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Subject: Callas live and other reissues
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 5 Jul 2017 15:43:58 -0700
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Warner did a really first class job with their reissues of Callas' studio recordings 3 years ago. People found even the high notes much better than they had heard before, because on previous issues any innate stridency had been layered with additional distortion that, once stripped away, frequently revealed much more agreeable sounds than had previously been heard (at least digitally) and the new remastering removed a veil over a wealth of interpretive nuance.

They're promising to do it again with a 42-CD + Blu-Ray set "Maria Callas Live: Remastered Live Recordings 1949-1964." The claim is that "best possible sources" are used, but no more specifics. The studio recordings were remastered at Abbey Road in London. These live recordings are remastered at Studio Art et Son in Paris. The recordings will be on CD in a box set with a 200 page hard-backed book, but CDs of the individual operas will be available separately.

Such things as the 1952 ROH "Norma," 1950 Mexico City "Aida," 1955 Berlin "Lucia" and 1953 La Scala "Medea" and others are joined by 12 operas she never recorded commercially,

In the case of the studio remasterings, high res (24-bit 96KHz) versions followed as downloads on HDTracks and other sites, and on SACD from Japan.

Of other material:

The Blu-Ray audio release of the RCA/Decca 1961 Solti "Aida" (Price, Vickers, Gorr, Merrill, Tozzi) is the best sounding version of this I've heard. Remarkable "in your room" presence and localization of the singers and orchestral forces. Some harshness, that may be the way the tape sounded or due to aging of the tape, but a notable increase in dynamics and clarity. The performance bursts with life in the new remastering. I find this a thrilling recording.

Not quite as much of a revelation, but a significant improvement over earlier issues is the Blu-Ray audio version of the 1966 DGG Böhm "Tristan und Isolde" (Nilsson, Windgassen, Ludwig, Wächter, Talvela). More expressive details now audible and the new sound benefits Böhm's handling of the orchestra. The recording captures the power and thrust of Nilsson's singing, but I found her sound much more beautiful live in the house. For me, Böhm's conducting lacks the weight and majesty of Furtwängler but doesn't make as compelling a lean, intense counter-statement as Carlos Kleiber's.

On SACD from Japan, the Knappertsbusch 1962 Bayreuth "Parsifal" sounds great, but then this recording always has. If you have it already on CD, the improvement is incremental.

Haven't yet had time to listen to the Blu-Ray audio Bernstein "Fidelio." Coming soon, also on Blu-Ray audio, are the Solti "Salome" and "Elektra."

Not opera, but of interest to some here will be the 50th anniversary remix/remastering of the Beatles' groundbreaking "Sgt. Pepper" album on CD and Blu-Ray Audio. Individual part tapes that had been re-recorded multiple times (given the limitations of four track tape) were recovered for the remix with startling improvements in clarity. The original album was painstakingly mixed in mono with the stereo mix thrown together quite quickly (and without participation of the performers). The new stereo mix (and 5.1 surround), made by Gilles Martin, son of the original producer George Martin, seeks to recapture much more of the intended effect of the original mono mix.  There's also a new vinyl LP version.

Max Paley

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