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Recordings vs Live performances of Classical Music


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Say you have tickets for a full season of piano concerts at you local auditorium.

 

Imagine that for every concert the pianists play the same pieces, on the same piano, tuned the exact same way and placed at the same position on the stage. Furthermore the public that attends the concert is always the same and you always seat at the same spot on the auditorium.

 

If you close you eyes to listen to the sound produced by these different pianists you will find that even though everything else remains constant every pianist is able to produce a unique sound different from the sound of the other pianists.

 

The only responsible agent for that difference in sound is the pianist himself. So it would be safe to think that any difference on dynamic range (from pianissimo to forte), balance (left vs right hand and middle voices), color (with more or less harmonics), sound presence, etc would be a product of his/her technical ability to exploit the resources of the instrument.

 

If you attended all the concerts you would end up having a well formed opining about each one of those pianists and how they compare to one another.

 

Now, imagine every pianist brought his own crew to record his own concert. Imagine we never attended those concerts and we only heard the recordings: Do you think you would have gotten to the same conclusions?

 

To put it another way: If all those different recording crews simultaneously made their own recording of one single concert: Would all those recordings sound the same to you?

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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Say you have ... Would all those recordings sound the same to you?

 

Mario,

 

To me, yes, they would probably sound the same, or at least too similar to care. BUT, I am not that sensitive to tone, and am not a big fan of solo piano (or any solo instrument).

 

OTOH, I'd think that another person, who is sensitive to tone, and loves piano, would probably have a very different reaction. Hearing differences and declaring preferences.

 

And, a third person may not know, or like, classical music, and thus be bored and inattentive, not noticing any differences.

 

So, the answer to your question is very listener dependent !!

 

 

But, perhaps I interpreted your question incorrectly because it seems different in the text versus the title ?

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"To put it another way: If all those different recording crews simultaneously made their own recording of one single concert: Would all those recordings sound the same to you"

 

My answer is that different recording crews do not always have the same recording equipment or placement. The recorded sound can be quite different. I have heard the same performance done with different microphones and the sound especially the soundstage is different.

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I have heard the same performance done with different microphones and the sound especially the soundstage is different.

 

All recordings alter these sound properties (dynamic range, balance, color, presence, etc). It would be impossible not to do so. But the problem is not so much that they alter the sound, but the fact that each one alters the sound in a different way. They might all "sound good", but the problem is that it leaves us (the audience) unable to establish any kind of comparisons (in terms of sound) among the artists on these recordings. Yes, we might like the sound on one album better than the other, but we do not know if the person responsible for that is the pianist or the "recording chain".

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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For piano recordings (and even more for orchestral recordings) there are huge differences in miking and recording techniques, that make equally huge differences in the sound qualities of those recordings. An extreme example is the Japan RCA (RDC-4) 45RPM recording of Ikuyo Kamiya playing the Beethoven Appassionata on a Boesendorfer Imperial. The record was a long time member of the Absolute Sound Super Disc list. The engineers put microphone right into the piano, so the sound is extremely up close and personal, almost like putting your head inside the piano, something one would never hear in any real concert. That could be contrasted with a host of other much more natural sounding recordings - for example, a simple Decca tree that Wilkie Wilkinson used for many, many recordings, beginning in the late 1950's.

 

I have found (going to about 70+ classical concerts a year) that seating position in the hall and which hall can make a huge difference. We typically sit pretty close, row 5-10 in most halls, keyboard side, so left center. At one of our favorite halls, Wigmore, the sound is quite good pretty much anywhere in the hall, at least back to the 15th row, even to the side. It is a pretty small hall, fewer than 500 seats on the main floor. In contrast, at Royal Festival Hall, the sound of a solo piano is much different from the front of the main floor (stalls) to the back of the balcony. We normally don't sit that far back, but for the recent Daniel Barenboim Schubert Sonata recitals where we heard him play his new Barenboim piano, the only seats we could get were only about 10 rows from the very back of the top. We had to strain to hear the quieter passages that he played. RFH is about 5 time bigger than Wigmore.

 

On our recent London sojourn, we got to hear 20 concerts in 22 days. Hearing live, acoustical music (in our case, all classical) gives a real sense of the enormous gap between live and recorded music.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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Hearing live, acoustical music (in our case, all classical) gives a real sense of the enormous gap between live and recorded music.

 

We have started a new classical music record label and we are trying to do things differently on this respect.

 

If you listen to all our albums you get a filling of consistency in the sound. We are trying to achieve and effect similar to the one you get when you attend several concerts in the same auditorium.

 

All our recordings are carefully engineered to maintain a constant recording chain signature. That means they sound as if you where listening to all these artists on the same auditorium.

 

I have configured a playlist of four songs from four different albums and artists so you can test this for yourself.

 

Player - PlayClassics, the luxury of good music

 

We release all our albums on Online-Disc. That means our full catalogue is available online for free. You can read the complete booklets and listen to the full albums.

 

You can stream our music on LAME MP3 files up to 320kbps. To maintain the best audio quality these files are mastered for PlayClassics directly from the 24bit studio files.

 

There are no adds, no fees, no registration, you can just visit our page and enjoy all our music for free.

 

Also, if you would like to compare our sound against mainstream recordings you can visit our studio page and listen to the demos. The address is Musicstry Studios

 

Larry, with your enormous listening experience we would really appreciate your feedback :)

 

Mario

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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Mario, best wishes on your new label. There are so many fine young artists who are not household names. I will take a listen to your samples.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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If you close you eyes to listen to the sound produced by these different pianists you will find that even though everything else remains constant every pianist is able to produce a unique sound different from the sound of the other pianists.

 

The only responsible agent for that difference in sound is the pianist himself. So it would be safe to think that any difference on dynamic range (from pianissimo to forte), balance (left vs right hand and middle voices), color (with more or less harmonics), sound presence, etc would be a product of his/her technical ability to exploit the resources of the instrument.

 

 

The only responsible agent is yourself. In real life every time you will come to the concert you will be the other "you" than last time. Your mood, health, everything will be different. Your woman left you and this will be the worst live performance in your life ever. Or best ;)

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Your questions can point to several issues with realism in the home listening environment.

 

In one form, crossed figure 8's or blumlein if played back over speakers with the proper angle (60 degrees) would give the most accurate playback in stereo in many respects.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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