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A tribute to a fabulous recording - Benjamin Britten's 'Peter Grimes'

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  • #16
    After reading this on Thursday, I was thrilled to find a copy of the 2009 Alto CD reissue of this opera this weekend at the record store. While it's true that there is a fair amount of distortion it's a minor issue compared to the excitement on these discs. Even though I'm a singer, what I'm finding myself drawn to is the orchestral scoring and the playing that Britten extracts from the orchestra. I've always been a Verdi/Puccini guy but this opera will have me back in the record stores this weekend for other Britten operas (any recommendations?)

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    • #17
      Britten suggestions

      Originally posted by JJack View Post
      After reading this on Thursday, I was thrilled to find a copy of the 2009 Alto CD reissue of this opera this weekend at the record store. While it's true that there is a fair amount of distortion it's a minor issue compared to the excitement on these discs. Even though I'm a singer, what I'm finding myself drawn to is the orchestral scoring and the playing that Britten extracts from the orchestra. I've always been a Verdi/Puccini guy but this opera will have me back in the record stores this weekend for other Britten operas (any recommendations?)
      There shouldn't be distortion. Hiss etc. but not distortion. Where abouts?

      Billy Budd?

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      • #18
        Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
        There shouldn't be distortion. Hiss etc. but not distortion.
        I have to say I find it remarkable just how much distortion does seem to slip through the net. I believe there are three noteworthy points here:
        • The speakers and amps typically used during this era are probably nowhere nearly as revealing as those we now enjoy. Tannoy speakers of one sort or another were more or less ubiquitous in commercial recording at that time and I'm sure Alan could expound at length on the colourations they exhibit.

        • Unlike digital recording, analogue recording has no hard and fast point of no return. It was a constant battle between audibility of tape noise and the onset of objectionable distortion. Recording music of a wide dynamic range was a considerable challenge and a very fine line to walk.

        • A producer might make a judgement call that a given take was it, all things considered!

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        • #19
          Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
          There shouldn't be distortion. Hiss etc. but not distortion. Where abouts?

          Billy Budd?
          As AG points out in post #14, it was simply a choice they had to make to let the tape overload at times. I notice it often throughout the piece. Not much with Pears as I don't think he had that big an instrument. A fair amount with Heather Harper. I'll spot-check and post times if I get a chance to listen tonight.

          One thing I'm wondering, though, is whether my Alto CDs (made in 2009) might have used a still-deterioratinng tape as the source (rather than an earlier digital copy of a younger tape); as the tape ages I assume it's deteriorating even more, leading to more distortion. But I'm guessing

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          • #20
            Can you give us an point on the score where we can compare yours with ours?

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            • #21
              Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
              Can you give us an point on the score where we can compare yours with ours?
              I don't have the score but in the first a capella duet between Peter and Ellen in their first meeting in Act 1 there's distortion when they sing in unison on the higher notes.

              Also in most of the chorus parts where they are forte.
              Last edited by JJack; 30-11-2011, 07:44 PM. Reason: more info

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              • #22
                Wonderful post and thank you very much to Alan....This bring me back to very early 1990s when I just fell in love with Bizet's Carmen Solti/LPO full opera in cassettes and the recording engineer is Kenneth Wilkinson. The cassettes were a copy of 3CDs set from a Pioneer midi hifi belong to my friend (I did not have CD player and also the CD is belong to a friend's brother). And later that I heard this superb sound recording of Peter Crimes sample tracks in The Decca Sound album released by Taiwan Decca.
                "Bath with Music"

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                • #23
                  Well, thanks to all for wresting me away from my Verdi/Puccini mindset with this wonderful opera. Heading to the record store to what other Britten operas I can find

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                  • #24
                    Gramophone review

                    This very performance was recently featured in the Gramophone magazine archives: http://www.gramophone.net/Page/View/...Peter%20Grimes

                    With the 50th anniversary of Benjamin Britten's recording of Peter Grimes approaching, we unearth the glowing review from the October 1959 edition of Gramophone. The recording is now available on Decca Legends.
                    Accompanying article about the "new" stereo recording processes used: http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page...IMES+IN+STEREO

                    In the same issue, Eric Smith of Decca records wrote about the new recording processes being developed in the early days of stereo, employed in the Britten recording.

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                    • #25
                      Must say I prefer the original mastered CD.
                      Sometimes mastering to 96 Khz then reconverting back to 44.1 seems to lose something in the process, musicality?. If they issued an Audio DVD disc of the 96 Khz mastering (not a DVD-A) then that could be of real interest, but unfortunately for many companies the focus seems to be on downloads. Now a high quality AAA LP......

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by darkmatter View Post
                        Sometimes mastering to 96 Khz then reconverting back to 44.1 seems to lose something in the process, musicality?
                        It is possible to convert from one to the other, in either direction, without the slightest trace of audible difference - I regularly do so.

                        Could someone please point me to the 96kHz release of the 1958 'Peter Grimes.

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                        • #27
                          You can see in amazon or decca page

                          http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Grimes-B...9056718&sr=1-3
                          "Bath with Music"

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                          • #28
                            Update - a visit to Aldeburgh 2012

                            We thought we'd take a few day's holiday in the east of England, on the Suffolk coast. I fulfilled an ambition to visit Benjamin Britten's home town, and the setting for Peter Grimes. It was immediately obvious how the composer was immersed in the life of the sea and those who lived on and from her.

                            To complete this tribute (for now, anyway) I've gathered together a few more writings on the recording which are attached. Opera is, of course, a highly personal matter but if you have no experience of opera, want to be able to follow along in English, and to thrill yourself with the stereo presentation, this is the one to have. It is 100% 'accessible' from the first notes.
                            Attached Files
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

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                            • #29
                              How did you like Alderburgh?, as well as massive Benjamin Britten fan. I used to live in Aldringham, on Alderburgh Road which is just a mile or so from Alderburgh itself for a few years before moving to the States.
                              I remember cycling regularly to the famous fish and chip shop near the front . The Sunday Times once in an article called '100 things you must do in Great Britain' listed eating these fish and chips on the beach as number two!! on the list... only being beaten by visting Stonehenge!

                              Did you manage to see other local spots, Snape, Orford? Any pics?... I'm suddenly all nostalgic!

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                              • #30
                                Out and about in Aldeburgh

                                What a small world it is!

                                Picture attached of me outside Moot Hall, Aldeburgh two weeks ago. This ancient hall is right on the beach and has survived the weather for over five hundred years. It is about 50 years older than Harbeth R&D facility with a similar wood beam construction. I'll prepare more pictures.

                                The significance of Moot Hall is that it features prominently in the story of Peter Grimes. What I didn't appreciate was that two years after the first performance (1945) Britten moved to a large house a few hundred yards down the same road from the hall. Imagine the composer looking on to or walking past the hall every day and the hearing words, bars of music, seeing stage directions flashing through his mind from what is generally considered to the the pinnacle of British opera.

                                Yes the fish and chip shop. Along the high street? We actually parked opposite and remarked an the long queue. Had we known .... unfortunately I'd had a very enjoyable scone at the Wentworth hotel opposite the hall and couldn't face fish and chips!

                                We then went to The Maltings concert hall and would have visited Britten's The Red House (which with some difficulty we eventually found) but it is closed for building works: a new visitor centre is under construction. The perfect excuse to make a return visit!

                                >
                                Attached Files
                                Alan A. Shaw
                                Designer, owner
                                Harbeth Audio UK

                                Comment

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