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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 19:03:01 -0800

text/plain (33 lines)

Les, I have to disagree with you about this one.

I think Walter Legge and engineer Robert Beckett took very great pains to try to capture Callas’ voice at its best and to help her produce sounds and that would come across well via the microphone. I’ve heard from numerous older friends who were disappointed in Callas’ voice live in the late 50’s, saying it didn’t have the size or beauty that it did on Legge’s recordings. In fact, Callas and Legge were a great team of perfectionists; she being willing to redo and think her work ad infinitum to respond to his suggestions. He did this with other instrumentalists and singers too; Birgit Nilsson was quite disappointed when, after working with Legge, she expected similar detailed feedback from John Culshaw. Instead, when she asked, she got “Oh, yes - lovely, lovely."

I also don’t hear any of the kind of distortions you’re describing in the original UK Columbia pressings, for which Legge oversaw the mastering process. He had no control over how these were re-pressed by Angel, once that US branch had been sold to Capitol and were using US Capitol facilities to do their pressings (when Legge had a say in the matter, the pressings were imported from the UK and packaged in the US - there’s always a strong difference between the “Made in England” and “Manufactured in the USA” pressings).

I think it was really later pressings that added the distortions, possibly by working from later “working tape” sources rather than the original masters, possibly because of the actual disk mastering process.

Other recordings for which Warner have recently applied the same TLC as they had to the Callas series include a box set of all of the Schwarzkopf recitals and new reissues of the Giulini “Don Giovanni” and Klemperer “Magic Flute.”

Max Paley

> On Feb 24, 2017, at 2:10 PM, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> <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

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