22 July, 2010

Talk Vinyl: When is Analogue Not Analogue?

Vinyl Talk: When is Analogue Not Analogue?

Or: Buy your Historical Recordings with Care

The recent appearance of some re-issue LPs of doubtful provenance is cause for reflection. This was started by an email from Shun Cheong HK, dealer of many obscure (and questionable) CD labels that specialize in re-issue of historical performances, announcing the availability of Johanna Martzy's Bach solo works on the Mythos label.

The Quagmire of Copyright
The main reason many such obscure labels have sprung up in Europe is because in Europe the 50-year copyright has lapsed on a huge number of valuable recordings. It is 2010 now, and that means in Europe you can transfer anything up to 1960, well into the stereo age. In the USA, copyright lasts longer and there are not yet that many such companies. Which is also why Naxos can sell their 50's Maria Callas CDs in Europe and Asia but not in the USA.

Material Recorded on 78's and Unethical Practice
By now most material on 78's are now in the public domain, and anyone can take a 78 or shellac and use a cheap A to D converter to digitize it, and then manufacture it. With made-to-order CD a coming trend (even with big companies) surely such transfers shall continue to mushroom.

There are people who have long done such conversions with care, and the 2 most famous are Ward Marston and Mark Obert-Thorn, whose work can be found on many legitimate and honorable historical re-issue special labels, such as Music and Arts, Pearl, Biddulph, Arbiter and, yes, even Naxos, now a main player.

If you take a 78 and make a transfer yourself and sell it, no one will question you. But then there are companies that simply STEAL digital transfers already prepared by others and market them under their own brand. If it is not unlawful it is at least UNETHICAL. The most notorious in this aspect are labels like Iron Needle, Dante/Lys and Arlecchino (all of which unscrupulously carried by Shun Cheong). For more info on this, read the Hall of Shame article on the Music and Arts label. I'd urge you not to buy these labels.

Material Originally Recorded on Tape
Since material up to 1960 can now be issued outside the US, more and more LPs, inclduing stereo issues, have been digitally transferred to CDs by small labels, BUT NOT FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPE.

If it is well done, I'd think this is useful for re-issuing material that have not been tranferred digitally before. The major record companies have yet to re-issue many valuable items in their catalogue, and the small labels can serve a purpose here.

But this Martzy Bach item from Mythos I have my doubts about. This is one of the first "re-issue" LP that I know about from a small label. There is nothing much special from Mythos before. My impression is that they just take old LPs and transfer them to CD. these performances were recorded in good sound by EMI on tape in 1955, and the CDs are reasonable in sound and price too. I doubt Mythos had licensed the original tape from EMI to use for transfer. Much more likely they had just used some old LPs as source. Note that unlike more reputable historical reissue specialists, I failed to find any useful information about this record company. Who's behind them? the only thing I found was in Japanese:

"...「マルツィはひところ、ヴァイオリン愛好家や初期LP収集家の間では知られていたが、一般の知名度は低かった。最近、東芝EMIのCDでの復刻や、レキシ ントンのLP復刻で少しは認識されてきたようだ。しかしそれらのディスクを聴いてみたが、残念ながらその真価を知るには、初期盤にかぎられてしまうことが はっきりと分かった・・・・」(2000年発売 光文社 『クラシック名盤この一枚』より)

今回リリースされるこのレコードによって、現代のマルツィファンはようやく彼女の演奏の真価を知ることとなるでしょう。この3枚には、オリジナル最初期盤 でしか聴くことのかなわなかった、美しい旋律の底に横たわる深い響き、艶やかな表現を生む繊細な音のゆらめき、そして彼女の弓を握るその手の力具合までも が、録音スタジオの空気をも伝えんとする精緻な復刻により生々しく再生されているのです。

製作にあたり、MYTHOSは新たに発見された未使用と思われるプロモーション盤を使用しました。静かに再生の時を待っていたこのプロモーション盤には、 驚く程の情報が刻まれていたのです。ソロヴァイオリンの録音の復刻は、その音源のクオリティに厳しい条件を突きつけますが、今回発見された盤はその要求に 完璧に答えるものでした。蘇るマルツィ。 あの演奏は本当はこのような音がしていたのです。(MYTHOS).."

If you can read Japanese, please tell me what it says, especially the last paragraph. Using the Google translator:

"...Marzi was at one time, early enthusiast and violin LP among collectors have been known, recognition of a general low. Recently, Toshiba EMI in CD and reprinted in the Lexington LP little reproduction is getting recognized or seem to. I tried to listen to those disks, but see the value, unfortunately, they are understood clearly that the board limited the initial "(masterpiece Kobunsha released in 2000 [classics From this single 』)

This record will be released by this time will be a modern Marutsuifan to know the value of her performance at last. These three pieces of a bout of listening only original of the first panel, lying on the bottom of a deep melodic sound beautiful delicate shimmer of sound produce glossy representation, the power of her hand holding the bow and Even the condition is being played by the vivid and detailed reproduction of the recording studio 伝En air also.

Niatari production, MYTHOS used a promotion board seems to be newly discovered unused. The promotion board was waiting quietly playing time, I was surprised about the information engraved. Reissue of solo violin recording, the sound quality gives her severe condition, the panel found this was the perfect answer to the request. Marzi revived. That performance was the sound I really like this. (MYTHOS)

Mythos seems to have claimed they have found a new something, but what? A mint copy of LP?

Would you want to buy an expensive re-issue LP from someone who used an old LP as source, then did the A-to-D process, and then the D-to-A process again? For me, no, at least not until I have compared it to the official EMI CD release remastered from original tapes.

Record companies and dealers have the obligation to tell us the provenance of the material they are selling.

More later.

No comments:

Post a Comment