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Subject: Re: Callas live and other reissues
From: Max Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 7 Jul 2017 08:06:14 -0700
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Luis, the Karajan Berlin "Bohème" is out on Blu-Ray and, good as previous LP editions (Mobile Fidelity and Speakers Corner in particular, although the original Decca was no slouch), I find the Blu-Ray significantly better. In terms of "space," as you say, I find really impressive the ambience and overall clarity the Decca team got in what I think was their first go at using the DGG/EMI stronghold, the Jesus Christus Kirche in the Dahlem suburb of Berlin.

That said, I still get much of this same "space," maybe even more, on many original LPs, which has often been my disappointment with CD. However, that Solti "Aida" Blu-Ray has notably better clarity and presence on the voices than my "Shaded Dog" RCA LP set. Matrix 801s do have tremendous clarity (and massive bass), which is also a characteristic of my Wilson MAXX 3s.

I just got delivered the SACD sets of Warner's remastered Beecham "Carmen," Giulini "Don Giovanni" and Klemperer "Magic Flute." Hope to find time to listen this weekend.

Les, one thing that has always puzzled me is why Italian broadcast material from the 50s sounds so terrible. This is particularly true compared to contemporary German (WDR, Bavarian Radio) and Austrian (ORF) material, which often has remarkably good sound. It's not like the Italians (RAI) didn't have the equipment; they had absolutely top class 30 IPS tape machines. One story I had heard was that they didn't like to spend money on acquisition and storage of recording tape. Those 30 IPS recordings were very quickly transferred to shellac discs so that the tape could be erased and re-used. This is what happened with the Rome Furtwängler "Ring" and could also apply to Callas material. 

A few years ago, a very gussied up and very expensive box set LP set was released of the 1956 revival of the La Scala "Traviata" - still Callas, but other cast changes. Despite the luxury packaging and beautiful 180 gram LPs, the sound is terrible.

I remember the limited edition of the Lisbon "Traviata" that was derived from different, much better source material than the EMI release. I never acquired that but, not too long after, another company (I think Pearl) came out with a much more affordable set that also had markedly better sound. It will be interesting to see what Warner uses.

Max Paley

Sent from my iPad

> On Jul 7, 2017, at 07:40, ls111553 . <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Yes, the Blu-ray Aida sounds fantastic! 
> 
> One thing I find so welcome when going from LP or CD to SACD or Blu-ray is the improved sense of "space" in the hi-res version. I don't know if this is due to increased clarity, which lets you hear more detail on how sounds "fade away", but the fact is that the imaging -intentional or accidental- on these recordings comes through wonderfully. The Solti Ring is another good example of this.
> 
> I hope the DECCA Carmen (Troyanos,Domingo, Solti) and Bohème (Freni, Pavarotti, Karajan) are slated for Blu-ray release. The Mobile Fidelity LP edition of this Bohème is already an imaging feat! On a good setup, you can almost walk around the tables at Momus.
> 
> Another worthy, but almost not advertised item is the Böhm DG Magic Flute (Wunderlich, Lear, FD, Peters) on SACD. As you mentioned for the Parsifal (sitting on my shelf with the Böhm Tristan, cellophane wrap still on), the improvement over previous versions is "incremental", but none the less welcome.
> 
> By the way, I had a chance to A-B test the Solti/Flagstad Walküre Act I on SACD against the DECCA (London) LP. I think the more distinct "bite" on the strings you describe on the LP may be due to an over-all upper midrange emphasis on the vinyl that is less prominent on SACD. Still, I am very impressed with the newly-found spaciousness and much quieter background on the hi-res edition. Besides, the tweeters on my B&W Matrix 801s don't need any further encouragement to "bite" like Akita-Pit Bull crossbreeds!
> 
> Cheers,
> 
> Luis
> 
> 
> 
>> On Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 6:44 PM Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> 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
>> 
>> Sent from my iPhone
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