Author Topic: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!  (Read 2550 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 13598
  • Street mural, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
    • Brian's blog
In a few weeks I'll be kicking off the next Blind Comparison game, which will be devoted to Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit. However, in the meantime there are quite a few decisions to make (starting with how many pianists to include, as there are a wealth of interesting recordings), so for those who want a quick comparison fix, I decided to bring back the Lightning Round!

Well, and as with last time, I'm also using this to help me write a CD review.  :D

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor

The rules are very simple. There are only five clips. They start with the arioso "turn" from the slow movement to the finale, and include the beginning of the finale for good measure. They're about 2-3 minutes each, depending on the performance. Listen to all five, describe your opinion of each performance, and rank them. You may feel free to discuss, disparage, praise, in any way you see fit. If you want to guess a violinist's name, go right ahead. There's no bracket, so these five are all the listening you'll do for this lightning round.

Violinist #1
Violinist #2
Violinist #3
Violinist #4
Violinist #5

Voting will be open for one week - until midnight New York City time on the night of March 16th-17th, 2013. After that I'll post the results as soon as I can.

Three more notes!
- Warning for audiophiles: these clips come from a variety of sources, including MP3, CD rip, and a couple iTunes files I created when I was a teenager and didn't know anything about compression. The recording dates span 50+ years. Sound quality differs widely; please try to be forgiving.
- One of these five recordings is a bit of a "wild card." Which one and why?
- Sorry I didn't tell you about this, Daniel, but I only decided to create this thread yesterday!

Offline trung224

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 261
  • Location: Karlsruhe,Germany
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2013, 05:16:30 PM »
  I am the first one comment  :D
   Base on few minutes except, I think I like the second performance best, because of its nuance and highly individuality. The #4 performance also impresses me, though less than #2. Among the three others, I like C3 most, because it has a good support from Orchestra (possibly because of better record). #1 and #5 is more mainstream, conventional.
   To sum up, #2>#4>#3>#1=#5

Offline mc ukrneal

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 5890
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2013, 05:53:33 PM »
Well, #5 was best for me by quite a lot. I didn't like #1, but I think the playing is better, so I guess that is second. Then 2, 4, and finally #3.

#1 - Start is too literal. It's nicely played though. The player is not always quite in unison though (in multiple locations). Playing is light and fluffy, which is just fine for this. Bright sounding instrument, in part due to bright recording I think.

#2 - Quite nice start, though perhaps a little back in the sound spectrum - had to strain to hear the player when the orchestra was playing sometimes. Runs are not entirely even (in speed/pacing). Either the technique here is less or the player is having a bad performance, but lots of details are lost, missed or unclear.

#3 - Similar to #2 in feel, except better played, if a bit slower. Still, their were some strains when playing alone for stretches (mostly in tempo and clearly enunciating the rhythm). As a result, the flow is sometimes lost or detoured. So not better played after all. Blandest one too.

#4 - Another straight start. But this one is more assured to start with all sorts of nuance and detail. Again the runs are not quite ideal, with that part losing definition. Is the slower speed a smart decision or one based to hide an issue with technique? Hard to tell in a short portion.

#5 - Better start for me, more free. Best played of the five. Rhythm is held and I could count along. Oh, this one is nicely done. Playing is sure, and well integrated with the orchestra.
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline Pat B

  • Full Member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 491
  • A=430
  • Location: USA
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2013, 04:27:49 PM »
I just found this site, and I can't resist this topic.

#1 - The opening is too straight for my taste. I like the fast Allegro but the orchestra sometimes lags. Overall I get the feeling the soloist is in a hurry to get the session finished. I'm not wild about this style of vibrato either. On the plus side, the arpeggios at 1:44-1:49 are the clearest. I'd guess the recording is from the early '50s. Some aspects remind me of Heifetz but I think he would be more forward in the recording.

#2 - Nice tone and probably the best dynamics of these soloists. Listening critically I can hear a couple of shaky moments but that is probably nitpicking.

#3 - Excellent tone, helped by a newer-sounding recording than the first two. I wish the Allegro was a bit perkier. Compared to #2 this one seems more tasteful, but also more straight-laced -- a toss-up. I'm going to guess Perlman, just based on the tone.

#4 - Slow and using the big, uniform Russian vibrato that once was popular. It's well played but not my preferred style.

#5 - Very different than the rest. Rhythms are more articulated, giving a lively feel even though it's not particularly fast. There are variations in tempo, dynamics, and tone that are well-judged and musical. I wouldn't expect to like embellishments here but they work. This must be a recent period-influenced performance (but with conventional strings).

My preference: #5 - #2/#3 - #1 - #4

Just in case any of that seems hypercritical, I wish I could play half as well as any of them.

...After writing that, I listened to my collection. #4 is the one of these I own. It's in my "don't listen often" section.

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 10380
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
    • Monotonous Forest
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2013, 06:28:24 PM »
Hello, Pat B, and welcome. Glad you enjoyed this blind comparison! If you like, feel free to post something about yourself in the "Introductions" section of the board, e.g., what part of the world you're in, and what composers, pieces or artists you like.

In any case, enjoy your time here.

--Bruce
No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
     ~ W. H. Auden

Monotonous Forest

Offline mc ukrneal

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 5890
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2013, 06:59:16 PM »
I just found this site, and I can't resist this topic.

#1 - The opening is too straight for my taste. I like the fast Allegro but the orchestra sometimes lags. Overall I get the feeling the soloist is in a hurry to get the session finished. I'm not wild about this style of vibrato either. On the plus side, the arpeggios at 1:44-1:49 are the clearest. I'd guess the recording is from the early '50s. Some aspects remind me of Heifetz but I think he would be more forward in the recording.

#2 - Nice tone and probably the best dynamics of these soloists. Listening critically I can hear a couple of shaky moments but that is probably nitpicking.

#3 - Excellent tone, helped by a newer-sounding recording than the first two. I wish the Allegro was a bit perkier. Compared to #2 this one seems more tasteful, but also more straight-laced -- a toss-up. I'm going to guess Perlman, just based on the tone.

#4 - Slow and using the big, uniform Russian vibrato that once was popular. It's well played but not my preferred style.

#5 - Very different than the rest. Rhythms are more articulated, giving a lively feel even though it's not particularly fast. There are variations in tempo, dynamics, and tone that are well-judged and musical. I wouldn't expect to like embellishments here but they work. This must be a recent period-influenced performance (but with conventional strings).

My preference: #5 - #2/#3 - #1 - #4

Just in case any of that seems hypercritical, I wish I could play half as well as any of them.

...After writing that, I listened to my collection. #4 is the one of these I own. It's in my "don't listen often" section.
Welcome from me too! Interesting how we liked #5, but trung has it last. And after #5, our tastes diverge a bit. Nice to (potentially) have another player in the blind listening exercises we sometimes have around here.
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 13598
  • Street mural, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
    • Brian's blog
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2013, 04:50:31 AM »
Welcome to GMG, Pat B! And don't worry about being too hypercritical - for one thing, I can't play the violin at all  ;D , and for another, I'm reviewing one of these five so the more that gets said about the recordings, the more insight I can pass along. (I will explain in the write-up that we did a blind test.)

Very glad for the interesting votes/comments so far, looking forward to seeing some more soon! And one more thing, Pat B... based on one of your guesses, you're going to do pretty well in these games...

Offline banpuku

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2013, 05:10:03 AM »
In order of preference:

1.  #2
2.  #5
3.  #4
4.  #1
5.  #3

I prefer #2 because of the dynamic range of the violin.  Also, the orchestra plays with greater range.  With the enhanced dynamic range, one gets the feeling of mood swings.

While #1 was a bit flat dynamically, the tone of the violin and micro-dynamics was very nice.  It sounded like an early 1950s recording, mono.

Offline madaboutmahler

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3787
  • MAHLER: THE GREATEST!!!!
    • Daniel Hogan - Composer
  • Location: England
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mahler, Elgar, Ravel, Chopin, Schnittke, Dvorak, Vaughan Williams, Schmitt, Karlowicz, R.Strauss, Prokofiev, Shostakovich....
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2013, 10:53:01 AM »
Sorry I didn't tell you about this, Daniel, but I only decided to create this thread yesterday!

No worries, Brian! Looking forward to taking part in this, will make sure to find time! :)
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
Ludwig van Beethoven

Offline Beale

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 84
  • Location: Australia
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2013, 06:56:50 AM »
My humble order of preference:

1. #3 The most balanced of the lot. I just can't get pass the beautiful warm tone. The tempo was just prefect for me, dancy without turning into a track meet.
2. #5 Could easily be first. Supreme control of technique, pacing and drive. At the end I thought the soloist was just a bit too showy. But heck, what a show.
3. #4 I couldn't believe the slower tempo here actually worked. Very deliberate attempt to put the music before the performer. The soloist communicated well and one get drawn into the music.
4. #2 Good controlled effort here but let down by some shaky moments (as mentioned by others also).
5. #1 Clean tone but way too rush for me. Could be a winner on a track meet.

My head is telling me #3 is best, but my heart longs for #5. A close call.

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 13598
  • Street mural, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
    • Brian's blog
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2013, 08:06:29 PM »
A couple days left to go - this weekend I want to finish up the review I'm writing, complete with the report on what my jury panel thought.  :) 

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY VOTED,
please read the tiny text!
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT,
vote and then come back and read it!

As you may have guessed, the disc I'm reviewing is #5. For those who loved Violinist #5 - Neal, Pat, Beale - how would you describe this violinist's style? Is there anything that strikes you as distinctive, compared to the other four? Is there anybody to whom you'd compare this performer, or anybody that he/she reminds you of?
« Last Edit: March 14, 2013, 08:08:57 PM by Brian »

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 13598
  • Street mural, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
    • Brian's blog
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2013, 04:45:01 PM »
Any more votes before I wrap this up?

Offline madaboutmahler

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3787
  • MAHLER: THE GREATEST!!!!
    • Daniel Hogan - Composer
  • Location: England
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mahler, Elgar, Ravel, Chopin, Schnittke, Dvorak, Vaughan Williams, Schmitt, Karlowicz, R.Strauss, Prokofiev, Shostakovich....
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2013, 09:13:05 AM »
Any more votes before I wrap this up?

Oh yes please, Brian! Can I get mine done by the end of this evening? I might even be able to get it done in the next hour. Sorry about the delay, hope this is ok!
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
Ludwig van Beethoven

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 13598
  • Street mural, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
    • Brian's blog
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2013, 09:21:48 AM »
Oh yes please, Brian! Can I get mine done by the end of this evening? I might even be able to get it done in the next hour. Sorry about the delay, hope this is ok!
Go for it! :)

Offline madaboutmahler

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3787
  • MAHLER: THE GREATEST!!!!
    • Daniel Hogan - Composer
  • Location: England
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mahler, Elgar, Ravel, Chopin, Schnittke, Dvorak, Vaughan Williams, Schmitt, Karlowicz, R.Strauss, Prokofiev, Shostakovich....
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2013, 10:02:21 AM »
1 - first thought was that the sound quality was perhaps a bit dry. A bit too literal for my tastes, would have liked a bit more space and warmth in the solo part. When the orchestra burst out with the second theme of the finale, you get the idea that perhaps they love the piece more than the soloist! Fine, but not special. 6/10.

2 - Very nice tone indeed! Far more warmth with great dynamic contrast and humour in the finale. I quite like how the violin often blends right in with the orchestra. An interesting, characterful and enjoyable performance from this excerpt. 9/10

3 - Nice opening, expressive. But the orchestra had fallen asleep for the opening of the finale! That was one of the most unenthusiastic things I've heard performance-wise for a long time!! Good accuracy and strict ensemble, a bit more fun would be nice though! 6/10

4 - Slow, but nice, phrasing is not perfect for me, some notes stand out too much for me. Lovely rit before the start of the finale. The only disadvantage for me of the extreme slow opening was that then the finale also had to take quite a slow tempo to make musical sense.. and I think it misses a bit of the humour and light-heartedness I want from this movement. Too serious!! 7/10

5 - Lovely start with a gorgeous tone and great sound quality! Wonderful character and charm while keeping the ensemble perfectly together, very impressive accuracy from soloist too. Very very good indeed! 9/10

5 and 2 were great! Was not as keen on the others. Therefore: 5, 2, 4, 3, 1

Thank you, Brian! :)
"Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy"
Ludwig van Beethoven

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 13598
  • Street mural, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
    • Brian's blog
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2013, 01:16:52 PM »
RESULTS

We had 6 votes cast. Three voters chose #5 as their favorite, two voters chose #2, and one chose #3, with violinists 1 and 4 getting less love.

A word about the numerical average: this is the average place on ballot, which means lower scores are better. If someone's score here were reported as 1.0, they would have been ranked first on every single ballot.

Once again I conduct a "lightning round" just to help me with a MusicWeb review - and once again the CD I'm reviewing places first!  :o

Without further ado...

Fifth place: Violinist #1 (4.00)

That's an average ballot ranking of fourth place: ouch! "too literal" "too straight" "The player is not always quite in unison" "in a hurry" "way too rushed" "would have liked a bit more space and warmth in the solo part" "some aspects remind me of Heifetz"

Someone buy Pat B a steak dinner! Violinist #1 is indeed...



JASCHA HEIFETZ

He's accompanied by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony (1959).

Fourth place: Violinist #3 (3.500)

"some strains when playing alone for stretches (mostly in tempo and clearly enunciating the rhythm)" "Excellent tone" "I wish the Allegro was a bit perkier" "I'm going to guess Perlman, just based on the tone." "I just can't get pass the beautiful warm tone. The tempo was just perfect for me" "the orchestra had fallen asleep for the opening of the finale!"

Violinist #3 is...



CHO-LIANG LIN

He's with the Philharmonia and Michael Tilson Thomas. If I may interject: this is a sound file I ripped to my hard drive something like 6 years ago, and it's only at 128 kbps. For those of you who praised the violinist's tone, please know that listening to this sample clip actually pained me because I know the CD quality sound is so much better! Cho-Liang Lin's Mendelssohn is a real sleeper classic, and if you even slightly liked this clip you should seek out the CD and really revel in how expressive Lin can be.

Third place: Violinist #4 (3.333)

"all sorts of nuance and detail" "Is the slower speed a smart decision or one based to hide an issue with technique?" "Slow and using the big, uniform Russian vibrato" "Very deliberate attempt to put the music before the performer." "The only disadvantage for me of the extreme slow opening was that then the finale also had to take quite a slow tempo to make musical sense.. and I think it misses a bit of the humour and light-heartedness I want from this movement."

Violinist #4 is...



ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER

The famous Karajan/sweater recording.

Second place: Violinist #2 (2.167)

This performer was ranked first, second, third, and fourth, but never last. "Either the technique here is less or the player is having a bad performance, but lots of details are lost, missed or unclear." "Nice tone and probably the best dynamics of these soloists. Listening critically I can hear a couple of shaky moments" "I prefer #2 because of the dynamic range of the violin.  Also, the orchestra plays with greater range." "some shaky moments" "warmth with great dynamic contrast and humour in the finale"

Violinist #2 is...



DANIEL HOPE

I had originally asked the question, "Which of these five recordings is a wild card?" The answer is Daniel Hope's, since he uses the original version of the score, before Ferdinand David suggested some edits. If you listen closely near the ending of the clip you can hear a few of these changes, although the most drastic ones aren't included. (Most notably, the slow movement has a different ending and the first-movement cadenza is completely different!)

First place: Violinist #5 (2.000)

Trung named this performer last place, but everyone else chose either first or second, creating the rift between the first of these remarks and all the others: "mainstream, conventional" "Very different than the rest." "Best played of the five. Rhythm is held and I could count along." "Rhythms are more articulated, giving a lively feel even though it's not particularly fast. There are variations in tempo, dynamics, and tone that are well-judged and musical." "Supreme control of technique, pacing and drive." "just a bit too showy. But heck, what a show." "gorgeous tone" "Wonderful character and charm"

Violinist #5 is...



TIANWA YANG

Sinfonia Finlandia, Patrick Gallois

Unlike with the Lang Lang Chopin game, I honestly expected Tianwa Yang to win this one. That's why I deliberately pitted her against big names (Heifetz, Lin, Mutter) and the violinist du jour (Hope) to give the rest of the violin-playing world a fighting chance. But, as you know now, and as you already knew if you've heard her Sarasate or Piazzolla, this is a very special performer. I've just had a hard time trying to find the words to explain why. As always you've been very helpful. :)

Thanks to everyone for playing! My review will credit you and link to this thread.

P.S. Methodological note: violinists were numbered alphabetically by family name.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 01:21:04 PM by Brian »

Offline B_cereus

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2013, 05:22:00 PM »
Thanks for this.   Very helpful.  My current favorite recording of this is Kyung Wha Chung's, but based on this I'll be sure to take a listen of these contenders especially Tianwa Yang and Cho Liang Lin as I'm unfamiliar with them.  :)

Offline trung224

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 261
  • Location: Karlsruhe,Germany
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2013, 05:59:01 PM »
  Listening the except from #5 again, but I'm still unsatisfied. The technique and dynamics is so good, accurate but the violin sound for me is too clean, lean and one-dimensioned. I think the performer focuses  too much on playing note fast and perfect, in expense of  individuality in sound, that's also the reasons I don't care for Heifetz's performance.  Not my cup of tea, just me ;D
   Thanks  Brian for noticing Daniel Hope's and Cho Liang-Lin's performances. They will be a good addition to my collection.

Offline mc ukrneal

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 5890
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2013, 06:11:15 PM »
Very interesting. Would have been even more interesting to include a Perlman or a Chung, but then it wouldn't have been Grease Lightning!

Quick question: What program do you use to make the clips?
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline banpuku

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Blind Comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2013, 05:11:01 AM »
Please continue to do these blind comparisons.  I bet that if we knew the artists in advance, we would not have ranked them the same, which is of course one of the reasons why it is blind.  Very interesting.

Buying Music From Amazon?
Please consider using these links. A small percentage of every sale using these links is passed on to GMG and helps keep this forum online.
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK