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The Truth about many "Audiophile" Piano Recordings

StephenJK

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That is what I wrote but I am not a member there. They plagiarized my post there. I wrote every word and it is clear from the follow up. Guess I should be flattered it was copied elsewhere to motivate dialogue.
I don't work in the audio industry nor get paid for my hobby. I don't mind unless someone gets paid for appropriating what I wrote .
I presumed that, but did want to confirm it. I've flagged the post on the other site to the person who runs it as having been plagiarized from here.

I know it's not a big deal, but at the same time it is. I think I would be upset to discover that something I had written had been represented by someone else as their own thoughts.
 
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pablolie

pablolie

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I presumed that, but did want to confirm it. I've flagged the post on the other site to the person who runs it as having been plagiarized from here.

I know it's not a big deal, but at the same time it is. I think I would be upset to discover that something I had written had been represented by someone else as their own thoughts.

Thank you
 

Sal1950

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Screen-Shot-2018-06-05-at-09.42.jpg


Reference:
Holly cow, that pianos longer than my favorite gin mill's shuffle board table.
 

Jim Shaw

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Arranging the sound design for a grand piano is much more art than science. But there is also some science. A grand piano is a polyphonic percussion instrument. As such, it 'plays' the strings, and the soundboard, and the case and the lid, and the room it is in. There's an old saying among concert pianists that 'the worst seat in the house is the piano bench.' It's undisputed.

The arrival of high-resolution, high dynamic range recording devices has been a wonder to piano recordings. No more wow and flutter on sustained tones, no more clipped, compressed, or distorted peaks on fff passages. No more need to 'ride the gain' when a piano can attain dynamic ranges of 90 dB (and old analog recordings were lucky to attain 60 dB). I tend to recommend some recent DG, Chesky, and EMI piano recordings (and others) as state-of-the-art examples. Do they sound like a concert artist playing a Steinway D in your listening room? Of course not. They sound like a concert artist playing a SteinwayD in a concert hall or studio, being evoked in your listening room.

Being a pianist myself, and a former studio tech, recording piano sound has always been a strong interest. In the last 20 or so years, recording pianos has come a very long way. However, it is still more of an art than a science.

Rather like Monet is to evoking Water Lilies. It is beautiful, but it's not a living water lily in your living room.

iu
 

Sal1950

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IMO Mario of Play Classics Recordings has done some beautiful piano recordings.
And generously given many away here over the years.
 

mSpot

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thorvat

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I'm unsure as to whether you have played an acoustic grand or upright in person before but from a player's perspective, placing stereo microphones in close proximity to the hammers produces rather accurate results. That is precisely how the piano sounds to the player and is why many pianists will be dissatisfied with a more distant recording.

IMHO this opens a question whom piano recording is aiming to please most?

Is it a piano player or a listener sitting in some "optimal" listening position that is yet to be defined?

Because one thing is certain: the same recording cannot possibly please them both, as listening to the piano while playing it and listening to the piano while somebody else is playing are simply two very different things.. ;)
 
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Waxx

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IMHO this opens a question whom piano recording is aiming to please most?

Is it a piano player or a listener sitting in some "optimal" listening position that is yet to be defined?

Because one thing is certain: the same recording cannot possibly please them both, as listening to the piano while playing it and listening to the piano while somebody else is palying are simply two very different things.. ;)
I think the aim should be the public, not the player. When you play in a band, the balance is also off, even with monitoring. But the recording should be what the public hears in the crowd, not what the musician hear.

So a more distant recording in the room with a stereo mic and with fill in with 2 neutral mics close pointed at the strings, not the hammers is more what the public hears and should be what is done i think, and certainly for classic music.
 

antennaguru

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I think the reason why people that are into audio gear like to play recordings of dynamically played solo piano, is that such vinyl recordings often quickly show whether a turntable has the right stuff, or not. Being a percussion instrument the piano can be played very hard and then very soft, and recorded on vinyl this results in heavily modulated grooves leading right into lightly modulated grooves, and back and forth. The struck piano strings can present a sharp transient. Since tracking heavily modulated grooves suddenly causes more stylus drag in the playback system, and tracking lightly modulated grooves suddenly causes less drag in the playback system, overly lightweight platters that develop low inertia and/or faulty speed control systems cannot properly reproduce dynamically played solo piano. Industry standard wow and flutter testing doesn't reveal this inadequacy as it uses a constantly modulated single frequency tone on a test record, and then you measure how well this test tone is reproduced. To "cheat the system" some lesser turntables appeared using very lightweight platters with heavy servo speed control to achieve excellent wow and flutter specifications "on paper" using the industry standard constantly modulated single tone testing. This approach allowed turntable cost reductions but unfortunately these turntables never quite sounded right to many people despite those turntables' excellent wow and flutter specifications. Nevertheless dynamically played solo piano usually reveals these shortcomings to the listener! Gaming industry specifications has been around a long time.

Personally though, I do like to play piano myself and I really do appreciate hearing other people play piano on recordings and live (they are typically quite better than me), plus I like hearing the sound of the different types of pianos they play. Maybe some of this is because I never played piano when I was growing up and we had a grand piano in our living room that my younger sister played, as I was already playing trumpet and trombone back then when the piano appeared in our house. Now today with only my electric pianos I do wish I had the opportunity to play a "real" struck piano more often.
 
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pablolie

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I think the aim should be the public, not the player. When you play in a band, the balance is also off, even with monitoring. But the recording should be what the public hears in the crowd, not what the musician hear.

So a more distant recording in the room with a stereo mic and with fill in with 2 neutral mics close pointed at the strings, not the hammers is more what the public hears and should be what is done i think, and certainly for classic music.
Well, we know what it's called when you just try to satisfy yourself... That IMO also goes for piano players that just want to hear and please themselves, and hence provided distorted recordings to their paying public. :)
 

Jorge

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One of my all time favorite piano recordings, this is from the early 1960's for Philips. The instrument is a Bechstein, Schnabel's instrument on his first complete recording of Beethoven's 32 sonatas. Both pianists preferred this instrument for its wide tonal range and color, more varied than that of a Steinway or Yamaha. There's a very wide range of color in this instrument, everything is perfectly audible, but nothing is exaggerated. And this is one of the best performances of one of Beethoven's quirkier conceptions:

Hi, this is news to me, as I was sure Arrau mostly preferred Steinway. Perhaps he changed preferences in the course of his long career. Do you have some sources documenting that this was recorded on Bechstein?
Thanks
 

Robin L

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Hi, this is news to me, as I was sure Arrau mostly preferred Steinway. Perhaps he changed preferences in the course of his long career. Do you have some sources documenting that this was recorded on Bechstein?
Thanks
Sorry, don't have documentation on hand. Something I read some time ago.
 

AlephAlpha001

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On the subject of recording the piano, I've recently been captivated by Sviatoslav Richter, Georg Hoertnagel & the Borodin Quartet's 1980 recording of the Trout Quintet at Schloss Hohenems. The theme exposition in the famous 4th movement is much more piano-forward than in other recordings. It's been a revelation to me and I now pay more attention to other recordings where this is less so. This, plus what I hear in the other movements makes me wonder how much was Richter being Richter, how much was hall acoustics, how much was microphone placement, and how much was mixing decisions.

Anyway, there's no doubt one is listening to a Russian Pianist. Would have blown the ceiling out of your bog standard Biedermeier parlour.
 

Kal Rubinson

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Hi, this is news to me, as I was sure Arrau mostly preferred Steinway. Perhaps he changed preferences in the course of his long career. Do you have some sources documenting that this was recorded on Bechstein?
In the 1950's and 1960's, he played a Baldwin and I did see one in his house in 1962. However, I have heard that he often played Steinways in Europe.
shopping

phot_04_middleperiod_1953_ClaudioArrau_CarnegieHall_NewYork_Photographer_f.JPG
 

Kal Rubinson

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Thanks! Did you meet him in 1962? Amazing
Yes. I was in my senior year at Columbia and was Classical Music Director at WKCR. In that year, I assisted my predecessor, Julian Kreeger*, in assembling a live concert series for WKCR broadcast and Arrau was one of the performers (big Debussy night, iirc). As a part of that effort, we did interviews with the performers and Arrau insisted that we interview him at home. It was memorable for me.

*Julian was also the co-founder, with Peter McGrath, of Audiofon Records.
 

Sal1950

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Well, we know what it's called when you just try to satisfy yourself... That IMO also goes for piano players that just want to hear and please themselves, and hence provided distorted recordings to their paying public. :)
Not being a classical music person I'm short for much (or any) experience on the subject.
Is there really a lot of recordings being done in the manner you state above?
 

goat76

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I don't think that's the case, the star is always the star and will take the center focus no matter if it's live or recorded.
 

dualazmak

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Really interesting thread, I enjoy very much reading through the thread.

BTW, is someone here familiar with the acoustics of the Troy Saving Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_Savings_Bank_Music_Hall

The DORIAN Recordings digitally recorded many of their amazing (IMO) CDs there including Antonin Kubalek's piano performances of Brahms (two CDs I have; DOR-90141 and DOR-90159);

The recording quality and the performances are also really wonderful in this CD (DOR-90165) recorded there, I cannot find this in YouTube though;
WS003952.JPG
 
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