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Discussion: Beethoven & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos - Heifetz/Munch

Posts: 18
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Post by hanser February 21, 2005 (1 of 18)
Hearing all that praise for the RCA series I ordered the Heifetz disc with Beethoven and Mendelssohn and was bitterly disappointed, sonically as well as by the interpretation (at least Heifetz´ take on Beethoven; the Mendelssohn is played OK). They ARE 50 year old recordings and you hear it and there is no way around it: lots of hiss, audible tape deteroiation (beginning of 3rd mvt of Beethoven), unnatural, flat sound of the violin (also a bit screeching, but without sparkle). I can´t believe that the recording quality is judged better than modern DSD recordings. This one at least can´t hold a candle to all Telarc, Pentatone, Channel and BIS SACDs I own or the Fischer/Dvorak and Bartok recordings on Philips.
Since I seem to be in the minoriy I invite discussion.

Post by sgb February 21, 2005 (2 of 18)
hanser said:

Hearing all that praise for the RCA series I ordered the Heifetz disc with Beethoven and Mendelssohn and was bitterly disappointed, sonically as well as by the interpretation (at least Heifetz´ take on Beethoven; the Mendelssohn is played OK). They ARE 50 year old recordings and you hear it and there is no way around it: lots of hiss, audible tape deteroiation (beginning of 3rd mvt of Beethoven), unnatural, flat sound of the violin (also a bit screeching, but without sparkle). I can´t believe that the recording quality is judged better than modern DSD recordings. This one at least can´t hold a candle to all Telarc, Pentatone, Channel and BIS SACDs I own or the Fischer/Dvorak and Bartok recordings on Philips.
Since I seem to be in the minoriy I invite discussion.

Well, I was with you, hanser, until that sentence where you began comparing the RCA releases to the Telarcs and Pentatones. That, it seems to me, would be like comparing Harry Connick Jr. to Frank Sinatra.

I don't know why BMG insists on resuscitating this particular disk every few years. As much as I agree with the many who find Heifetz to be one of the two or three most talented violinists ever recorded, these two aren't among his best. It's as simple as that.

Post by akiralx February 21, 2005 (3 of 18)
hanser said:

Hearing all that praise for the RCA series I ordered the Heifetz disc with Beethoven and Mendelssohn and was bitterly disappointed, sonically as well as by the interpretation (at least Heifetz´ take on Beethoven; the Mendelssohn is played OK). They ARE 50 year old recordings and you hear it and there is no way around it: lots of hiss, audible tape deteroiation (beginning of 3rd mvt of Beethoven), unnatural, flat sound of the violin (also a bit screeching, but without sparkle). I can´t believe that the recording quality is judged better than modern DSD recordings. This one at least can´t hold a candle to all Telarc, Pentatone, Channel and BIS SACDs I own or the Fischer/Dvorak and Bartok recordings on Philips.
Since I seem to be in the minoriy I invite discussion.

Yep, while these famous recordings have been improved sonically on SACD, all those reviews which give this 5 stars for sound are clearly being disingenuous and I took all of them with a large pinch of salt.

As for Heifetz, his style of playing while technically excellent, does sound anachronistic to modern ears, although we are judging him from recordings rather than 'live' of course. I just think he has been surpassed and that the art of violin playing has moved on since his era, when of course he was perhaps the finest soloist in the world.

I love violin recordings but never feel the need to hear or buy any more Heifetz performances, as I do with say David Oistrakh. I have heard many of Heifetz's recordings and only really like two, the mono Brahms Concerto with Koussevitzky and the (slightly cut) stereo Bruch Scottish Fantasy with Sargent - and the latter is surpassed by Tasmin Little's EMI recording in my view, although some will claim that as heresy...

Post by seth February 21, 2005 (4 of 18)
akiralx said:

Yep, while these famous recordings have been improved sonically on SACD, all those reviews which give this 5 stars for sound are clearly being disingenuous and I took all of them with a large pinch of salt.

As for Heifetz, his style of playing while technically excellent, does sound anachronistic to modern ears, although we are judging him from recordings rather than 'live' of course. I just think he has been surpassed and that the art of violin playing has moved on since his era, when of course he was perhaps the finest soloist in the world.

I love violin recordings but never feel the need to hear or buy any more Heifetz performances, as I do with say David Oistrakh. I have heard many of Heifetz's recordings and only really like two, the mono Brahms Concerto with Koussevitzky and the (slightly cut) stereo Bruch Scottish Fantasy with Sargent - and the latter is surpassed by Tasmin Little's EMI recording in my view, although some will claim that as heresy...

I only own the redbook, so I can't comment on the SACD sound.

Heifetz is a bit of an ice man. Technically brilliant, but lacks the warmth of Oistrakh.

I agree that there has been a lot of hyperbole about the RCA (and MLP) SACD. It seems like that in order for people to say that a disc has good sonics, the have to say it has the best ever. And nothing can sound as good as a recording made with 3 mic's, no one makes recordings as well as they did in the late '50s, etc, etc.

Post by LC February 21, 2005 (5 of 18)
The Mullova/Gardiner disc is a very fine option: Beethoven/Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos - Mullova/Gardiner

Post by mdt February 21, 2005 (6 of 18)
sgb said:

Well, I was with you, hanser, until that sentence where you began comparing the RCA releases to the Telarcs and Pentatones. That, it seems to me, would be like comparing Harry Connick Jr. to Frank Sinatra

I think Telarc and Pentatone could be seen as modern successors to the Living Stereo teams. They bring back the same audiophile philosophy and carefull approach to recording. Since they have the advantage of modern technology throughout the entire recording chain and especially DSD as storage format of course the result will be even better.
When Living Stereo recordings are said to be better than modern recordings it's to say that the advantages of there way to record can still be heard regardless of the loss caused by the vintage technology. This is true in relation to the standard multitracking and "fixing it in the mix" approach of today. Telarc and Pentatone are two out of a few positive exceptions, they do not represent the general way of recording today.

Post by flyingdutchman February 21, 2005 (7 of 18)
However, do try his Sibelius. That recording and the sonics are very special in SACD. I also look forward to his Brahms and Tchaikovsky.

Post by ClassicalDJ June 22, 2013 (8 of 18)
Am I out of my mind or does the Beethoven on this disc sound significantly better than the Mendellsohn on this disc, even though it is the older of the two recordings? The difference in the violin sound is especially noticeable. I have not listened to the multichannel layer for the Mendellsohn, which could help its cause, but I don't see it significantly improving the violin sonics.

Are the sonics of Heifetz's Sibelius performance in this series more similar to the Beethoven or the Mendellsohn?

Post by Windsurfer June 22, 2013 (9 of 18)
I have always thought the high sonic rating given all of these historic recording including the much lauded Living Presence recordings is ludicrous.

If you want to hear outstanding sound, obtain:

Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Stenz

and play it back on a real 5 discrete channel sacd playback system.

Post by rammiepie June 22, 2013 (10 of 18)
While I won't comment on individual performances, I will state that since I upgraded to the Marantz SA11S3, the sound of these old RCA chestnuts as mastered by Soundmirror sound way better than they reasonably should considering their age.

Background hiss is minimal and the dynamic range is sometimes exceptional (Stokowski's Rhapsodies disc sounds amazing....period).

And considering that some of them were priced below $7 and had two complete albums on one disc ......... makes the pot even sweeter.

Will AP's new $30 remastered Living Stereo SACDs sound better.....well, we'll have to stay tuned for that comparison.

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