Which Performance/Recording Is Best?

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
6,514
948
113
Beverly Hills, CA
#1
Last night, at a friend’s house, we listened to three different performances/recordings of Mozart Symphony No. 41, which is one of my favorite classical pieces of all time.

1) A Columbia pressing of a Klemperer performance was warm sounding and smooth, with beautiful, burnished string tone (I have no idea if it was accurate or not), but the performance sounded recessed, constrained and distant.

2) A Columbia pressing of a Wallter performance was a little bit livelier and less recessed, but the string tone sounded thin and a bit screechy.

3) An EMI pressing sounded like a materially faster-paced musical performance, with string tone in the middle of the first two pressings. My friend liked this one best.

I liked the warmth and tone of the first pressing, but the liveliness of the other two pressings.

Of course we can decide which performance we like best musically. But I literally had trouble figuring out which recording I preferred!

How do you go about determining which performance you like best?

How do you go about determining which recording you like best?
 

astrotoy

VIP/Donor
May 25, 2010
933
172
43
SF Bay Area
#2
Ron, what is the third pressing - what artist and orchestra?

Larry
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
7,522
607
113
#3
sometimes there is no preference. just accept that for now. maybe as your classical tastes evolve a preference will emerge.

how can you trust your ears if 'no preference' is not a choice? i think it'important to try and be open to any result. we sometimes miss this standard of intended objectivity but it's a worthy method of approach.

how someone else might rank the preference will be based on their personal sonic and artistic priorities. i can tell you on classical music i'm more about liking one over another but not knowing why. and i'm good with that. or i will like a number of different versions but they are different. maybe someday i will be more discerning.

i listen to classical sometimes with Joel Durand, who made my tonearm. he is also a classical musician and composer, as well as professor of music composition at the University of Washington. now there is a guy who is not confused about what he likes and does not like about classical music. i'm not 100% sure he has more fun listening than me.
 
Last edited:

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
6,514
948
113
Beverly Hills, CA
#5
You should include catalog numbers with posts like this.
I didn’t specifically because I did not want my opening post to devolve into a declaration of peoples’ opinions on the particular tracks. I wanted to focus more on the concept of preference, and whether we even need to think that way.
 
Jan 29, 2012
1,195
319
83
#6
I purchased some classical recordings from a collector in the Palisades a few years ago. He had over 100 different pressings of the 41st symphony. He said once you love a piece you want to hear everyone's interpretation of it.

Fabulous.
 
Likes: Ron Resnick

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,253
1,267
113
London
#7
Last night, at a friend’s house, we listened to three different performances/recordings of Mozart Symphony No. 41, which is one of my favorite classical pieces of all time.

1) A Columbia pressing of a Klemperer performance was warm sounding and smooth, with beautiful, burnished string tone (I have no idea if it was accurate or not), but the performance sounded recessed, constrained and distant.

2) A Columbia pressing of a Wallter performance was a little bit livelier and less recessed, but the string tone sounded thin and a bit screechy.

3) An EMI pressing sounded like a materially faster-paced musical performance, with string tone in the middle of the first two pressings. My friend liked this one best.

I liked the warmth and tone of the first pressing, but the liveliness of the other two pressings.

Of course we can decide which performance we like best musically. But I literally had trouble figuring out which recording I preferred!

How do you go about determining which performance you like best?

How do you go about determining which recording you like best?
The sonics you you describe in 1 and 2 "performance sounded recessed, constrained." , "string tone sounded thin and a bit screechy." can simply happen because of getting a wrong pressing of the same performance (later repress/reissue), and the "screechy" , if you describe bright and hardening, can also happened with LPs from the used market that have been overplayed, which is very likely with both Klemperer and Walter LPs. You will really need first edition or at a minimum a second edition in good quality to do this compare.

Sonic differences on different recordings/pressings are very easily apparent. It is possible that some recordings are at a similar level (good or bad), and then you end up liking more than one. If I had the money I could easily have multiple LPs for the same piece, so performed by different performers, and on different labels. The system needs to be transparent to recordings to allow you to enjoy the differences though.

Regarding the performance itself, if you start listening to many interpretations, both live and recorded, you will soon start judging for yourself. You will find that different people do this differently - some who actually play instruments, might be listening to how a pianist is unraveling the score, while you might be judging based on just the "feel". With great performers, you will find that judgements based on our "feel", and judgements based on "technical score interpretations", often coincide. That's why those guys are great.

An example, Tang started listening recently and picked up Kogan's Chaconne on a good pressing to go mad about (there are many Chaconnes, he picked up one of the best), and loved the brief video (like I did) in Heifetz's interpretation of Saint Saens Rondo that the General put up. These are examples of how it is easy to pick good performances and recordings once you get into the music. I think you are overthinking this. If you keep listening live, and listen to youtube and recordings, you will get it.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Ron Resnick

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
721
317
63
#8
I liked the warmth and tone of the first pressing, but the liveliness of the other two pressings.

Of course we can decide which performance we like best musically. But I literally had trouble figuring out which recording I preferred!

How do you go about determining which performance you like best?

How do you go about determining which recording you like best?
I did not want my opening post to devolve into a declaration of peoples’ opinions on the particular tracks. I wanted to focus more on the concept of preference, and whether we even need to think that way.
I think I understand your notion here, but I'm not so sure it works that way - at least for me.

I'm not naturally inclined to separate specific music from recording attrbutes such as warmth, or tone in order to determine what I like. Haitink's recording of Mahler 2 is no where as clear and distinct, as defined, as Fischer's, but I prefer it.

Liveliness I suppose can be an audio attribute, a characteristic of a system or component (think Master Signature), but it's not clear you're talking about equipment/system attributes - it doesn't sound like your are.

I don't need to codify a notion of preference independently from specific performances, into a concept of preference. Distilling a set of personal maxims about what I prefer in terms of specific attributes - for what reason? I don't think I'm espousing the Mick Jagger School of Art Apprecation, viz. 'I ain't no schoolboy but I know what I like.' Having spent half a career in high abstraction there's no problem there, but its not how I approach listening to music.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#9
Ked, so you're now advocating not just expensive/borderline unattainable first pressings, but multiple copies of said first pressings to get the "best sounding" copies ie Hot Stampers/early stamped copies?

This is not practical to any except those w the very deepest pockets and tbh puts the hobby way into the worst OCD/fetish terrain.

I can see no joy in spending hundreds if not thousands of $/€/£s this way.

And you STILL have the risk of excessive surface noise/groove distortion to contend with.

We're not all Tang/Lavigne/The General to be able to do this w abandon.

I totally get how the best copies sound totally cosmic at The General's. But his system and ethos can hardly be applied to mere mortals.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,253
1,267
113
London
#10
Ked, so you're now advocating not just expensive/borderline unattainable first pressings, but multiple copies of said first pressings to get the "best sounding" copies ie Hot Stampers/early stamped copies?

This is not practical to any except those w the very deepest pockets and tbh puts the hobby way into the worst OCD/fetish terrain.

I can see no joy in spending hundreds if not thousands of $/€/£s this way.

And you STILL have the risk of excessive surface noise/groove distortion to contend with.

We're not all Tang/Lavigne/The General to be able to do this w abandon.

I totally get how the best copies sound totally cosmic at The General's. But his system and ethos can hardly be applied to mere mortals.
I agree with you that this ethos cannot be advocated to mere mortals. However I am not advocating anything for mere mortals. I was just referring to the discussion Ron is having, in case anyone wants to do this test systematically. And given that he has very few pieces to focus on, for him it can be done
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#11
And of course, Ron is no mere mortal. I might follow one piece of advice from you however (a first LOL), and use streaming to get an idea of the best performances out there, and concentrate my buying vinyl to those streamed albums that impress the most.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#12
Oh, I've just realised I'm advocating quality streaming to Ron. My mistake LOL.
 
Likes: bonzo75

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,253
1,267
113
London
#13
And of course, Ron is no mere mortal. I might follow one piece of advice from you however (a first LOL), and use streaming to get an idea of the best performances out there, and concentrate my buying vinyl to those streamed albums that impress the most.
Totally agree. In fact, I would also say have separate recordings for digital and LP. If digital is good quality of that recording, no point in biting on LP except for madmen.

taking the example of Beethoven violin concerto, there is a version which is supposed to be extremely preferred. However it is available on good quality on digital, so am not buying LP. Kogan original on the other hand is 5000, I can't afford it, reissue from testament sucks, so I won't buy it, and there is another excellent version I like, which is on LP and not on good digital (if at all it is on digital). I paid 400 for it. So I used digital and LP to complement each other, convincing me I am extremely smart
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#14
Oh, you're smart (Alec) alright.
 
Likes: bonzo75

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#15
Btw, you are aware there are those beyond fetish graders that will buy multiple copies, find the early stampers, and find that, eg on pressing #9 Side One is better than pressing #89, but vice versa Side Two. Even discerning down to individual tracks. Are you crazy guys going this far?
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#16
I mean Ked, these guys are even smarter than you (yes, hard to believe).

Actually, the smartest people are those that never got in deep re this hobby. That means the whole of WBF is pretty dumb.

LOL, in case of literalist interpretations.
 
Likes: bonzo75

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,253
1,267
113
London
#17
Btw, you are aware there are those beyond fetish graders that will buy multiple copies, find the early stampers, and find that, eg on pressing #9 Side One is better than pressing #89, but vice versa Side Two. Even discerning down to individual tracks. Are you crazy guys going this far?
Nope, not at all. But I did read an interesting led zep II review where he wrote what press he preferred when listening to side A, side b, individual tracks, and if he wanted to listen to the whole LP without changing
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,273
801
113
E. England
#18
Ked, check out Hot Stampers on

www.better-records.com

Basically an S&M club for collectors w zero self control and max cash.

The guys who buy from here are into pain.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
11,253
1,267
113
London
#19

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
1,188
651
113
#20
Performance is all. But having a system that allows you to cope with less than best recordings is the answer for me.

And it takes time to appreciate music and appreciation is also constantly unfolding.

There were certain things in first hearing in Paul Lewis’s take on Schubert’s late sonatas that initially troubled me but only because it was in ways unfamiliar.

As I let it unfold some familiar characteristics came through and then realising later that one of Paul Lewis’s teachers was Alfred Brendel the thread of comprehension came through, Lewis standing on the shoulders of Brendel to receive and perceive and then express a long consideration of what this extraordinary piano music was all about.

How we appreciate... I don’t believe that this is ever a simple thing. We are preset by the retentions of recalled moments of other musician’s interpretations, we are coloured by our current experiences and we are beset by a range of expectations, we are informed by what we open ourselves up to and limited by what we are then ready to perceive.The best we can ever be is open.

A life time enjoying music makes true notions of best in some ways just temporal reflections only. There is much to love in music and perhaps distinctions like best aren’t always that useful.

I spent forever preferring Argerich, Pires and Rubenstein when it came to Chopin only to realise that after years of being perhaps a touch dismissive of Decca’s young piano playin gun Benjamin Grovesnor that he was perhaps really onto something after all with his take on Chopin. So we learn and we digress.

The recordings hadn’t changed, but my system and I certainly had. Best (when it comes to music) is likely an ephemeral notion. I rather prefer to stay to the limits of just what are my favourite current appreciations. Fickle, well perhaps... and yet, we live, we learn, we grow, we grow old, we listen to Ked... and we die. Life is full and rich.
 
Last edited:

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio convertors (DACS), turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing