Author Topic: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163  (Read 43881 times)

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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2014, 02:09:00 AM »
Thanks for the comments mcukrneal. (I'm assuming D8 is also a :) as you ranked it ahead of D1 the :)– )

Yes, a few classic versions included here will probably be punished for sound quality, but due to the praise they've attracted in the past (and the fact that one of them happens to be in my personal top five >.>) I felt I couldn't not include them. I think there's about one with significantly worse sound quality per group... perhaps I should have put all of them in their own group, or something?

Actually I think D1 and D2 may be respectively the worst and best recordings in the comparison in terms of sound quality. Probably shouldn't have put them so close together. :(
Yes. It's a :).

I hope no one punishes the older recordings. I did not (hope it did not come across that way), but the newer recordings benefit from the sound and it can be hard to compare them well.
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Online Brian

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2014, 05:30:17 AM »
I hope no one punishes the older recordings. I did not (hope it did not come across that way), but the newer recordings benefit from the sound and it can be hard to compare them well.
Unfortunately, in later rounds I will be punishing many older recordings since they omit the big repeat in the first movement. Nothing against them - I just like to hear as much of this music as possible. :)

Offline amw

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2014, 02:45:48 PM »
Just a reminder—this is the end of the first week; there are 2 weeks left to listen and vote for those who haven't done so yet.

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2014, 10:29:16 PM »
I hope no one punishes the older recordings. I did not (hope it did not come across that way), but the newer recordings benefit from the sound and it can be hard to compare them well.

We are after all writing in a "Great Recordings" board.  Not, for example, a "Great Performances" or "Great Concerts" board.  So it seems to me it's completely legitemate to consider all aspects of a recording including engineering quality, if we want to.  >:D

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2014, 11:23:15 PM »
We are after all writing in a "Great Recordings" board.  Not, for example, a "Great Performances" or "Great Concerts" board.  So it seems to me it's completely legitemate to consider all aspects of a recording including engineering quality, if we want to.  >:D
I fundamentally disagree. We ARE looking for the best performance. If recording is what we are looking for, then there is no point in including older recordings at all. They will never win just because they have old sound. For me, finding the best performances is what is exciting about the blind listens.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #25 on: August 03, 2014, 12:58:27 PM »
Either way, we're never going to compare like with like.  Modern recordings have far more editing and patching (at the very least) than those that are 40+ years old, quite regardless of the engineering quality (which can be good or bad in either case).  So in these recordings you're not hearing 'a performance' at all - they aren't really 'recordings' (of something that actually happened), they are 'products'.  The medium is the message.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is largely a matter of perspective. 
To be clear, in this piece of music, I grew up with Casals & co. - and that's what I learnt to love, so I really hope they do well, but the world has moved on and I will be astonished if they make the final cut.

Offline Pat B

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #26 on: August 04, 2014, 11:34:05 AM »
Either way, we're never going to compare like with like.  Modern recordings have far more editing and patching (at the very least) than those that are 40+ years old, quite regardless of the engineering quality (which can be good or bad in either case).  So in these recordings you're not hearing 'a performance' at all - they aren't really 'recordings' (of something that actually happened), they are 'products'.  The medium is the message.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is largely a matter of perspective. 

You have to go back further than 40 years to not have any splicing. I think it largely depends on the performer. There's an interesting interview with Ivan Moravec where he talks a bit about recording philosophy and how it affects his playing (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL4ChhWLykk). The unstated assumption is that not everybody chooses the same approach.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 11:45:00 AM by Pat B »

Offline OrchestralNut

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #27 on: August 04, 2014, 12:24:17 PM »
Just finished my first go through of Group A.  Nothing to report yet.  I'll probably listen another 2 go arounds before reporting results!  :)

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #28 on: August 04, 2014, 12:50:22 PM »
There's an interesting interview with Ivan Moravec where he talks a bit about recording philosophy and how it affects his playing ...

"Stressful" is a word I see often in this context.  Performers accept that recording is necessary to further their careers, but they don't really like the process.  That seems especially true in chamber music (to stay on-topic) where the onus is to be perfect yourself and also not to foul it up for anyone else.  The latter doesn't apply so much in big orchestral productions or in solo work.

That's quite interesting to me as a music 'consumer' - I was never a great concert-goer and I stopped altogether 30 years ago, my musical appreciation depends entirely on recordings, that's my choice.  So there is a disconnect between what the musician wants to deliver (the 'performance' [warts and all]) and what I want to receive ('perfection').

I'm only chatting to pass the time, by the way!  ;)
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 12:53:16 PM by aukhawk »

Offline amw

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #29 on: August 04, 2014, 01:36:15 PM »
Several of the recordings in this comparison do come from live performances... though whether there's been any "patching up" afterwards is anyone's guess. FWIW it's usually not of much importance to me whether what's on the recording would have ever been represented in "reality"; the thing is what it is. It's a performance by someone, even if not exclusively the musicians it's credited to. Similar interpretive decisions were made somewhere down the line.

Also FWIW: I was raised on LPs so I usually give high marks to noticeably historical recordings, and of course full modern sound usually gets my appreciation as well. There does however seem to be a bit of a "valley" in between—early stereo/bad digital engineering—where the sound quality is just bad enough to adversely affect my opinion of the recording, without being so bad that I can overlook it. I don't know why that happens.

Anyway, less chatting, more voting... the spreadsheet gods demand results ;)

Offline Cato

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #30 on: August 05, 2014, 02:04:21 AM »
Just a reminder—this is the end of the first week; there are 2 weeks left to listen and vote for those who haven't done so yet.

Here comes something for the D group!

And a quick general statement: if anyone ever thought Schubert was not part of the foundation for Bruckner and Mahler and even Schoenberg  ??? ??? ??? , they must listen to this work!

D 1 - A "warm" sound at the beginning is noticeable, but then the cello almost growls monstrously at one point during the music's awakening.  Great dramatic contrasts in the opening, and the group brings out this drama quite well throughout the c. 5 minutes.  At times the middle voices are little swallowed.

D 2 - A wider, clearer sound, but not quite on the same level as D 1 in expression in the opening.  That will change, however!  Again, some of the middle voices are swallowed, but not to the same degree as D 1.  But the changes in dynamics are nicely done, and bring forth a different kind of drama for the piece.

D 3 - A sort of combination of the above versions.  D 1 still wins for that muscular, angular opening, but this group does well throughout.  Excellent recording quality.

Difficult to make a decision! 

Perhaps (and subject to change): D 3, D 1, D 2.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #31 on: August 06, 2014, 01:57:48 AM »
[Intermission  ;) ]

It's a performance by someone, even if not exclusively the musicians it's credited to.

AIUI, it's not unheard-of, in the opera house, for the star soprano to bail out of her high notes, with a younger fitter woman supplying the necessary from the wings! 
Point is, that's kinda acceptable in the concert environment, but much more questionable in a recording (unless it's a record of that specific occasion).  And yet it has happened, there's an account in Ring Resounding (an essential book for anyone interested in recording) of an EMI opera recording in the early 1950s, where established star soprano Kirsten Flagstad had the younger fresher Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with her in the studio to do the top C's.  John Culshaw the author, describes it as a "justifiable and well-executed trick" (I guess it was probably a 'live' substitution, not a tape edit - would that have made any difference, ethically?).  He adds "I doubt if anyone would have known or cared ... the press ... revealed the whole story."  The resulting scandal forced Flagstad into retirement.
All modern recordings even the ones billed as 'live' will be composed of multiple takes and patches, unless it's specifically stated otherwise.  From one to the other, it's a question of where you draw the line.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2014, 02:00:02 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Cato

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #32 on: August 06, 2014, 02:05:40 AM »
Here comes something for the D group!

And a quick general statement: if anyone ever thought Schubert was not part of the foundation for Bruckner and Mahler and even Schoenberg  ??? ??? ??? , they must listen to this work!

D 1 - A "warm" sound at the beginning is noticeable, but then the cello almost growls monstrously at one point during the music's awakening.  Great dramatic contrasts in the opening, and the group brings out this drama quite well throughout the c. 5 minutes.  At times the middle voices are little swallowed.

D 2 - A wider, clearer sound, but not quite on the same level as D 1 in expression in the opening.  That will change, however!  Again, some of the middle voices are swallowed, but not to the same degree as D 1.  But the changes in dynamics are nicely done, and bring forth a different kind of drama for the piece.

D 3 - A sort of combination of the above versions.  D 1 still wins for that muscular, angular opening, but this group does well throughout.  Excellent recording quality.

Difficult to make a decision! 

Perhaps (and subject to change): D 3, D 1, D 2.

D 4 - A "delicate" sound throughout, seemingly slower than the others so far, but it isn't!  There is a limited dynamic range, but the voices are quite clear throughout.

D 5 - Again, a delicate sound, but this time things are slower, and I am not sure that is a good idea.  The dynamic range is better than in 4, and again the voices are clear.

I can understand why a group would have a slower tempo: perhaps the entire movement would be more convincing, but as it is:

Subject to change!   ;)  I will listen again this weekend.

D 3
D 1
D 2
D 4
D 5
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline Cato

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #33 on: August 06, 2014, 09:06:08 AM »
D 4 - A "delicate" sound throughout, seemingly slower than the others so far, but it isn't!  There is a limited dynamic range, but the voices are quite clear throughout.

D 5 - Again, a delicate sound, but this time things are slower, and I am not sure that is a good idea.  The dynamic range is better than in 4, and again the voices are clear.

I can understand why a group would have a slower tempo: perhaps the entire movement would be more convincing, but as it is:

Subject to change!   ;)  I will listen again this weekend.

D 3
D 1
D 2
D 4
D 5

D - 6  The cello sounded like a huge bumblebee at the beginning!  Things improved after the opening bars.  Balance favored the first violin a little too much at times. 

D- 7 - Another "warm" recording: you feel almost as if you are in the middle of the group.  The amount of vibrato is low at times, giving the performance a somewhat "raw" edge.  Clarity was not bad, and the dynamic range was good.

D 8 - My first thought was: "This crew thinks they are a symphony orchestra!"  Big sound, yet clarity in the lines, and drama in the interplay, great dynamic range, in contrast to some of the previous ones.  Not rushed, but just right.

Difficulter and difficulter!   :o :o :o  I did have the time to re-listen to D 1-3 again.

Preliminary, not final ranking:

D 8

D 3

D 2

D 1

D 4

D 5

D 7

D 6
 
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline amw

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #34 on: August 06, 2014, 02:57:11 PM »
Thanks for the interesting comments Cato! I look forward to seeing your final results.

[Intermission  ;) ]

AIUI, it's not unheard-of, in the opera house, for the star soprano to bail out of her high notes, with a younger fitter woman supplying the necessary from the wings! 
Point is, that's kinda acceptable in the concert environment, but much more questionable in a recording (unless it's a record of that specific occasion).  And yet it has happened, there's an account in Ring Resounding (an essential book for anyone interested in recording) of an EMI opera recording in the early 1950s, where established star soprano Kirsten Flagstad had the younger fresher Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with her in the studio to do the top C's.  John Culshaw the author, describes it as a "justifiable and well-executed trick" (I guess it was probably a 'live' substitution, not a tape edit - would that have made any difference, ethically?).  He adds "I doubt if anyone would have known or cared ... the press ... revealed the whole story."  The resulting scandal forced Flagstad into retirement.
All modern recordings even the ones billed as 'live' will be composed of multiple takes and patches, unless it's specifically stated otherwise.  From one to the other, it's a question of where you draw the line.

Indeed. Live performances are often said to have a special sort of energy and engagement that studio recordings don't have—I've found 2 broadcast recordings of live performances from groups included in this comparison that I think equal (in one case, exceed) their studio recordings, though of course the sound is worse and the playing somewhat less refined (though astonishingly perfect considering the complete lack of takes and patches)—but that's not really proof of anything, and I've found plenty of studio recordings that convey the charged atmosphere of a particular performance just as well. I just don't like hearing obvious edits. But then I don't really like hearing lots of wrong notes either. If I wanted to hear wrong notes, I would just play the piece myself! $:)

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #35 on: August 06, 2014, 03:57:25 PM »
I've listened to all recordings in Group B four times, and these are what I think.  I used the 10-point scoring.

B2 - 8.7
HIP?  It's not quite in C-major (unfortunately, I have perfect pitch), but acceptable.  Tempos are brisk and lively.  Lots of energy.  I give this the distinction award.

B5 - 8.5
Mono?  Lots of energy in this one too.  I didn't like the vibratos employed by the cellos in mm. 60 and on -- sounded like two nanny goats singing.  Love the glissandos employed by 1st violin and 1st cello in m. 128 and m. 134.

B7 - 8.3
I could swear that I heard someone speaking, or groaning, several times.  Is this live, or was it because of the audio mixing?

B3 - 7.5
Safe and steady.

B8 - 7.0
Variance in tempo is a little much.  Sound quality uneven -- melody between 1st violin & 1st cello in mm. 127-130 and mm. 133-135 sound muffled compared to the rest -- did some editing take place?  Pause before last chord in m. 154 a little too long.

B6 - 6.7
mm. 33 and on (loud section with descending 8th note figures by violins and viola) sounds too choppy, too prickly.  Pizzicato C's by 2nd cello in mm. 93 and on are way out of tune.

B1 - 6.5
Tempos all over the place.  Viola pizzicati during 2nd subject by the two cellos (mm. 60 and on) was the loudest I've ever heard, and I liked it.  This saves this recording from being scored the worst.

B4 - 6.3
Balance is off -- could barely hear the viola pizzicati in mm. 60 and on.  Could barely hear the viola & 1st cello triplet figures during the repeat of the 2nd subject by the violins (mm. 81 and on).  Way too long of a pause before the last chord in m. 154.

Miscellaneous comments:
The technical aspects of performances are most important to me.  In B2, if the pitch was lower, then the recording would have been severely penalized.  (If there is a recording where the notes are a semitone lower than "standard", then it's a non-starter for me, which means that yes, I refuse to listen to most HIP recordings.  So sue me.)

I want the opening bars in the 1st movement to be more strict in tempo, than more free.  I didn't like B1 because I couldn't tell what the tempo of the movement was.

Maybe I'll go to hell for saying this, but I don't think Schubert made the best choice in having the 2 cellos play the 2nd subject in mm. 60 and on with the viola pizzicati -- the viola is too weak in its lower register.  I think I know why Schubert chose that instrumentation, but I still never liked it.

The 1st movement of D956 is my favorite among the four.  I'm glad that this was chosen for Round 1.


Offline amw

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #36 on: August 06, 2014, 05:59:54 PM »
Thanks for the votes yeongil!

Interesting comments as well.
Re this:
Quote
Maybe I'll go to hell for saying this, but I don't think Schubert made the best choice in having the 2 cellos play the 2nd subject in mm. 60 and on with the viola pizzicati -- the viola is too weak in its lower register.  I think I know why Schubert chose that instrumentation, but I still never liked it.
If Schubert's dynamic indications are precisely followed, the cellos should be pianissimo (which they rarely are), and thus the viola pizzicati should be significantly easier to hear. This creates an unusual but sensitive effect. I think there's one recording in this comparison that absolutely nails the dynamics in the second theme, lending it the unique and magical fragility it requires to make its full effect, but normally the cellists seem too eager to exploit the cantabile upper register to pay attention to such things.

Also just an observation based on the 4/5 votes we've had so far (we need more votes! get listening, slackers! >.>), which ties in to the discussion of live vs. edits... live recordings don't seem to be faring as well as studio recordings so far. We'll see if that develops into a trend.

kishnevi

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #37 on: August 08, 2014, 12:39:48 PM »
Group C

listened on my computer speakers, which means they all sounded like live recordings from 1950,  which should balance out the sonics for this round.

Main criterion for me at this stage was emotional involvement in the performance vs.  playing the notes straight to produce nice music.

Order of the Thumbs Up                C2 C6
Order of the Meh                            C1 C3 C4 C8
Order of the Meh, second class*   C5  C7

*meaning liked these least, but did not dislike them enough to award the Disorder of the Thumbs Down.

Am I the first vote to be cast in Group C?
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 12:42:46 PM by Jeffrey Smith »

Offline amw

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #38 on: August 08, 2014, 07:52:26 PM »
You are! (Only Group A now remains at zero votes.) You are also the first to award more than one "thumbs up". (Unless you intended for those to be counted as regular "yea" votes.)

Thanks for your participation.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 07:56:39 PM by amw »

Offline OrchestralNut

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Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
« Reply #39 on: August 09, 2014, 06:06:16 AM »
You are! (Only Group A now remains at zero votes.) You are also the first to award more than one "thumbs up". (Unless you intended for those to be counted as regular "yea" votes.)

Thanks for your participation.

I'll have my vote in for Group A either later today or tomorrow!  :)