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In Reply to: RE: Mercury or Decca classical box sets? posted by greg7 on July 04, 2012 at 15:36:33
The early stereo EMI recordings are probably the best way to hear coincident miking in its purest form. In the notes for a First Hand Records reissue of early EMI stereo recording, Christopher Parker recording engineer from 1951-1987 writes the following:
"EMI favoured two cosine mics crossed at 90 degrees as the best way of reproducing accurately the apparent direction of a sound source when listening on two loudspeakers, thus enhancing the illusion of reality, the aim of recording, I suppose. But the M49 in cardioid tends to be more omni-directional at low frequencies than at high frequencies, so when the two are combined out-of-phase, to create the figure-of-eight, some bass is lost. Early in 1956, or perhaps before, equalizers were introduced to remedy this, and also to reduce a slight peak at two to three kHz. With these equalizers, and the "spreader" (to adjust the width of the image) we had several useful options. This may account for some of the variation in sound quality and in the character of the stereo image in the recordings of this time."
The best explanation of the various microphone techniques is by Robert E. Greene, linked below.
EMI issued many of these early recordings on 2-track Stereosonic tapes from 1955 to c. 1961. Chris, if you would like a list of these titles I can email it to you. I have heard many of them. Two of the most famous are Beecham's recording of Scheherazade and Peer Gynt. Other conductors include Cantelli, Klemperer, Karajan, Malko, Matacic, Mackerras, and other. A lot of the recordings have been issued on CD. The list will help to pick them out.
I can't guarantee the purity of all the miking, as there were other engineers involved, but you will get a good sense of what coincident miking sounds like from listening and from Parker's description. Of course, EMI changed the miking to include outriggers and spot miking, so later recordings reflect this.
It turns out that I do have a lot of those recordings that you mention. So would you say that all EMI classical recordings up to a certain year used coincident miking? And if so, what is that year? Or is that too broad a statement? I tried to do some research yesterday, but my results were inconclusive. I would guess that some European recordings that originally appeared in the US on the Capitol label might also have been recorded this way, such as the Kempe/BPO recordings, or the Firkusny/Susskind recording of the Beethoven Third Concerto?
As for Robert E. Greene, he and I got off on a bad foot several years ago when I dissed Kavi's Mahler Fifth on the Water Lily label (which REG had a hand in) - which BTW brings up another interesting point. Do you know of any modern (say, post-1990) recordings of large symphonic ensembles (orchestras) that have used pure coincident miking, other than the Water Lily recordings? I know there have been some binaural recordings, but that's not quite the same.
I would guess that the transition away from pure coincident miking occurred gradually through the 1960s. I've never seen any documentation about this. Certainly by the 1970s Palmer's recording style was much different, more similar to what RCA, Decca/London, and Mercury had done.
The early Kempe recordings from Europe and released on Capitol are coincident recordings. I don't know the Firkusny/Susskind recording, but other Susskind recordings were done in coincident miking and released on Angel.
I know of one Hollywood Capitol recording that was done with coincident miking. The liner notes describe it. It's Capitol SP 8484 called "The Cello Galaxy" dating from around 1958/59. It includes the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 and No. 5 with Felix Slatkin. The notes call the technique "Emisonic," but otherwise the setup was exactly what Palmer wrote. However, in No. 5 the soprano soloist Marni Nixon was allocated a third microphone that was blended in. So already there was some "cheating." The Hollywood String Quartet made only one stereo recording. It may have been a coincident recording, since both Slatkin and his wife Eleanor Aller appear on both recordings.
Sorry you tangled with REG. I've heard him speak live several times and don't always agree with him. I linked his website because he lays out the pros and cons of the different miking arrangements. I don't know of any other post 1990 coincident recordings. I have the Water Lily Mahler recording and tend more toward your point of view.
. . . that we don't have more recent examples of coincident miking of large ensembles aside from the Water Lily recordings. But I think it would take real courage for a company to do it, because wrong placement of the mikes is more disastrous with the coincident technique. (If it's wrong, the recording really can't be "saved" like a multi-microphoned or spot miked recording can.) It's understandable that no one is willing to risk the expense and loss if the recording turns out badly - which is a real possibility, since commercial audio engineers these days no longer seem to have the history and experience with coincident placement that their predecessors had decades ago.
BTW, I remember that recording, "The Cello Galaxy"! It was one of the first selections I ordered when I was a member of the old "Capitol Record Club". Of course, I only had the mono version. ;-)
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