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Bruckner beckons, but I need some advice...

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Posted on January 4, 2017 at 07:38:29
Doktor Brahms
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I've never been much invested in Bruckner's symphonies, mainly because of their length measured against time available for music listening. But now I'm retired, so listening sessions can start early and end late. Bring on Bruckner!

Toward this end, I recently acquired Skrowaczewski's cycle based on a recent thread on this forum. This conductor seems to have the measure of this music, but my problem has to do with the recordings themselves. I've mentioned before that my hearing has eroded somewhat and that the super-extreme dynamic range of today's recordings can frustrate my ability to hear the quiet end of the dynamic scale. Alas, this is the case with the Oehms set. This is of course not a criticism of the recordings; it's my problem, not theirs.

Since I still want to explore the symphonies, I'd like to acquire another cycle with--gasp!--a more restricted dynamic range. I'm thinking the analogue Philips set with Haitink might fill the bill. Or what about Janowski on Pentatone? The Pentatone house sound seems to work well on my system. Any other thoughts? Thanks for your advice.

 

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Here is some advice from a non-maven, posted on January 4, 2017 at 09:27:03
TGR
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I am not a Bruckner maven, but over the years I have collected a few recordings that seem to work. There are a ton of recordings of Bruckner, and also you have the fun of determining which edition to listen to, and in some cases (the 3rd, for example) the editions vary substantially.

Here are a few recordings that have worked for me, as I have struggled with Bruckner - I have owned several of the Haitink Philips over the years and have found them generally boring:

3rd: Szell (the first time the 3rd ever made any sense to me)

4th: Klemperer - surprisingly swift but still massive. Vanska, for a lighter approach.

5th: I don't have a recommendation. Bruckner never heard the 5th live....and IMO it shows. Maybe I just haven't cracked the code. I have heard it live and on record a number of times. I own Harnoncourt, Klemperer, van Beinum, and Jochum EMI, and once owned Haitink

6th: Also Klemperer.

7th: I recently acquired the first Wand recording of this, with the Cologne Radio Symphony - very impressive, IMO. There is also the very late Karajan with the VPO, billed as his last recording. At the end of his life, Karajan rediscovered the joy of making music - these last recordings with the VPO are special.

8th: Karajan with the VPO. The Tintner recording on Naxos. Giulini with the VPO. This is Bruckner's greatest symphony, IMO.

9th: To me the 9th sounds incomplete without the 4th movement, which ties it all together - a controversial view, I admit, but if you listen with an open mind....Bruckner clearly meant to have a 4th movement, and to me, without it, it sounds like Beethoven's 9th without the 4th movement. Rattle's recording is probably the easiest to find, although I have the Layer recording as well, which was recommended by Richard Lehnart in Sterophile (the Rattle came out after Lehnart's article on Bruckner's 9th and its 4th movement)

You have to consult with www.abruckner.com to figure out who is who in the zoo with Bruckner.

Have fun!

 

Although I don't agree with all your choices (how could it be otherwise?). . . , posted on January 4, 2017 at 10:53:49
Chris from Lafayette
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. . . I think that's some good advice you provided, especially directing listeners to www.abruckner.com, even though that site could be overwhelming for a newbie.

I also agree with you about the 4-movement version of the Ninth Symphony, even though none of the completions I've heard is entirely convincing to me. I still think the symphony is better with its fourth movement, even in an imperfect completion.

As for the Fifth, that's one of my top faves (along with 8 and 9). ;-)

 

Two things, posted on January 4, 2017 at 13:26:33
TGR
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1. I'm guilty of misspelling Richard Lehnert's last name.....my bad.

2. Music nerds love Bruckner's 5th....the fugue finale gets 'em every time. Haha - I wish I did respond well to it. A friend of mine who venerates Bruckner feels that his compositions need conductorial oversight more than most - so perhaps I haven't heard a good 5th - what is your recommendation?

 

I've seen Blomstedt conduct Bruckner a couple times..., posted on January 4, 2017 at 19:00:05
Ivan303
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What a treat!

I guess if I were to buy another set it would be his SACD set with the Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, albeit not cheap(Box Set is out of stock most places and m.

Sadly, only the #7 is available for streaming so that's my only reference other than having heard him conduct Bruckner with the SFO in recent years.





 

RE: Two things, posted on January 4, 2017 at 19:17:05
steve.ott@kctcs.edu
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Berlin/Karajan in the 5th. Very good I think. But I haven't heard too many 5ths.

 

With a little research, you can't go wrong with Furtwangler! No dynamic range issues. nt, posted on January 4, 2017 at 22:04:57
jdaniel@jps.net
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.

 

The 5h contains one of Bruckner's most beautiful slow movts, after the 8th of course. : ), posted on January 4, 2017 at 22:06:45
jdaniel@jps.net
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Sinopoli's or Franz Welser Most did it for me, but then I'm not a Brucknerian.

 

RE: Bruckner beckons, but I need some advice..., posted on January 4, 2017 at 22:26:43
Daverz
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Set: Andreae. Mono, but surprisingly enjoyable.

Some analog faves:

1. Neumann
2. Stein
3. Schuricht
4. Klemperer/Bavarian RSO
5. Karajan. Kempe XRCD
6. Celibidache/EMI
7. Rosbaud
8 & 9: Schuricht

 

Twice for me, too, posted on January 5, 2017 at 08:58:30
TGR
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The 3rd (in the massive, original version) and the 5th. Unbelievable that a man of his age conducts these scores from memory. Clean living, I guess! I acknowledge his mastery of these scores, but wasn't completely convinced by either work. I wasn't alone - lots of folks left during the performance of the 5th. I didn't notice so many during the 3rd.

 

RE: Bruckner beckons, but I need some advice..., posted on January 5, 2017 at 11:22:22
fstein
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The classic choice is Jochum. There is a set on Brilliant at a low price

 

Any opinions about Eichhorn on Camerata?, posted on January 5, 2017 at 12:21:27
Doktor Brahms
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A pricey option, to be sure, but very highly regarded in American Record Guide's most recent Bruckner overview.

One more question: I'm using Spotify to compare various recordings of the Bruckner symphonies, although that tells me relatively little about recording quality (because of the limitations of my computer speakers). I've been using the Scherzo of the 8th Symphony as a reference point for various recordings. Is there a likelier candidate for such comparisons?

Thanks for the responses so far, BTW.

 

RE: Bruckner beckons, but I need some advice..., posted on January 5, 2017 at 12:28:32
johngladneyproffitt
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Dealing with dynamic range in recordings is a tricky question, and frankly the options are all over the market. In Bruckner, one of the earlier recorded cycles -- Haitink -- is a good choice. As a generalization, the earlier analog recordings will have a somewhat reduced dynamic range when compared to current digital technology.

Regarding the Ninth Symphony: I agree completely with the sentiment that this should be considered only as a four-movement work; that, after all, was Bruckner's stated -- and emphatic -- intent. One has two choices: follow the first three movements with the Te Deum, which was a possibility offered by the composer himself; or, follow the first three movements with one of the reconstructions of the surviving torso of the Finale left behind at Bruckner's death. I prefer the second choice.

There are several excellent recorded performances of the 4-movement Ninth. Very recent and excellent IMO is the new Gerd Schaller/Philharmonie Ebrach recording on Profil. This newest Schaller disc contains Maestro Schaller's own reconstruction of the Finale, and I find it very persuasive and a superb interpretation overall. Note that in his earlier recording, Schaller recorded the completion by William Carragan -- also highly recommendable. For the other "major" reconstruction by the team of Samale, Mazucca, Phillips and Cohrs [SMPC for short, thank God!], I prefer the hard-to-find recording on Camerata by Kurt Eichhorn and the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz, Austria. Excellent in all regards. I do not care for Simon Rattle's venture with the Berlin Philharmonic, while well-played -- as one might expect -- I find it cold and uninvolved. My reaction, and YMMV.
John Proffitt

 

I tried to post yesterday - must have hit a wrong key, posted on January 5, 2017 at 12:43:02
Chris from Lafayette
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In regard to Bruckner Fifth recordings, it strikes me that the recordings you've mentioned (one of which, Harnoncourt, I really do like BTW) tend to feature interpretations which move the music along (even Klemperer AFAIR, although I haven't heard it in decades). So I'm wondering if you might want to try a slower, more massive recording - something like Celibidache/Munich on EMI/Warner? I see jdaniel mentioned the Sinopoli/SkD recording on DG - I have that one and need to re-listen to it. In general, I was pretty happy with what Sinopoli did in Dresden via recordings.

One performance from 2007 that flew under my radar is this one:



I think van Zweden has another, more recent recording with the same orchestra on the Challenge Classics label too, but I just ordered this earlier Exton album. I'll report back once I'm able to hear it. I've also long recommended the Skrowaczewski and Blomstedt complete sets, but the Skrowaczewski set is only available in "plain old CD" resolution, while the Blomstedt set was taken from in-concert performances. So it's possible that these recordings by van Zweden, presumably made under more controlled conditions, might excel just a bit in the SQ department.

 

I'm glad you mentioned the new Schaller version of the Ninth - I'm eager to hear it! [nt], posted on January 5, 2017 at 12:45:08
Chris from Lafayette
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RE: Bruckner beckons, but I need some advice..., posted on January 5, 2017 at 12:55:14
johngladneyproffitt
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A follow up comment regarding newer Bruckner symphony boxes: In the stere (2-channel) world I give the highest marks to the Japanese Camerata label and its breathtaking cycle of recordings with the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz, Austria. From a technical standpoint, these are the best engineered and best sounding Bruckner recordings you are likely to hear. Stunning. Interpretation-wise, they range from very good to the very best. Kurt Eichhorn died before he could complete the set -- he conducts 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, and these are all very fine. IMO, Eichhorn's 5 and 9 are as good as anything you will find anywhere. Utterly magnificent. The Camerata set was completed by Martin Sieghart, who does 1, 3, and 4; and Theodor Guschlbauer, who does the D-Minor of 1869 in a recording that was originated from Austrian Radio. The Guschlbauer is good, but not up to the high technical standards that the Japanese recording team from Camerata gave Eichhorn and Sieghart.

The complete Schaller cycle on Profil is both well-performed and well-recorded by the Bavarian Radio. It is noteworthy that Schaller opts for a number of alternative versions of some of the symphonies and symphony movements. Schaller and Profil have released two "supplementary" albums, the new Symphony 9 performance I mentioned above and a stunning two-disc set of the Mass No. 3 in F-Minor and Psalm 146, along with some seldom-heard pipe organ works of Bruckner.

Looking at high-resolution multi-channel Bruckner, the Blomstedt/Leipzig Gewandhaus cycle on Querstand is, as the Germans say, Spitzenklasse! Head of the Class superb and not one less-than-fine performance in the set, captured in natural, smoothly detailed surround sound. Highest recommendation.

I have not been able to warm to the Jankowski cycle on Pentatone SACD. Sorry -- my problem, but it is what it is.

And I cannot comment, other than to bring to the group's attention, the emerging cycle on SACD from Gramola Records of Vienna, which I am engineering in the Basilica Church of St. Florian under the musical direction of the young French maestro Rémy Ballot. So far we have done 8 and 9, already released, and 6 to come out in the next few weeks. I will be in St Florian this August to record 5 -- a very exciting proposition!
John Proffitt

 

RE: I tried to post yesterday - must have hit a wrong key, posted on January 5, 2017 at 13:04:13
johngladneyproffitt
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I believe all the van Zweeden recordings on Exton have been assumed by Challege Classics to complete their set.

And yes, Blomstedt is taken 100% from public performances, but that does not impair SQ at all IMO. Audience noise is virtually imperceptable: these are Germans, after all!! -- and the sense of being "in the hall with the orchestra" is wonderful. These are terrific recordings, interpretations and -- with the Gewandhaus -- performances.
John Proffitt

 

RE: Any opinions about Eichhorn on Camerata?, posted on January 5, 2017 at 14:15:46
steve.ott@kctcs.edu
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Sent you a p.m.

 

You? Wrong Keys?, posted on January 5, 2017 at 14:53:48
TGR
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Bad for a pianist!

:-)

 

Nice to see some momentum behind a 4 movement 9th, posted on January 5, 2017 at 14:57:02
TGR
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It just makes more sense that way. Loads of folks have disagreed with me, emphatically.

 

RE: Nice to see some momentum behind a 4 movement 9th, posted on January 5, 2017 at 15:10:36
johngladneyproffitt
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They are free to "disagree, emphatically" all they want -- just so that they are aware, therefore, they are placing their personal taste above the declared wishes of Bruckner himself. That historical fact can not be ignored.
John Proffitt

 

John - Thanks for clearing that up about the van Zweden recordings [nt], posted on January 5, 2017 at 15:15:33
Chris from Lafayette
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Moi? Yes I have egg on my face! [nt] ;-), posted on January 5, 2017 at 15:18:22
Chris from Lafayette
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I remember reading one Bruckner biographer. . . , posted on January 5, 2017 at 15:22:06
Chris from Lafayette
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. . . (I forget who it was), who strenuously opposed trying to perform the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony, because, as he claimed, it would be the height of arrogance for someone to try to complete Bruckner's greatest fugue for him! ;-)

 

Have heard the 3 and 8..., posted on January 5, 2017 at 18:47:55
Ivan303
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by Remy Ballot on Gramola Records but not the other ones you mentioned.

Can't wait!





 

RE: Have heard the 3 and 8..., posted on January 5, 2017 at 21:33:07
johngladneyproffitt
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3 was not my recording, but rather an informal "Konzertmitschnitt" that was released by Gramola after the fact. I was engaged the following summer 2014 to record 8 in 5.0 surround and summer 2015 to record 9 -- both of those are out now on Gramola SACD. I recorded 6 in summer 2016, and it is scheduled for release in a few weeks. This coming August we will record 5 and in 2017, Symphony 7. These are the only Bruckner symphony recordings recorded in the Basilika of St Florian and intended from the start as high-res surround sound. A few video productions (Cleveland Orchestra) done in the Basilika have multichannel soundtracks derived from a multi-miced TV production (Video producers hate to se mics in their camera shots, thus the resort to many closely spaced mics for the sound pickup.), but do not sound either realistic or very coherent, IMO. Opinions on this vary, of course. My recordings use just 5 omnidirectional Neumann condenser mics, carefully placed, which feed individually and directly into each of 5 inputs on the digital recorder. No EQ, no signal modification whatsoever.
John Proffitt

 

Please keep recording the way you do - It's righteous! [nt] ;-), posted on January 6, 2017 at 00:48:16
Chris from Lafayette
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Dynamic Range again, posted on January 6, 2017 at 02:31:45
Daverz
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I like the Camerata set, but it's definitely not going to solve the dynamic range problem.

 

I also have hearing problems and love Bruckner, posted on January 6, 2017 at 06:35:39
Frihed89
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I fiddle with the volume knob!

I know, not classy!

 

+1 n/, posted on January 6, 2017 at 07:20:38
Ivan303
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n



 

RE: Please keep recording the way you do - It's righteous! [nt] ;-), posted on January 6, 2017 at 07:39:19
johngladneyproffitt
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Chris, you are very kind -- and I appreciate your comment! I will be completely honest and tell you, when the maestro and the orchestra musicians express similar thoughts about the recorded sound, I feel as if I've accomplished something deeply satisfying. For many years I recorded the Houston Symphony for radio broadcast, using rehearsals and (usually) multiple performances to place and adjust three or four spaced omni mics "just right" in what is essentially a mediocre space: Jones Hall. Time and again the musicians would tell me: what I hear on your tape is better than anything in the hall itself. So, that's been my paradigm for quite some time. You actually can hear two examples released commercially on Koch International Classics: Bruckner 2 and Bruckner 6 with Eschenbach conducting.

St. Florian is a similar case, in that the highly reverberant Basilica is a difficult listening space for the audience -- a huge, undifferentiated blur of sound with the orchestra up front. My challenge was to find the sweet spot, where we have orchestral focus and clarity and yet capture the fantastic ambience. Multichannel surround, done with as few mics as possible, seems to do the trick and the response from the musicians, in particular, has been positive. Most annoying of course is the individual -- or reviewer! -- who insists on listening -- and reviewing! -- the stereo layer. Totally not the same as multichannel, obviously....
John Proffitt

 

RE: I've seen Blomstedt conduct Bruckner a couple times..., posted on January 6, 2017 at 07:42:50
johngladneyproffitt
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For purchasing the Blomstedt Querstand set, try www.jpc.de
John Proffitt

 

RE: Two things, posted on January 6, 2017 at 07:46:39
johngladneyproffitt
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I agree that this is a superb performance. Alas, DG did a dreadful job IMO with the recording. Not sure why, but they dropped the ball on this one. For my taste, Karajan and Bruckner are heard to best effect in his two early 1970s EMI Electrola recordings of 4 and 7 -- and to a lesser extent his 1958 Symphony 8 -- all recorded in the Jesus-Christus Kirche in Berlin-Dahlem. The DG recordings are all from the Philharmonie, when DG was still apparently trying to figure out how best to record there! My surmise, of course....
John Proffitt

 

RE: I remember reading one Bruckner biographer. . . , posted on January 6, 2017 at 07:55:47
johngladneyproffitt
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I would pose one question to the biographer, or to anyone who takes this position: would you then discard the Mozart Requiem, Puccini's Turandot, Mahler's 10th, Bartok's Viola Concerto, etc. because other hands had the "arrogance" to bring to a reasonably completed form that which the composer was unable to finish due to death? I think not.
John Proffitt

 

RE: Any opinions about Eichhorn on Camerata?, posted on January 6, 2017 at 08:01:34
johngladneyproffitt
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It is the overall best engineered and recorded Bruckner set in 2-channel stereo. All performances are at least very fine, and a couple of them -- 5 and 9 -- are among the best anywhere. The 9th is a four-movement performance with the SMPC 1992 finale.
John Proffitt

 

RE: With a little research, you can't go wrong with Furtwangler! No dynamic range issues. nt, posted on January 6, 2017 at 08:07:56
johngladneyproffitt
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If you can tolerate the AM-radio quality mono sound. Pristine does the best with this limited material, if you really want Furtwaengler.
John Proffitt

 

RE: Although I don't agree with all your choices (how could it be otherwise?). . . , posted on January 6, 2017 at 08:11:24
johngladneyproffitt
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Chris -- since 5 is a top fave of yours, please make every effort to hear Eichhorn/Bruckner Orchester Linz and Konwitschney/Leipzig Gewandhaus. Both are 2-channel stereo and will knock your socks off! Really, really, really great.
John Proffitt

 

On the 9th, posted on January 6, 2017 at 08:26:30
TGR
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I remember seeing the review of the performance of the 8th in Stereophile - congrats, sounds like a marvelous achievement. I plan to check it out.

So you did the recording of the 9th without the 4th movement - was there any discussion about that?

Thanks in advance,

Tom

 

RE: On the 9th, posted on January 6, 2017 at 08:34:23
johngladneyproffitt
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Regarding the performance and recording of 9: yes, there was discussion but my participation in the discussion came too late to influence that decision. Each summer's schedule is firmed up about 18 - 24 months in advance. Maestro Ballot was receptive after I made some intensive lobbying for this, but the prior arrangements of the Brucknertage Music Festival made such a "change of plans" impossible.


John Proffitt

 

Church vs. Philharmonie, posted on January 6, 2017 at 09:14:33
steve.ott@kctcs.edu
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I agree, but for some reason I like the sound of the recording of the 5th better than the 8th, even though they are recorded in the same place (I think). Too bad he couldn't have recorded from 4 on up with the Wien in the Musikvereinsaal. But then I would probably miss the strong Berlin strings. Thanks for the EMI recommendations for 4 and 7. What is the orchestra?

 

Yes, but only Bruckner has followers who genuflect at his very name, posted on January 6, 2017 at 10:01:05
Chris from Lafayette
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I mean, he was practically holy! A Saint!* Oh! The sacrilege of someone else's completing the last movement of the Ninth!

*Well, except for his preference for 16-year-old girls.

 

RE: Yes, but only Bruckner has followers who genuflect at his very name, posted on January 6, 2017 at 10:40:04
johngladneyproffitt
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Hah! Very true.
John Proffitt

 

RE: Church vs. Philharmonie, posted on January 6, 2017 at 10:45:13
johngladneyproffitt
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The EMI Electrola recordings are all with the Berlin Phil.

Re the difference with DG between 5 and 8 -- the fact was, their engineers were experimenting with mic placement in the Philharmonie. Listen to the 6th from that set to hear the closest HVK came to disaster: not a good outcome.
John Proffitt

 

Will do - the LGO is one of my favorite orchestras anyway (Great No. 1 with Neumann!) [nt], posted on January 6, 2017 at 15:47:25
Chris from Lafayette
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Gotta say, I just don't get surround., posted on January 6, 2017 at 15:54:52
Rick W
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At least as I've heard it and understand it. 3 spkrs. in the front, 2 in the back? Or am I misunderstanding the surround you do? Obviously I'm no surround expert and don't have a surround system.

As a musician (jazz) I hear from various places on stage depending on size of band and setup. Never thought of an inside the band spot as superior to what you hear out front.

 

RE: Gotta say, I just don't get surround., posted on January 6, 2017 at 16:27:46
johngladneyproffitt
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Sure. The industry standard 5-channel Surround Sound set-up, which is the most common, is as follows:

Speaker #1 Left Front
Speaker #2 Right Front
Speaker #3 Center (front)
Speaker #4 Left Surround (rear)
Speaker #5 Right Surround (rear)

In the majority of classical music 5 channel surround recordings (usually designated 5.0), the front three speakers reproduce the direct soundstage of the musicians -- orchestra, ensemble, soloists, whatever. The two rear-placed speakers reproduce the natural, reflected hall ambience/reverberation from the concert hall in which the musicians are performing. The combination of this, when done well, reproduces the audio impression of sitting in the concert hall with natural realism.

Some 5.0 recordings of classical repertoire bring some of the performers into the two rear speakers to, in effect, put the listener into (1) the center of the ensemble or (2) in the case of a symphony orchestra, roughly in the same space as the conductor. The second goal is usually what I plan for in my 5.0 recordings, such as the Bruckner symphony recordings in the St Florian church.

I hope this helps! Once you try and hear a good surround system, it is very hard indeed to be satisfied with POS (Plain Old Stereo).
John Proffitt

 

Aha, got it., posted on January 6, 2017 at 16:35:45
Rick W
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Yeah, using the rear for hall ambience makes sense. Thanks for the clarification.

Does Chesky do the kind of surround I was thinking of where the rear 2 channels are actually instruments/vocals rather than just for ambience/decay - thereby providing an illusion of being in the center of the band? I know Dave (played in his band many moons ago) and vaguely remember a rap with him about it.

 

RE: Will do - the LGO is one of my favorite orchestras anyway (Great No. 1 with Neumann!) [nt], posted on January 6, 2017 at 18:03:09
johngladneyproffitt
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Berlin Classics has the Neumann 1 -- excellent; and the Bongartz 6, also with Leipzig and also excellent. Try it too.
John Proffitt

 

RE: Aha, got it., posted on January 6, 2017 at 19:45:49
johngladneyproffitt
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Am not familiar with Chesky jazz surround recordings. But "immersion surround" would not surprise me at all. There are some classical recordings made with the listener in the center of the orchestra. Very "unnatural" but it can be exciting. The Tacet SACD of the Beethoven Ninth puts you "in the middle" and is very enjoyable IMO.
John Proffitt

 

RE: Aha, got it., posted on January 6, 2017 at 20:56:56
Rick W
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IIRC that "immersion" style sound was what my rap with Chesky was about. I can't get into that perspective. Too fake. Nobody hears perfect balance when playing in a band, and no audience member sits in the middle of the band.

I like your surround concept, but don't foresee a surround setup in my future. As a geezer with around 2,000 lp's and 7-800 cd's I expect to be a 2 channel guy until I exit.

 

RE: Aha, got it., posted on January 6, 2017 at 20:59:00
johngladneyproffitt
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Nothing wrong with that! Suggest, however, that you visit a friend with a good surround system just to hear how the others do it....
John Proffitt

 

Yes, I will if I find somebody that has a good surround setup. nt, posted on January 6, 2017 at 21:26:52
Rick W
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nt

 

Very happy with their Furt Beethoven 3rd. nt, posted on January 6, 2017 at 21:45:41
jdaniel@jps.net
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.

 

Yes - I've got that Bongartz Bruckner 6th too - it stands the test of time well! [nt], posted on January 7, 2017 at 00:06:47
Chris from Lafayette
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RE: Yes, I will if I find somebody that has a good surround setup. nt, posted on January 7, 2017 at 13:09:00
ahendler
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I have heard some great surround setups. Still prefer 2 channel
Alan

 

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