Your favorite mono recordings

Started by Dry Brett Kavanaugh, September 11, 2022, 08:51:33 PM

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Dry Brett Kavanaugh

Last year there were nice discussions on the advantages of monaural recordings.

https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,30881.msg1371678.html#msg1371678

What are your favorite mono recordings? Do you like them because of the performance or sound? Any recording that surpasses stereo sound?
I like the recording below for the superb performance and excellent sound.







Scion7

#1
a Franck/Wagner release:
(which I had to re-purchase in America, as this one - with a different, earlier cover - got a bit scrunched in the move from Manchester ...)
(Bruckner's) is the career of a poor village boy ... The one and only really surprising thing about him was that after completing his career as an organist he suddenly began to compose music with a range of vision which in such a man would appear quite incongruous.

Jo498

I am usually not bothered too much by mono qua mono but sometimes by the other sonic restrictions (distortions, very "dry" sound) of "typical" mono era recordings, so I don't think I ever preferred a historical recording because of the sound. Like someone said in the other thread, the window for "good mono" is fairly small, basically late 1940s until late 1950s, with a little longer for broadcast or live recordings (but in these latter cases I am usually slightly angry that the broadcasters didn't record in stereo even in the mid-60s...).
While I prefer some mono recording to bad stereo recordings, this is not the case for good stereo and this could be achieved already in the mid/late 1950s, e.g. by Living stereo or Living presence.

Probably the most amazing mono recording I have is the 1950s Verdi Requiem with Fricsay (DG, there is another later live recordings, also mono but IIRC that live one does not sound as good). To me this does sound better balanced and more "natural" than his Fidelio a few years later that was among DGs first stereo recordings. Many of Fricsay's mono recordings sound quite good and I am not bothered by their sound at all; IIRC the earliest of the Tchaikovsky symphonies recorded (#5) and some of the Bartok (Music for.../Divertimento/Concert for orchestra) are not as good, neither is Martin's Petite symphonie concertante. Strangely these mainly string orchestra don't sound as good in my recollection that full orchestra recordings.
Like the Hindemith shown above, many early-mid 1950s DG recordings sound quite good to my ears. Another recording with extraordinarily vivid mono sound is the Porgy and Bess on CBS Masterworks heritage, dir. Engel

[asin]B000001GQU[/asin] [asin]B000001H01[/asin] [asin]B000007QCJ[/asin]

Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

MusicTurner

#3
I usually find pre-1930 recordings as having too poor sound, but am otherwise tolerant. In stuff from around 1950, even from the late 1940s, the sound issues can become pretty insignificant. If the musicianship is interesting enough, the recording can be really great listening.

But regarding pre-1945, appreciating works that you only know from such an early recording can be difficult, since a lot of details are lost in the overall sound picture. Also, I don't tend to listen to old vocal recordings; in fact, for vocal recordings, I prefer post-1960 stuff; moreover it has to do with the singing style.

Scion7

^ MusicTurner:  true ... a lot of us that are old enough to remember the radio broadcasts as children when such old recordings were on the air have a certain nostalgic feeling for some of those, however - but I don't make a steady diet of them.   :)
(Bruckner's) is the career of a poor village boy ... The one and only really surprising thing about him was that after completing his career as an organist he suddenly began to compose music with a range of vision which in such a man would appear quite incongruous.

Mandryka

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Mandryka

Wolfgang Schneiderhan Bach partita 2
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Mandryka

But when you think about it there are going to be too many -- think . . . Hotter's two Winterreise, all those Mengelberg and Furtwangler recordings, Pears, early Klemperer. Gieseking. Cortot. Sofro.


Too many.

I'm out of here.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Jo498

I have been told that especially acoustic recordings from before 1928 (or whenever electrical recordings started) would sound best on an acoustical gramophone but I don't think I have ever heard such a thing.
Anyway, I thought the question referred mostly to "Hifi mono" from the late 1940s or so. And to the sound, not that one likes certain historical recordings immensely in spite of the sound.
Because while there are recordings from the 1930s where I find the sound surprisingly good for the vintage, this qualifier says it all. I usually still need some time to adjust and not be put off by the historical sound whereas this is rare with good sounding ca. 1952 mono.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

Todd

Quote from: Dry Brett Kavanaugh on September 11, 2022, 08:51:33 PMWhat are your favorite mono recordings? Do you like them because of the performance or sound? Any recording that surpasses stereo sound?

First, there are no advantages to mono sound. 

Second, late, magnetic tape mono recordings are often aurally as pleasing, and sometimes more so, than early stereo recordings, but that ended in the early 60s at the latest.

Third, I have hundreds of mono recordings in my collection that I enjoy immensely, and the enjoyment derives from performance quality.  Some mono performances surpass later stereo recordings in terms of performance. 

Some fine mono recordings include:

Wilhelm Backhaus' mono LvB sonata cycle
Wilhelm Kempff's pre-war and wartime incomlete LvB sonata cycle, and his complete mono cycle from the 50s
Pablo Casals' Bach Cello Suites
Clemens Krauss' 1953 Ring cycle - my favorite Ring
Walter Gieseking's 1930s Debussy Prelude recordings
Wilhelm Furtwangler's wartime Bruckner 9

Indeed, there are too many to list, partly because some of the greatest recording artists recorded solely, primarily, or at their best in mono, eg, Toscanini, Krauss, Beecham, Furtwangler, Mengelberg, Walter (large mono and stereo discographies), Cortot, Gieseking, Rachmaninoff, Hofmann, Kapell, Schnabel, Rubinstein (massive mono and stereo discographies), Haskil, Moiseiwitsch, and on and on.



Quote from: Jo498 on September 12, 2022, 03:11:26 AMI have been told that especially acoustic recordings from before 1928 (or whenever electrical recordings started)

Electrical recordings began in 1925.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

The dollar is our currency, but it's your problem - US Treasury Secretary John Connally to European Finance Ministers, 1971

Mandryka

#10
Quote from: Todd on September 12, 2022, 05:39:45 AM
First, there are no advantages to mono sound. 


Well, I know someone who would nuance that. He runs a single Quad ESL 57 with a Leak mono valve amp, he's interested in hi fi. This is what he said

QuoteI now have the best room I ever heard ESLs in, and using just one as a mono speaker really does alleviate many problems in small spaces, while in the past I used a pair either side of a fireplace, which was not splendid, but still good. Then I used a pair and latterly a single speaker in a smaller room. The improvement brought by optimising one speaker in a small space really brought things up in quality. Now with an almost large room, about 17 by 19 feet, I have the speaker firing not quite diagonally. Minimum of five feet behind the speaker to the wall and six feet behind me. Still quite close to the speaker from the listening position. Amazing naturalness results.

and when I said I was going to try it with my ESL 63s he said

QuoteI do think the non-pin-point presentation of the old ESL 57 may actually be better for mono than the "idealised point source" concentric ring design of the 63, which after all was designed as a stereo pair speaker set. The 57 was designed as single speaker mono studio monitor first and foremost and the fact that it still made a good stereo speaker was more or less good luck.

I did try it, because then I had a preamp which could output mono. I did not care for the result, but maybe the point source of the 63s was the problem, maybe the amp -- or maybe I have gotten so used to stereo that I found it hard to adjust.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Todd

Quote from: Mandryka on September 12, 2022, 08:30:12 AMWell, I know someone who would nuance that. He runs a single Quad ESL 57 with a Leak mono valve amp, he's interested in hi fi. This is what he said

What you describe is the obsession of a (presumably) elderly man who appears to allow intense nostalgia to severely color his judgment of reproduced sound, which is perfectly fine.  I've heard newer Quads, and they are fine for people who prefer that style of presentation.  I do not.  I realize that the legendary Quad ESL 57 is supposed to border on the magical, but dipole electrostats just don't sound good.  I prefer ribbon tweeters combined with dynamic drivers, but I know some/many/most people do not.  My preference does not mean there is an advantage to ribbon tweeters combined with dynamic drivers.

That is different from mono offering an advantage over stereo.  Depending on playback gear - or ripping options in the digital realm - one has the option to listen to any recording as a mono recording, whereas synthesizing stereo sound from a mono source always sounds atrocious.  There are no advantages to mono sound
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

The dollar is our currency, but it's your problem - US Treasury Secretary John Connally to European Finance Ministers, 1971

Dry Brett Kavanaugh

#12
Quote from: Jo498 on September 12, 2022, 12:04:55 AM
I am usually not bothered too much by mono qua mono but sometimes by the other sonic restrictions (distortions, very "dry" sound) of "typical" mono era recordings, so I don't think I ever preferred a historical recording because of the sound. Like someone said in the other thread, the window for "good mono" is fairly small, basically late 1940s until late 1950s, with a little longer for broadcast or live recordings (but in these latter cases I am usually slightly angry that the broadcasters didn't record in stereo even in the mid-60s...).
While I prefer some mono recording to bad stereo recordings, this is not the case for good stereo and this could be achieved already in the mid/late 1950s, e.g. by Living stereo or Living presence.

Probably the most amazing mono recording I have is the 1950s Verdi Requiem with Fricsay (DG, there is another later live recordings, also mono but IIRC that live one does not sound as good). To me this does sound better balanced and more "natural" than his Fidelio a few years later that was among DGs first stereo recordings. Many of Fricsay's mono recordings sound quite good and I am not bothered by their sound at all; IIRC the earliest of the Tchaikovsky symphonies recorded (#5) and some of the Bartok (Music for.../Divertimento/Concert for orchestra) are not as good, neither is Martin's Petite symphonie concertante. Strangely these mainly string orchestra don't sound as good in my recollection that full orchestra recordings.
Like the Hindemith shown above, many early-mid 1950s DG recordings sound quite good to my ears. Another recording with extraordinarily vivid mono sound is the Porgy and Bess on CBS Masterworks heritage, dir. Engel

[asin]B000001GQU[/asin] [asin]B000001H01[/asin] [asin]B000007QCJ[/asin]

Yes I was thinking about the recordings of Markevitch and Fricsay from DG. Great sound and impeccable performance!


Quote from: Mandryka on September 12, 2022, 03:00:09 AM
But when you think about it there are going to be too many -- think . . . Hotter's two Winterreise, all those Mengelberg and Furtwangler recordings, Pears, early Klemperer. Gieseking. Cortot. Sofro.


Too many.

I'm out of here.

Nice list !  Would you please explain about Pears?

Mandryka

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Pohjolas Daughter

Hi DBK,

There are so many wonderful recordings that were released either only in mono or mono AND stereo.

As I think it was Todd (who beat me to it) had mentioned, the Beethoven mono recordings with Kempff are particularly wonderful.  He recorded them three times but not in totality.  The set that I have (and love) is this one: 



Gieseking playing Debussy...to die for.  :)  Will have to double-check what else I have of his...

Several of Cortot's recordings are very special to me; in particular, his recording of Chopin's PC No. 2 with Barbirolli (the one that I have is on Naxos).  His Franck, Saint-Saens, Ravel album (also on Naxos) is wonderful.  I grew so enamored of Cortot that I bought an EMI boxed set of his...trying to remember the name of the series....Icons, I believe.

There are so many great recordings out there.

By the way, one theory that I have re sound quality:  Don't try and listen to them on a very current, super-high detailed system which shows everything.  I find that I enjoy them better on a "less-than-perfect" system.  That, and just be willing and able to let any dated recording ways just go to the wayside and immerse yourself in the performance.  That said, in some cases, I'm pleasantly surprised how good some of the later ones sound on my better system.  I'm curious as to what others think of my comments?

PD


Daverz

#15


In general, I don't find stereo that necessary in solo piano music.

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 - Szigeti/Beecham



Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 - Ancerl/Czech Philharmonic




Todd

Quote from: Pohjolas Daughter on September 12, 2022, 10:50:19 AMAs I think it was Todd (who beat me to it) had mentioned, the Beethoven mono recordings with Kempff are particularly wonderful.  He recorded them three times but not in totality.

Slight correction, he did record three complete cycles, but one was recorded live in Japan and is a Japanese market only release on King International.  He recorded an almost complete cycle in the 30s-40s as well.  The DG complete mono cycle is the one to have if one can have only one.


Quote from: Pohjolas Daughter on September 12, 2022, 10:50:19 AMDon't try and listen to them on a very current, super-high detailed system which shows everything.  I find that I enjoy them better on a "less-than-perfect" system.

I'm the opposite.  I prefer to listen to older recordings, all the way back to Josef Hofmann's 1903 recordings or Artur Nikisch's 1913 Beethoven Fifth, on the best system I have, to eke out every last bit of instrumental sound.  That written, I care less now about sound than I did a decade ago and will happily listen to wireless earbuds if that is what I have available. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

The dollar is our currency, but it's your problem - US Treasury Secretary John Connally to European Finance Ministers, 1971

MusicTurner

Quote from: Daverz on September 12, 2022, 11:11:46 AM


In general, I don't find stereo that necessary in solo piano music.

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 - Szigeti/Beecham



Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 - Ancerl/Czech Philharmonic





Some nice ones there.

Dry Brett Kavanaugh

Quote from: Mandryka on September 12, 2022, 10:16:00 AM

Explain what? The recordings I was thinking of? Well, this sort of thing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsmXYLRNzis&t=79s&ab_channel=incontrariomotu

Yes what recordings do you particularly like? I will check the yt video shortly.

Pohjolas Daughter

Quote from: Todd on September 12, 2022, 12:21:18 PM
Slight correction, he did record three complete cycles, but one was recorded live in Japan and is a Japanese market only release on King International.  He recorded an almost complete cycle in the 30s-40s as well.  The DG complete mono cycle is the one to have if one can have only one.


I'm the opposite.  I prefer to listen to older recordings, all the way back to Josef Hofmann's 1903 recordings or Artur Nikisch's 1913 Beethoven Fifth, on the best system I have, to eke out every last bit of instrumental sound.  That written, I care less now about sound than I did a decade ago and will happily listen to wireless earbuds if that is what I have available.
I knew (from recollection) that his first one wasn't complete.  Haven't heard of ones on King before.  When was it (they) recorded?  And I'm guessing, from all live performances?  I have some of his later recordings in stereo but (off the top of my head), believe that those of Beethoven's piano concertos.  Will look later.

And good for you re listening!   :)  For me, and I hope that this is true for you to, I just want to be able to be able to relax and enjoy the performances and the music.  That's what matters the most--to me anyway.

PD