserinus.com">http://www.jasonserinus.com</a> 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</p><p>"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the
tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel</p><p>“This is a time to remember all of us who are LGBTQ. It’s a time to stand
out and be proud, to parade who we are, to celebrate and to let them know
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
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