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June 30, 1965 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1965-06-30
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Ins

and

Outs of

Stereo

Listening

Stereophonic Sound Has Wrought Changes
In the Quality and Type of Records Produced

"Scheherazade": Good listening, but not for purists.

By STEVEN HALLER
W HAT WE KNOW today as the "long-
playing record," or "LP," made its
debut in 1948, with stereo records com-
ing along in 1957. Many performances
released on stereo tapes at that time were
released only monaurally, but it wasn't
long before the very real advantages of
the stereophonic medium made them-
selves felt among recording-company
personnel and listeners alike.
Today the recording industry is a
multimillion dollar business in this coun-
try and abroad (in fact, Britain's EMI,
Ltd. is so extensive as to make American
efforts seem puny by comparison, while
even Soviet Russia is now capable of
turning out top-quality merchandise).
The purpose of this report is to sum-
marize some of the many important and
interesting aspects of the recording in-
dustry as it exists in this country today.
Before discussing recent achievements
in the realm of stereophnic sound, some
explanation of this complex medium is
perhaps in order. Briefly, stereophonic
recording(or simply "stereo") is an im-
provement over earlier (and present)
single-channel efforts by virtue of the fact
that it provides a considerably more
natural sound. Conventional monaural
recordings involve the use of a single
microphone by which all musical im-
pulses emanating from an orchestra or
other musical source are picked up and
fed into one soundtrack. As one record-
ing manufacturer has put it, such a tech-
nique results in "brilliant sound and ex-
citing sound, but, of necessity, . . . only
one-dimensional sound."
STEREO HAS CHANGED all this. In
the manufacture of a stereophonic
record, at least three channels are gen-
erally employed: one at the left of the
orchestra, one at the right and one in
the middle capture virtually everything
the performers have to offer (although,
of course, it is still up to the conductor
to bring out the orchestral voices he
wants). When the phonograph stylus
the IJichiah tzbai41
MAGAZINE
This issue of the Michigan Daily
Magazine features record and book
reviews. Also included are an ar-
ticle by Steven Haller on stereo
records, "Ins and Outs of Stereo
Listening" and an article by O.
Ranieri di Sorbello discussing the
opera recordings of 1964-1965.
Haller is a Daily 1964-65 con-
tributing editor and has done a
great deal of reviewing of records
for this and other issues of the
magazine as well as movies and
concerts for the Daily editorial
page.
Sorbello works in the record li-
brary of the UGLI
CONTENTS
Ins and Outs of Stereo
Listening.Page 2
Record Reviews.......Page 4
Some Disappointing 1964-65
Opera Records .. Page 8
Photo Credits: Cover - Steven
Haller, copied from "The Worm
Returns," Page 2, Kamalakar Rao,
Page 3, Kamalakar Rao and the
Associated Press, Page 7, Gerald
Ahronheim

runs through the grooves of a stereo ree-
ord, it is made to vibrate vertically and
laterally at the same time, producing
vertical and lateral modulations which
are heard as overlapping sounds.
The total effect upon the listener from
a good stereo record is that of hearing
a full panorama of sound from one
speaker to the other. He should be able
to turn from left to right and pick out
successively the first violins, second vio-
lins, violas, celli and basses, with the
winds in the middle and the brasses be-
hind them (sometimes the brasses tend
to come frome one side and the winds
from another but this is not a normal
seating arrangement.) Percussion instru-
ments generally appear from one side
or the other, and a person whose system
does not contain two matched sets of
speaker systems should try to get the
one showing best bass response on the
side with heavy battery of percussion.
Although early recordings in stereo
had their problems-such as featuring
Jascha Heifetz struggling with a Strad
that stretched from one speaker to the
ther, or a definite lack of bass response
when compared with simultaneous mon-
aural editions of the same perform-
ance---most of these difficulties have
been ironed out long ago; and in general
the prospective purchaser may .choose
any stereo record over its monaural
counterpart without fear of thus getting
an inferior product.
Many early stereo records understand-
ably tended to emphasize the stereo ef-
fect: an instrument either came from the
left or from the right, with a "hole in
the middle." Demonstration records were
all too frequent, and some listeners began
to refer to what they called the "ping
gong" recordings that were turned out
with grim rapidity. But today's stereo
is much more suave, with the "hole"
filled in and pinpointing of individual in-
struments or combinations usually not
excessive.
MOST OF THE fancy phrases bandied
about by the manufacturers ("Living
Presence," "Living Stereo," "Full Fre-
quency Stereophonic Sound," and the
like) refer to the same general type of
stereophonic process, although the listen-
er may gradually come to distinguish dif-
ferent labels on the basis of their tonal
characteristics. Yet some techniques have
become of special interest, such as Lon-
don's "Phase Four" and RCA Victor's
"Dynagroove."
"Phase Four" has been used only on
popular recordings up until recently,
when London released a handful of clas-
sical discs ("1812 Overture," "Bolero,"
'Grand Canyon Suite") culminating in
the new Stokowski -London Symphony
recording of "Scheherazade." For these
records, London has utilized a 20-channel
console mixer recording on four tracks,
ideally with a minimum of stereo gim-
mickry for its own sake. At its best,
"Phase Four" represents an exciting but
artificial sound, as opposed to other rec-
ords which endeavor to reproduce as
closely as possible the true sound of the
concert-hall.
RCA Victor's "Dynagroove" is even
more controversial, inasmuch as there.
seems to be some difference of opinion
as to whether it is truly a forward step
in recording progress (as RCA claims),
or a backward step instead. Since the en-
gineers have tried to come up with rec-
ords which will sound good on inexpen-
sive portables (which comprise the most
common type of reproducing equipment),
owners of more elaborate component sys-
tems have complained that Dynagroove

discs sound cramped because of curtailed
frequency range and stereo effect. Some
reviewers have noted that true pianissi-
mos and fortissimos were nowhere to
be found on the Dynagroove records they
had heard, while at the same time stereo
depth in particular was judged negli-
gible. Yet other listeners came up with
exactly opposite conclusions! Dynagroove
remains a bit of an enigma, although re-
cent releases have shown a definite im-.
provement in stereo effect (if reviews
are any criterion).
Finally, one might mention the on-
slaught of "electronically reprocessed
stereo" records that have appeared in
the past year or two. The most famous
of these are RCA Victor's seried of "re-
processed" Toscanini recordings. Since
the public is notorious for preferring the
finest sound to the finest performances,

of whether a superbly recorded stereo-
phonic recording of an average perform-
ance must naturally supercede a super-
ior version hampered by ineffective re-
cording. As has been noted above, record
companies as a whole (being competi-
tive) must consider the monetary gain
first and the musical legacy second-or
at least so it would seem from even a
casual glance through the Schwann cata-
logue. Many conductors unfortunate
enough to have recorded before stereo
have since then all but disappeared from
the catalogue: one might name in this
context Mengelberg, Weingartner, and
above all Koussevitzky. In addition, a
conductor who has died or changed his
allegiance to another label may gradually
disappear from the catalogue, as least on
his old label, as is now the case with
Beecham and Van Beinum, for example.

to be utilizied (an immense four-track
console mixer into which were fed the
outputs form 20 channels, i.e., 20 micro-
phones). Since this is rather a more
elaborate setup than the usual stereo
arrangement of one mike on each side
and one in the middle, the possibilities
for spotlighting individual instruments or-
combinations were apparently infinite;
and although sonic gimmickry was not
meant to dominate (according to record-
ing director Tony D'Amato), the buyer
can take for granted at the outset that
this is not a "Scheherazade" for purists,
but rather for those who are interested
above all else in the wealth of orchestral
color embodied in every measure of the
score.
For one thing, the color is emphasized
to the point that strict comparison with
other, more "natural" sounding versions
(such as London's own Ansermet version)
is interesting, but pointless in the long
run. Stokowski is a law unto himself; and
like Horowitz's piano readings of the
Mussorgsky "Pictures at an Exhibition"
MWAHLER ' FIRST SY1

and of Scarlatti sonatas (on the piano
instead of the harpsichord), 'this "Scheh-
erazade" is best treated as an entity apart
from all other versions; in addition,
Stokowski has added his own touches
here and there, not all of which achieve
their apparent aim of improving upon
Rimsky-Korsakov's already lavish orches-
tration.
Among these effects are the unneces-
sary xylophone added at one point in the
second movement and the unexpected
(although not entirely unwelcome) ap-
pearance of the tam-tam at the height
of the fury in the last movement. Even
the seating arrangements are unortho-
dox, with one group of bassoons sitting
on the right to double the cellos and a
second group sitting in their usual place.
in the wind section. And some eyebrows
will rise over the treatment of the brass:
except for the horns, the brass remain
on the right until the famous antiphonal
interplay of trombones and trumpets in
the second movement, where Stokowski
(or the engineers) suddenly has the

trumpets scoot over .to the left ,for this
passage! As I say, this is not a "Scheher-
azade" for purists, but it is quite a lot of
fun to hear over a good stereo system.
As for the interpretation in general,
this is a score calculated to bring out the
best (or worst) in any conductor, and you
can just image that those voluptuous
passages for the massed strings have
never sounded so lush before, while solo-
ists are given plenty of room to make the
most of their parts. As for the last move-
ment, while it does not approach the
headlong speed of the Bernstein and
Reiner versions, it has its own share of
tension (due in part to the spectacular
sound, in which no percussive effects are
overlooked). Solo violinist Erich Gruen-
berg's tone becomes a bit coarse in the
final measures (which is probably trace-
able to the recording), but this is a minor
point.
Withal, I think it is fair to say that
this is a dazzling reading, one of Stokow-
ski's finest efforts and superbly executed
by the London players. If this is not quite
"the 'Scheherazade' to end all 'Scheher-
azades'," as London's advertisements
state, it is nevertheless going to leave an
awful lot of other versions far, far out
of the running.
--Steven Haller
BARBER: Piano Concerto; SCHUMAN:
"A Song of Orpheus" (Fantasy for
Cello and Orchestra); John Brown-
ing, pianist; Leonard Rose, cellist;
The Cleveland Orchestra conducted
by George Szell. Columbia Monaural
ML 6038, $4.98. (Stereo MS 6638,
$5.98)
THE BRIEF history of the Samuel Bar-
ber Piano Concerto is practically like
no other in the annals of the piano con-
certo literature. Its premiere, in Sep-

tember, 1!
gural cel
New YorI
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being perf

,PHONY:

Walter's Interpretation Ignores Dynanucs

Can this stereo play Dynagroove records?

the economy-minded record companies
have gone along for the ride. Recordings
of three of Toscanini's best performances,
Dvorak's "New World Symphony," Res-
pighi's "Pines of Rome" and "Fountains
of Rome" and Mussorgsky-Ravel's "Pic-
tures at an Exhibition", along with a set
of shorter pieces, have been released, to
general:critical acclaim. Whether or not
such tactics will gain new converts to the
Toscanini cult is still up in the air, but
it is to be hoped that this will be the
case: in this age where everything is
geared toward the stereo record, Tosca-
nini needs all the help he can get!
ALTHOUGH THE stereo effects of the
RCA discs seems to be fairly convinc-
ing (at least one knowledgeable record
collector, not having been informed as
to the identity of the conductor, took
them to be recent stereo records), other
companies' re-processed releases have not
been as successful with the critics; in
fact, a stream of records has appeared
which, although labelled "stereo," have
no more "stereo" characteristics about
them than' old 78's did. Clearly the whole
idea of "reprocessed stereo" has gotten
out of hand, and the buyer must have
some knowledge of what records where
originally available in stereophonic disc
or tape form and which were not, be-
fore he can tell whether a reissued record
is true stereo or not.
This naturally leads to the question

Fortunately, the record industry is
beginning to see the light: some record
companies have begun to reissue old per-
formances on their low-priced issues,
having the dual result of making some
cherished old performances available
once again while at the same time often
making the low-priced lines more worthy
of investigation than the high-priced
ones. In this respect may be cited RCA
Victor's "Victrola," Mercury's "Wing
Series," and London's "Richmond." In
all cases, as noted earlier, the buyer
should guard against buying. "electrons
stereo" not labelled as such, although
Victrola and Mercury Wing in particu-
lar do include some genuine stereo rec-
ords of fairly recent vintage (leaving it
up to the record salesperson to be able to
inform the prospective buyer which are
true stereo anid which are not).
Nevertheless, many of these old per-
formances still remain lost to us, includ-
ing almost all of the Koussevitsky leg-
acy. Fans of Koussevitzky and Toscanini
(to name just two of the conductors of
yore whose records have been shadowed
by new stereo versions) will generally
claim quite heatedly that nothing since
then has topped the performances of
the old masters. And quite ofen they are
right: there are innumerable perform-
ances which simply will not ever be re-
?placed, although they might be dupli-
cated in stereo (and each collector has
his own -ideas of which performances
THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

GUSTAV MAHLER, Symphony No. 1
in D Major. Georg Solti conducting
the London Symphony Orchestra.
LONDON stereo CS 6401, $5.98
(monaural CM 9401, $4.98).
SPEAKING AS ONE who has thus far
been quite able to resist the impulse
to proclaim all of Bruno Walter's inter-
pretations as the "last word," I am grati-
fied to report that this new London ver-
sion of Gustav Mahler's First Symphony
demonstrates beyond the shadow of a
doubt what a truly fine Mahler interpre-
tation can sound like. Although Walter's
rendition is not the worst to be had, it
is practically definitive compared to Sir
Adrian Boult's, for example), one need
only take score in hand and compare
Walter's and Solti's readings to see which
is the more praiseworthy after all.
The most obvious indication of the two
conductors' comparative respect for the
score is the fact that Solti observes the
repeat of the first movement exposition,
while Walter not only eschews that one
(which is not too commonly observed)
but also totally ignores the repeat of the
scherzo exposition (and is, as far as I
know, the only conductor to do so---in
spite of the fact that it is supposedly he
that all other conductors of Mahler must
look up to).
I shall not bother to waste precious
space pointing out all those instances in
the two respective recordings where Solti
is simply paying attention to the dynamic
markings in the score and Walter is not
(resulting in some really ethereal ppp's
from Solti where Walter more nearly ap-
proaches pp at best), since the possibil-
ity does exist that the respective record-
ing engineers might have had a hand in
it one way or the other; but even with
Columbia's slightly better bass presence,
Solti has the edge for sheer dynamic
range.
Those who feel that Walter can do no
wrong will no doubt decide that Solti's
tempi at the ends of the first two move-
ments-shouldn't be so brisk (and they
will be wrong, according to the score). I
submit, however, that the tempo Walter
elects for the last movement not' only
makes a laughing stock of the score
marking ("Energisch") but also totally
devitalizes the spirit of the movement.
Nor is there any apparent justification
for the pauses Walter inserts in the same
movement (at Nos. 8 and 47 in the
Hawkes Score) - thus further slowing
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30, 1965

down a pace which was pretty lifeless to
begin with - or for his eschewal of a
clear luftpause where such is plainly
marked at No. 34. Here again Solti is
more respectful of Mahler's directions;
and, while I can condone such deviations
from the score when they make sense,
I do not feel that Walter's fall into this
category.
In addition, it is Solti who more suc-
cessfully brings out the touches of sar-
donic humor in the third movement, the
so-called "Funeral March" (note, for ex-
ample, how Solti brings out the tuba
here!), while doing splendid justice to
the soulful pathos of the quieter passages
of the last movement. I don't believe I
need remind any Mahler fan of the ex-
tent to which a successful balancing of
these elements of humor and pathos can
"make or break" a performance of this
music.
Considering how highly touted Bruno
Walter has been as the ideal interpreter
of Mahler's music, it is interesting to
see how London's challenger to the
throne surpasses him where this sym-
phony is concerned. I am perfectly will-
ing to grant Walter's geniality and
warmth and all that sort of thing; but
this cannot compensate for his refusal
to observe the otherwise standard repeat
in the scherzo or his flaccid tempo in
the last movement. Unless the one con-

ductor who might be able to beat Solti
at his own game, Leonard Bernstein, re-
cords the Mahler First in the near future,
I would not hesitate to award the palm
to Solti. The London musicians respond
superbly to Solti's able leadership, and
the recorded sound is absolutely first-
rate.
-Steven Haller
GUSTAV MAHLER: Symphony No. 2
"The Resurrection"; mezzo-soprano
Jennie Tourel, soprano Lee Venora,
the New York Philharmonic conducted
by Leonard Bernstein and The Col-
legiate Chorale, Abraham Kaplan,
director. Columbia Monaural M2L
295, $9.96. (Stereo M2S 695, $11.96.)
GUSTAV MAHLER'S Symphony No. 2,.
"The Resurrection Symphony," is one
of a long list of symphonies which took
their cue from Beethoven's Ninth to em-
ploy vocalists and text within its move-
ments.
Mahler's concern here is with the sad,
suffering state of mankind during his
life on earth and the eternal peace he
attains when reunited once again with
God after death:'
"You will rise again, yes rise my
dust, after a short rest!
Immortal life will 'He who called

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Leonard Bernstein's Conducting of Mahler Works: Sen

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