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Discussion: Brahms: Symphony No. 1, Overtures - Alsop

Posts: 15
Page: 1 2 next

Post by Chris April 22, 2005 (1 of 15)
It is really great to read reviews like the recent ones from Ramesh with a lot of comparisons made with both other recent and classic recordings of the analogue age.A stark contrast to De Selby's one liners.

But reading ,between the lines, of his review of Brahm's first from Naxos
I suspect that I don't really need another Brahms first,having both Karajan's 60's and 70's remake on LPs. I think I'll rather wait for them to be transferred to SACD.

I wholeheartedly agree with him regarding not only the ninth. I feel the same way about all of the nine Beethoven symphonies by Karajan. And I also suspect that those who don't like the sound of those SACDs have equipment that is maybe not quite as high res as they think.
Most of those early sixties recordings are not that far behind the best of the Living Stereos IMHO.

Ramesh, more reviews please!
All the best Chris

Post by Ken_P April 22, 2005 (2 of 15)
Chris said:

It is really great to read reviews like the recent ones from Ramesh with a lot of comparisons made with both other recent and classic recordings of the analogue age.A stark contrast to De Selby's one liners.

But reading ,between the lines, of his review of Brahm's first from Naxos
I suspect that I don't really need another Brahms first,having both Karajan's 60's and 70's remake on LPs. I think I'll rather wait for them to be transferred to SACD.

I wholeheartedly agree with him regarding not only the ninth. I feel the same way about all of the nine Beethoven symphonies by Karajan. And I also suspect that those who don't like the sound of those SACDs have equipment that is maybe not quite as high res as they think.
Most of those early sixties recordings are not that far behind the best of the Living Stereos IMHO.

Ramesh, more reviews please!
All the best Chris

I know I have a very different perspective from most of you here, but I like that there are new recordings being made of the standard repertoire using modern technology. I have nothing against old recordings, to be sure. I have nearly half of the currently available Living Stereo titles, and I love them all. I like being able to buy recordings of current artists, and not just buy the same old recordings in new formats.

I suppose I feel this way mainly because I wasn't around when all of the "classic" recordings were being made. I don't have that sense of nostalgia because I don't remember any of it in the first place. For instance, while I do own and enjoy many Karajan recordings, I don't find him to be the be all and end all of conducting. I just hope that in 40 or 50 years I'll be able to say the same thing, and not still be stuck on all the recordings that I love being made now.

Post by ramesh September 28, 2005 (3 of 15)
I've listened to this again for the first time since writing the review, because of the negative comments regarding the sound, from the last two reviews.

With due respect to these last two, on my system it still sounds fine, certainly better than other Naxos SACDs such as their Russian recorded efforts. The woodwinds and timpani sound individually miked, and their images are rather larger than would be expected in the concert hall, 'floating' to a wider degree in the soundstage, which possibly relates to the complaint about diffuse imaging; but the general presentation is much less synthetic than the glutinous wodge of sound in, say, Karajan's digital Brahms set on CD. As an aside, the DSD recording of Bruckner 8 by Haitink has much superior timpani sound to this Alsop SACD. Nevertheless, the timbre of the instruments generally sounds excellent.

The two last reviewers don't mention their equipment, so it's hard to fathom what's going on, especially since Audio-grubi liked the sound even better than I did. I ought to add that I pay almost no attention to soundstaging, possibly due to eight formative years as a poor university student, sitting in crappy concert hall seats when there was no student discount! Hence my audio ratings are probably skewed towards the timbre of the instruments, rather than a layered soundstage etc. My lounge is my listening room, and it's small, 4 metres wide, 6 long. My speakers are toed in quite heavily, which improves imaging, but I don't get the 'sound floating wide beyond the speakers', which 'Stereophile' seems to love. ( One wall is solidly lined with books, and this is an excellent eliminator of standing waves.)

By the way, is Alsop secure in Baltimore, after the backbiting?

Post by Claude September 28, 2005 (4 of 15)
Surprising how ratings on the sound of a disc can be so extreme...

But maybe the problem is that reviewers give a disc a 4.5 or 5 star sound rating although it merely sounds "good".

Post by deckerm September 28, 2005 (5 of 15)
By the way, is Alsop secure in Baltimore, after the backbiting?
Actually, I think she was on the short list of conductors to replace Litton here in Dallas. Last season, they brought in lots of guest conductors to 'audition' for the Dallas crowd. Alsop was one of them (I didnt see but she did Brahms as I recall) as was Kreizberg ( I did and he has very odd manerisms while conducting - think Robert DeNiro saying 'are you talking to me' with a baton.)

Post by tream September 28, 2005 (6 of 15)
By the way, is Alsop secure in Baltimore, after the backbiting?
I think she is extremely secure for now. There has been so much press about this (first woman taking a major post in the US, etc.) that there were be egg all over the collective face of the Baltimore Symphony powers that be if they fired her any time soon. And, she just won a MacArthur award (think that's it) - which gives her a "genius" laurel (don't know why they gave it to a conductor instead of a composer-certainly no conductor with a major post needs more $$), and she continues to make recordings that are well received.

Interesting fact, but because of the wide spread press over this she might be now the most widely known conductor in the US.

Post by seth September 28, 2005 (7 of 15)
tream said:

I think she is extremely secure for now. There has been so much press about this (first woman taking a major post in the US, etc.) that there were be egg all over the collective face of the Baltimore Symphony powers that be if they fired her any time soon. And, she just won a MacArthur award (think that's it) - which gives her a "genius" laurel (don't know why they gave it to a conductor instead of a composer-certainly no conductor with a major post needs more $$), and she continues to make recordings that are well received.

Interesting fact, but because of the wide spread press over this she might be now the most widely known conductor in the US.

I wouldn't call her "extremely secure." In a rare move virtually all the musicians trashed her in a public letter. I assume that like most music directors her contract is for 3 to 4 years, with the Orchestra management having the opportunity to extend it in the second year. If attendance is down or even flat, and the musicians still collectively dislike her by the second year, management will have a hard time extending her contract.

Post by ramesh September 29, 2005 (8 of 15)
seth said:

In a rare move virtually all the musicians trashed her in a public letter.

This is really sad, is there a link somebody can supply for this?

I think the Baltimore musicians deserve three years of Lynndie England to 'whip' them into shape; let's see if they can 'stack up', or at least 'stand up and be counted'

A Macarthur grant? A sure vote of confidence for her! Stephen Hough was the recipient of one, and then later went on to record the Rachmaninov concertos, so let's hope this is a good omen for Alsop.

Post by seth September 29, 2005 (9 of 15)
ramesh said:

This is really sad, is there a link somebody can supply for this?

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/18/AR2005071801496_pf.html

From it:

...a letter dated April 21 from Anthony S. Brandon, a board member who has been outspoken in his opposition to Alsop's appointment, to Philip English, the chairman of the BSO board, is specific. It was drafted with the help of other board members, with input from a number of musicians, and copies have circulated freely in circles close to the BSO. English has previously refused to comment on the appointment and he did not return calls yesterday afternoon.

"The overriding justification for eliminating Alsop is that 90 percent of the BSO musicians oppose her appointment," the letter states. "In her appearances with the orchestra, the players say, Alsop has not produced inspired and nuanced performances of standard classical repertory. They cite 'dull,' even 'substandard,' performances of Brahms's Symphony No. 3, Mendelssohn's music for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2.

"They say that she either does not hear problems or -- because her technical limitations prevent her from fixing them -- that she ignores them. Her musical sense is inhibited by her own lack of depth as a musician and she becomes frustrated when what she hears in her head does not come out from the players. Upon finding something wanting in rehearsal, she responds with vagaries such as 'I'm not feeling it' (Mendelssohn's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream') or exhorts them with abstractions such as 'make magic' (Brahms's Symphony No. 3).

"When an orchestra believes it is being pushed by unmusical ideas, tempos and phrasing and being told that the orchestra itself lacks imagination, musicians feel they are dealing with a conductor who lacks ideas, conviction and technical skill."

Post by Scott September 29, 2005 (10 of 15)
seth said:

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/18/AR2005071801496_pf.html

From it:

...a letter dated April 21 from Anthony S. Brandon, a board member who has been outspoken in his opposition to Alsop's appointment, to Philip English, the chairman of the BSO board, is specific. It was drafted with the help of other board members, with input from a number of musicians, and copies have circulated freely in circles close to the BSO. English has previously refused to comment on the appointment and he did not return calls yesterday afternoon.

"The overriding justification for eliminating Alsop is that 90 percent of the BSO musicians oppose her appointment," the letter states. "In her appearances with the orchestra, the players say, Alsop has not produced inspired and nuanced performances of standard classical repertory. They cite 'dull,' even 'substandard,' performances of Brahms's Symphony No. 3, Mendelssohn's music for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2.

"They say that she either does not hear problems or -- because her technical limitations prevent her from fixing them -- that she ignores them. Her musical sense is inhibited by her own lack of depth as a musician and she becomes frustrated when what she hears in her head does not come out from the players. Upon finding something wanting in rehearsal, she responds with vagaries such as 'I'm not feeling it' (Mendelssohn's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream') or exhorts them with abstractions such as 'make magic' (Brahms's Symphony No. 3).

"When an orchestra believes it is being pushed by unmusical ideas, tempos and phrasing and being told that the orchestra itself lacks imagination, musicians feel they are dealing with a conductor who lacks ideas, conviction and technical skill."

I haven't lived in Baltimore for four years now, but remember well many performances at the Meyerhoff. If the musicians of the BSO don't want her, there must be a problem. They're generally an OK bunch of people.

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