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Live versus Studio


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Initial post: 2 Nov 2013 09:09:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2013 09:11:00 GMT
Malx says:
Discussion on another thread regarding two recordings of the same work by the same conductor, Mahlers Symphony No2 conducted by Otto Klemperer, his live BRSO recording compared to the EMI studio recording got me thinking about the relative merits of live and studio recordings.
Which live recordings do posters believe add that special something that adds to their enjoyment.

To start off I'll offer two live recordings which I believe to be special:

Kubelik's recording of Smetana's Ma Vlast with the Czech PO Smetana: Má vlast
Kondrashin's Shostakovich Symphony No4 with the Staatskapelle Dresden Shostakovich - Symphony No 4

Posted on 2 Nov 2013 11:30:58 GMT
Mention of the Staatskapelle Dresden reminded me that Sir Colin Davis has some fine recordings with that orchestra, notably Elgar's 1st Symphony and Berlioz' Te Deum. Haitink with the same orchestra in Mahler 2 is electrifying in the Finale but disappointing compared with his studio Concertgebouw in the rest.

Vaughan Williams in his 4th Symphony and Dona nobis pacem surpasses all his fine rivals; both recordings are live studio performances with no audience so really come between the two categories.

Posted on 2 Nov 2013 11:56:10 GMT
Another vote for Kubelik's live "Ma Vlast". I like his studio version from Boston too, but that live one is very special indeed.

Posted on 2 Nov 2013 17:39:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2013 17:40:29 GMT
Mandryka says:
What you've got to take into account is this: a performer in a concert will often take risks doing new things which he won't do in the studio. So the live recording may carry some of the thrill of the risk taking, but it may not represent the performer's considered view of the music.

Having said that I much prefer Glen Gould's live records. And Gustav Leonhardt's

Posted on 3 Nov 2013 09:04:24 GMT
enthusiast says:
Certainly the Kubelik Smetana disc is a good example. I am not sure I hear too much difference between the two Kondrashin Shostakovich 4s that I have heard. I do agree with Geoffrey about Colin Davis's LSO Live recordings - so many of them are wonderfully good and the simple fact that so much of what he was doing was caught on disc (without any additional fuss, as it were) shows the way for how to think of live recordings. The case of Celibidache, who famously refused to make recordings (in the studio), and his wonderful (IMO!) work in Munich also deserves mention.

A counter example for me have been many of Solti's studio recordings of opera - they seem to have more sense of real drama than most live recordings of the same works.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Nov 2013 14:38:07 GMT
enthusiast: I was refering to the live recordings Davis made with the Dresedn Staatskapelle (available on Profil) but you are right, he also made numerous excellent LSO LSO Live recordings.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Nov 2013 15:14:24 GMT
enthusiast says:
Oh yes. I know them too, Geoffrey. They are very fine but I like them a little less, myself, somehow. I find them less vital than his LSO work - but beautifully played and recorded - as if he was too thrilled with the sound they make in Dresden.

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 00:31:30 GMT
Most "live" recordings have patches. The only authentic live (concert) recordings are those from the 1950s and earlier.

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 00:31:52 GMT
Most "live" recordings have patches. The only authentic live (concert) recordings are those from the 1950s and earlier.

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 08:43:06 GMT
Larry, you're not from New York New York by any chance, are you?

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 08:46:12 GMT
Nick says:
for all the arguments regarding the "spontaneity" of a live event it is important to remember that the main and overwhelming reason that so many recordings are now of concert/theatre performances is simply economic. I think there is a strong argument that performers will and can risk more in the studio where the safety net of "take 2" exists. However, ultimately it is down to the psyche of the performer - clearly Tennstedt was a performer who was good in the studio and extraordinary in the concert hall to name but one but Solti was a performer able to reproduce remarkable dynamism take after take.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 09:02:47 GMT
Bruce says:
If we are talking about a big symphony orchestra of well-paid and highly-trained musicians, set up with microphones, baffles etc - then surely time is money and the afore-mentioned economic reasons, mean you can't afford second takes wherever you are!?

Also I have sat in on orchestral rehearsals and talked to conductors who say that every time they play that piece, they are creating a unique performance and approach each time as a unique opportunity. With professional players, you don't expect any mistakes as such and it's about creating a whole work of art, every time you play it - wherever that happens to be.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 10:39:30 GMT
Nick says:
Bruce - you are mixing up "mistakes" - completely wrong notes/major errors with minor slips of ensemble/intonation between sections/balance etc. The latter is what is often endlessly retaken in the studio - I think you would be surprised what take number is often reached! The concept of each and every performance being utterly unique is perfectly true but again it would be quite wrong to imply that each is radically different from the next. Since we are all participating in a recorded music forum we accept the concept of a "fixed" performance - for sure to be complemented with live experiences too.

How does your idea of "creating a whole work of art, every time you play it" fit in with recording schedules that in some famed cases; Solti's Die Frau ohne Schatten or Dorati' Sleeping Beauty are 2 that spring to mind immediately I think - took place over YEARS!

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 11:29:20 GMT
Bruce says:
Well some artists create "Art" and others just earn a living! ;-)

I was interested in the recent Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 - Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2 (CD/DVD) - which has a "making of" documentary.

Lang Lang is just breathtaking every time he plays something - even when illustrating points he is making when being interviewed. Every time he plays it seems to be as musical as any performance.

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 13:18:42 GMT
JayJayDee says:
The thing that confuses me about Live recordings is that so many of them appear to have the Finale section 'taken' from a rehearsal (so that no audience applause intrudes).
Yet it is well known that an orchestra sounds different in an empty hall as compared to one that is full of a couple of thousand absorbent bodies.
Most Barbican LSO *Live* recordings appear to have no audience!
But I have yet to hear that Boris has banned coughing in London.

Posted on 6 Nov 2013 14:52:53 GMT
Digital recording means that the applause can be removed very easily, as can small blemishes such as coughs. I don't know about the LSO Live recordings but the Halle live recordings sometimes use more than one concert or a concert plus the dress rehearsal. Whether there is an audience present for the dress rehearsal of a concert I don't know but there is often one for an opera. The blemishes that are removed are often only a couple of notes and the recording will be largely one performance.

The most recent 'live' recording I have heard is of 'Das Lied von der Erde' (Nezet-Seguin/LPO in the RFH) and there is no coughing and, mercifully, it dies away into silence.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2013 18:24:24 GMT
New York, no; I'm from Michigan.

Posted on 9 Nov 2013 10:05:34 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2013 10:08:15 GMT
This is a really good discussion point. I have just been listening to the new Simon Boccanegra from Vienna with Thomas Hampson in the lead. I found it was a case in point of how so many live performances don't necessarily show what Mandryka indicated in considered view of the piece. Another factor is that it was a concert performance and I tend to think that these can often be mundane next to performances taken straight from the theatre. All of the cast, except for Hampson, and the lacklustre conductor sound like they are sight-reading. There is nowhere near the atmosphere that the transcendent Abbado recording provides - in STUDIO!

Something that occurs to me when listening to such recordings as the latest Simon is that performances will often sound better in person than they translate onto record for home listening. The studio production seems in a better position overall for the interests of posterity.

Posters who are familiar with my contributions over the years will know that I prefer the studio recordings because of the care and detail that often go into those performances. It's as if they work so hard to achieve the best possible result. Famous stories abound of performers who reach the end of their tether to deliver the last ounce of artistry in the studio. Solti's Ring cycle and many other recordings show the benefits of studio. Sadly it seems that only the smaller companies seem interested in the investment these days. But I was so proud of Cecilia Bartoli this year for convincing Decca back into the studio for that terrific Norma.

Posted on 10 Nov 2013 11:37:17 GMT
enthusiast says:
Schiff's second recording of the Goldberg Variations is live in more ways than one. It is much more wonderful than his earlier studio recording - and it is easy believe that the reason is that the recording is a live one: the playing is exciting and he takes risks that he might never take in the studio. Live music may be more likely to communicate strongly but it might also be more likely to exhibit mannerisms that could be unwelcome in a performance that you will listen to again and again. For me the second Schiff Goldbergs remain a recording that I repeatedly listen with joy to. But I might have wanted something a bit more solid in the old days, when records were more of a luxury to me and when I would only buy one performance of a work (and then wear the record out).
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Initial post:  2 Nov 2013
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