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Re: [F_MINOR] glenn gould's goldberg recordings

Hello Mat,

The Goldberg's have been subjected of some rather animated discussions
on this list.

A couple of years back there was an excellent article on the different
Goldbergs printed in "GlenGould", based on a academic paper on the
subject. It collects information on the available recorded versions with
Gould (also those which are not complete). Rosalyn Tureck's comments on
Gould's 1981 recording, published in an article in Piano Quarterly (I
don't have the exact issue at hand right now), is also revealing.

Just to show another opinion on  "A State of Wonder", here's my
blindfold listening posted on F-minor in October 2002.
I might add that I belong to the -81 camp :-)

At long last I received my copy of "A State of Wonder". To begin with I
don't see anything basically wrong to release the analogue version of
the -81 recording. That is, if Sony will keep the digital edition in stock.

As far as editing is concerned, I could not find any difference between
the two versions as far as pausing and Gould's basic pulse in concerned.
There is a minor difference in length (about 5 milliseconds in variation
one), but that has most probably to do with the placing of the track
marker. If you use the change track button -- as opposed to listening to
the work as a whole -- you might experience a difference between the two
editions, since some of these new markers are placed too close to the
end of the previous variation.

Now to the important issue of sound quality. As many of you F-minors
have attested, this is always hard to agree upon. In my experience, a
blindfold test is the only way to make an honest sound check between
different recordings. In this case you need to adjust the average sound
level, since the analogue version has about 1.2 dB higher sound level
than the digital.

I was given a test CD with the first three variations, with a corrected
sound level within 0,1 dB on both top value and average value. I didn't
know which one was digital and which one was analogue. I did my
listening through first class headphones.

My initial response was that the difference was less pronounced than I
would have thought. The sound difference in the aria was to my ears
rather difficult to detect. As always, variation one proved to be the
best test track, and here the difference was decidedly more pronounced.
Again, this difference is by no means truly significant.

I was able to detect which was the digital and which was the analogue
version. In the case of the aria this was quite hard but still possible
to pinpoint. In variation one, the sound of the different registers
became more evened out, less clear in the analogue version. The
contrapuntal clarity was to some degree lost. I would compare this to
the sound ideal of labels like Hyperion: comfortable listening but less
bass clarity.

This is really not such a big surprise, since analogue techniques do add
distortion to a recording. Some listeners prefer this added noise; it
can be perceived as giving the music a "warmer" quality. This is also
true of SACD, which adds noise in the ultra high-range frequency area
above 20 kHz, and is often perceived as giving the music a more roomy
atmosphere. In reality this is distortion affecting the amplifier and
the loudspeakers, and which gives the effect of a warmer sound.

Blindfold tests, where noise is added in the above frequency range, have
shown the same listener response as tests between SACD and CD. That is,
some perceive the added noise/SACD recordings as having more warmth and
an enhanced spatial definition as compared to no added noise
recordings/traditional CD's.

Of course there is nothing wrong with different sound ideals. I do on
the other hand object to any technique that adds something to a
recording, something which was not there in the first place. This should
be left to the individual listener to adjust at home with different filters.

In the case of the Goldberg -81, one must not forget that the Yamaha has
a harsher, more metallic sound than a Steinway. That's something we
can't change in hindsight. Gould didn't seem to mind.

All in all, "A State of Wonder" is a welcome addition to the GG
discography, especially the outtakes and the Page-interview.

But why wasn't there any outtakes from the -81 recording??? They have
plenty in the vaults. According to the liner notes, the only reason to
use the analogue tapes in the first place, was to check these alternate
takes. I'd be very grateful for an answer from the folks at Sony.


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