GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Classical Music for Beginners => Topic started by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 04:16:58 AM

Title: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 04:16:58 AM
Hello
I find it difficult to describe an audio problem but I will try.
Its mainly about an Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr  cd of Handel's complete violin sonatas on harmonia mundi HMX 2907259.
When I first heard it I loved it then bought the cd and got problems with the sound of the harpsichord at once. There is a quality that stops me listening to it at all, like very heavy reverberation. Am I right about the reverb or is that the correct sound from a harpsichord, if so I will be wary in future.
Can someone shed some light.
Thanks
george401
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 10, 2017, 04:52:13 AM
Harpsichords can very much depend on the instrument and how you are listening to it. Harpsichords often have different timbres (like a unique sound signature), and so recordings with different instruments may sound different. I mention this, because even if you dislike the sound of this instrument, it doesn't mean you will dislike others. it could also just be the way this particular instrument was recorded. I don't own it, so I can't check.

Another thought is to change the equalizer and fiddle with different settings on the sound. Maybe reduce the reverb or some of the settings that emphasize this frequency. Alternatively, perhaps use headphones or stop using them or use different ones (just to see if that changes anything). If you do find a different setting that works, save it (in some way) for next time. I can't tell you how many times I've fiddled with something at some point only to change it later and forget the starting point.

Having said all that, you might just find listening to this harpsichord (or harpsichords in general) fatiguing (a minute is fine, 5 not so much). In that case, there are many other alternatives played on either modern or period instruments that might suit your ears better.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: amw on October 10, 2017, 05:04:29 AM
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Mandryka on October 10, 2017, 05:34:04 AM
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.

Possibly but this is not a problem with the aforementioned Handel sonatas, which sounds pretty good to me. I wonder what sort of equipment the OP was using, or whether he's got a bad recording.

In fact I think that harpsichord recordings are much better than they used to be, though maybe not on Spotify, and these days the problem of truthfulness is no greater for harpsichord than for piano.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Gurn Blanston on October 10, 2017, 05:48:49 AM
Possibly but this is not a problem with the aforementioned Handel sonatas, which sounds pretty good to me. I wonder what sort of equipment the OP was using, or whether he's got a bad recording.

In fact I think that harpsichord recordings are much better than they used to be, though maybe not on Spotify, and these days the problem of truthfulness is no greater for harpsichord than for piano.

I pretty much agree with this. I think maybe the problem is that just like any other period instrument, the harpsichord (or tangent piano or spinet or virginal or clavichord or fortepiano etc etc) is an acquired taste. I first acquired it with Scarlatti, then Bach, which was essentially written for harpsichord and thus easy to slip right into since the only other piano Bach I had was Gould. Even then, the first time I heard Mozart on one I nearly lost it, it just wasn't the sound I expected and I was determined not to like it. Now, however, I have gotten well past that and greatly prefer my early Mozart and Haydn on harpsichord or clavichord even versus fortepiano. As it happens, I have that Manze/Egarr disk and only seem to hear a very rich and full harpsichord sound. Unless the OP's has an issue, as someone else mentioned.

8)
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: 71 dB on October 10, 2017, 08:42:37 AM
Its mainly about an Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr  cd of Handel's complete violin sonatas on harmonia mundi HMX 2907259.

I find this recording a bit bright (about 4 dB), but otherwise well recorded. For headphones optimal cross-feed level is about -7 dB.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 09:07:25 AM
When I bought it there were two listings on amazon, one with few positive reviews and the next was all positive the later one. I bought it from ebay and made sure it was the latest as the first had a bad review because of reverb. My cd is (c) 2001 and (P)2004 but the last was 2005.
Are there two different recordings.
My equipment is quad 34, 405-2, marantz cd6005, wharfedale diamond 159s, doesnt cause problems with other cds.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: 71 dB on October 10, 2017, 09:23:54 AM
Are there two different recordings.

Don't know about that, but my disc is recorded November 28-30, 1998 at Skywalker Sound. This is a re-release with Harmonia Mundi's 2005 catalogue.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Parsifal on October 10, 2017, 09:33:16 AM
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.

Given that the harpsichord has very small dynamic range to begin with, it seems unlikely that producers would choose to compress recordings of solo harpsichord. What they do do is set the recording level so that the loudest sound produced by the instrument or ensemble reaches the maximum volume of the signal channel, as they should. It is up to the listener to set the volume appropriately. (Of course, if a solo harpsichord passage alternates with full orchestra, as it might in a concerto or other types of extended piece, they must keep the harpsichord in its place.)
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 09:42:44 AM
Don't know about that, but my disc is recorded November 28-30, 1998 at Skywalker Sound. This is a re-release with Harmonia Mundi's 2005 catalogue.
The leaflet with mine also says 1998 recording but cd has 2001/2004. Could mine be remastered.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 09:47:03 AM
Given that the harpsichord has very small dynamic range to begin with, it seems unlikely that producers would choose to compress recordings of solo harpsichord. What they do do is set the recording level so that the loudest sound produced by the instrument or ensemble reaches the maximum volume of the signal channel, as they should. It is up to the listener to set the volume appropriately. (Of course, if a solo harpsichord passage alternates with full orchestra, as it might in a concerto or other types of extended piece, they must keep the harpsichord in its place.)
Its not volume I complain about its reverberation like the hammond organ on bob marleys no woman no cry. Fine on that but not on Handel's violin sonata. 
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Parsifal on October 10, 2017, 10:15:44 AM
Its not volume I complain about its reverberation like the hammond organ on bob marleys no woman no cry. Fine on that but not on Handel's violin sonata.

This is the recording?



I listened to samples (with inexpensive earbuds). It sounds like a recording with a rather distant recording perspective (they put microphones relatively far form the performers) which is supposed to capture the ambience of the recording venue. I didn't like it, but I don't think there is any technical flaw involved.

Regarding different issues of the recording sounding different, it is technically possible that the same recording was remixed for later release, changing the relative balance of microphones close to the performers and more distant microphones. But that is not a common practice, although it does happen.

I remember reading that Sony decided that a Karajan recording was made with insufficient reverberation, and they went as far as to play the recording from speakers on the stage of the Grossenmusikverein to record the reverberation.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Mandryka on October 10, 2017, 10:34:13 AM
Here's someone who agrees with George401

http://www.talkclassical.com/38426-harpsichord-touchstone-recording-engineering.html
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Parsifal on October 10, 2017, 10:41:05 AM
Here's someone who agrees with George401

http://www.talkclassical.com/38426-harpsichord-touchstone-recording-engineering.html

Are you referring to "ariasexta" comment?

Impossible to take that person seriously when he claims you must avoid "budget reissues." 99% of the time there is literally no difference between a budget reissue and the original. They press the same master and put it in the budget box.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 10:45:19 AM
Here's someone who agrees with George401

http://www.talkclassical.com/38426-harpsichord-touchstone-recording-engineering.html
Thanks Mandryka, that does explain it. Thats a pity as I buy very few cds because of the price.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Parsifal on October 10, 2017, 10:52:24 AM
Thanks Mandryka, that does explain it. Thats a pity as I buy very few cds because of the price.

I feel your pain. Best remedy is to make use of samples available on amazon or other sites to judge beforehand.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 10, 2017, 11:08:44 AM
Thanks Mandryka, that does explain it. Thats a pity as I buy very few cds because of the price.
Did you buy it recently? If less than 30 days, you could see if you could return it. If the time to return it has passed (or they won't refund), perhaps you could still ask to exchange it? You never know, though it depends on the source.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 11:16:37 AM
March 2016 so no chance of return.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 10, 2017, 11:22:04 AM
Bummer...
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Mandryka on October 10, 2017, 11:32:50 AM
I think you need to have a glass of wine, put the thing on, pump up the volume, and listen from another room.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: george401 on October 10, 2017, 12:05:02 PM
I will have the glass of wine instead.
I think that has explained it pretty well to me. So thanks for the help by everyone.
All the best.
George401
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Larkenfield ♬ on October 30, 2017, 11:07:22 PM
I've heard this recording and IMO it has an excessive amount of ambient reverb added to the fundamental sound of the harpsichord, which blurs and veils its sound, turns it into a mush. I would much rather hear more natural accoustics and ambience in the recording process.

Also, I greatly dislike the harpsichord being too closely miked. It's a shame in this recording because the quality of sound of this particular harpsichord is actually quite good. But the surfeit of artificial ambience interferes with the overall enjoyment, almost like hearing it in a gymnasium.

Always trust your ears if something seems off in a recording. Pin it down if possible. It's a good exercise in hearing to be able to assess the quality of the performance versus the quality of the engineering of the recording - not necessarily the same.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: RebLem on November 01, 2017, 11:28:15 PM
anyone with a computer can hear the whole CD on youtube @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRhilRnQOIo
 
That's where I listened to it.  I heard it on my computer speakers, which are an old Altec Lansing 3 piece system--two midrange and treble speakers with a single woofer unit.  It is the only remnant of my first computer system I bought at Office Depot in Spring  2002. 

I must say it took some getting used to.  It seems to me the instrumental balances are off, and it sounds like it might be a modern violin, which seems to dominate the harpsichord.  Contrary to a previous comment, it sounds to me as if it is rather closely recorded, and the instruments are not given enough space and do not seem to blend well together because of the way they were recorded.  I own a few harpsichord recordings of the Bach Goldberg Variations which I can recommend:  1) one of my favorites is probably the least well known, by an Australian harpsichordist and conductor named Jacqueline Ogeil on ABC Classics (ABC here stands for Australian Broadcasting Company.  I got it from an Aussie vendor called Buywell.  She also appears as a conductor on a superb album of Buxtehude cantatas.  One of the most closely recorded versions is the Glossa recording by Fabio Bonizzoni.  Then I also have recordings by Anthony Newman, Gustav Leonhardt, and Barbara Harbach, this last on a label called Gasparo Gallante.


Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: Biffo on November 02, 2017, 01:41:25 AM

I must say it took some getting used to.  It seems to me the instrumental balances are off, and it sounds like it might be a modern violin, which seems to dominate the harpsichord.  Contrary to a previous comment, it sounds to me as if it is rather closely recorded, and the instruments are not given enough space and do not seem to blend well together because of the way they were recorded. 

I agree, except I think it is a period violin - it is just absurdly close to the microphone, meanwhile the muffled harpsichord is far away in the background.

In his notes to the Bach Harpsichord Concertos (also HM) Richard Eggar discusses using ' a good historically based instrument and methods, which allow the harpsichord to emerge from the musical texture...'. Despite only using single strings, to me at least, the harpsichord is almost inaudible.
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: zamyrabyrd on November 08, 2017, 08:07:33 PM
What do you think of an ornate piano that sounds like a harp, made the rounds of Italian royalty from 1800 and ended up buried in Egyptian sands during WWII?

http://www.musicbanter.com/classical/77313-amazing-siena-pianoforte.html

https://www.youtube.com/v/Qa-ySUplfNU
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: The One on January 01, 2018, 02:01:38 PM
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.
I sometimes find myself throwing CPE Bach recordings to the wall irritated by the harpsichord. I wonder if this is the reason
Title: Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
Post by: bwv 1080 on February 13, 2018, 11:36:21 AM
Perhaps its a problem with testosterone levels?