How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

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Lance
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How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by Lance » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:14 pm

I had many, many 78-rpm discs, some willed to me by collector friends. I finally discarded several thousand of them (carefully, mind you), and kept some of the rarer ones. Most of the great singers of the past who recorded acoustically and then electrically after 1926 have had their recordings digitized by among the best restoration engineers and thus reissued on CDs. For a while, Nimbus was issuing a substantial number of great artists re-recorded in their "ambisonic" method. Some were quite good and natural sounding.

I know we have quite a few vocal collectors amongst us on CMG. Do you collect these reissues of great singers? Romophone did a marvelous job with singers such as Nellie Melba, Emmy Destinn, Rosa Ponselle, Emma Eames, Galli-Curci (which are wonderful!), Lotte Lehmann, Claudia Muzio (also outstanding), Elisabeth Rethberg, Lucrezia Bori, Elisabeth Schumann, Frances Alda, Geraldine Farrar, Gigli, Martinelli, Schipa, Leonard Warren, Melchior, and many others. Transfers were expertly done. Some items (such as the Christmas album of great singers of the past) have been reissued (I think by Naxos).

I do not, however, know many YOUNG people who are collecting this kind of material opting, instead, for state-of-the-art sound, which means to me, they are truly missing some superb singing. ♫
Lance G. Hill
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Dimma
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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by Dimma » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:32 pm

Lance,
Your post reminds me of John's previous one (donating his vinyl to the library). What happened to your 78s? It must have been hard although I can barely imagine the space the occupied in your house. It makes me wonder how all the cds in our collections will fare one day as all the music in the world "lives" in a puny microchip? I still resist "going" MP3 as I like browsing my cds... :)

Regardless, so many treasures in the 78s. I am still discovering gems in the Nimbus transfers you referred to.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by Wallingford » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:48 pm

When I was still in Seattle, I lived a hop, skip and jump away from a guy about my mother's age who collected every thingamajig relating to audio & video reproduction--he collected things like RCA's SelectAVision (the Edsel of videodisc players), the Bose Wave, and those little 45-rpm-only players that RCA made in the early 50s (during the "war of the speeds" period). He spent a good deal of money restoring a vintage 20s gramophone, complete with morning-glory styled horn. His specialty as a record collector was singers, and it was a real revelation to hear just how faithful the acoustic phono was in reproducing the human voice!

Pianists complained of exaggerating or constricting their dynamic ranges when making their recordings in that era, but it was uniquely suited to capturing the timbres of the individual singers.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by barney » Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:00 am

I am very interested in them, ever since a long-ago radio program, Singers of Renown, in Australia highlighted for me the voices and singing styles of other times. I tend to collect historic singers in whole operas at present (eg the marvellous Fricsay set that we both just got, or the fabulous Wagner at the Met), but will my turn my attention to these soon.
the problem, Lance, is that I never go into CD shops or second-hand places any more because I fear I will be tempted. (I have hundreds of CDs I am yet to play, and it seems awfully self-indulgent.) But that is where one tends to find such treasures.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by John F » Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:41 am

Lance wrote:I know we have quite a few vocal collectors amongst us on CMG. Do you collect these reissues of great singers?
Reissues, certainly. I've never collected the original 78s, and when some have come my way, I've taped them and passed them along.

The best transfers I've heard of acoustic and early electric vocal recordings have been done by the Austrian Preiser label. I have dozens of their LPs. But I've taken whatever I could get.

As for getting younger listeners to such recordings, I think that depends first of all on their being opera buffs, but then on relationships - a connoisseur playing well selected records for a younger friend, "You've got to hear this." Or, if there is one, a radio program by a vocal connoisseur.

My friend David Elliott produces such a program for WHRB in Cambridge, MA. Following each Metropolitan Opera broadcast, he plays selections from the opera(s) just heard in historic recordings which unfortunately tend to show the afternoon's singers in an unflattering light. He and I were both initiated by Dale Harris, later a critic for the Wall Street Journal and other publications, who had a weekly half-hour show on WHRB called "Great Singers of the Century."

I suppose anyone could put on such a show on the Internet, such as Lance's unnamed program at www.http://wpel.streamon.fm/. But that's not the same as on a real radio station that people tune to for other reasons - such as the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Only the already converted would seek out an Internet show on whatever topic. How one builds an audience for such a program, and particularly how one draws a younger audience, Lance can possibly tell us.
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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by maestrob » Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:49 am

Great singing has been captured on disc for more than 100 years, and I own quite a few of the Nimbus Prima Voce releases, good for listening and for study as reference recording: their Ambisonic process, using a 6-foot horn and pine needles to avoid the scratch of steel needles has brought to life many of the best old discs. Deeply rewarding. For those who don't have them, I recommend starting with tenors such as Gigli, Caruso, Schipa and so forth. There are several albums listed by composer (Great Singers in Donizetti, or Verdi, or Mozart) that make a good starting point. The sound is very full and natural, even on the earliest recordings.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by bigshot » Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:29 pm

I love 78s, but the acoustic and early electrical ones sound MUCH better on an acoustic phonograph than in modern electrical transcription. I owned a CD company releasing historical recordings and I would slave away at the computer trying to recreate the great sound I got from my acoustic phonograph with no effort whatsoever. Now that I'm not releasing CDs any more, I have given up on electrical transcription. It's just too much work.

Here is my phonograph. It's the Rolls Royce of its day... the Brunswick Cortez. It has a 27 inch molded spruce horn. The sound quality is phenomenal.

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Here are some records played back on it...

Raymond Scott: The Penguin http://www.vintageip.com/xfers/thepenguin.mp3
Raymond Scott: Dinner Music For A Pack Of Hungry Cannibals http://www.vintageip.com/xfers/dinnermusic.mp3
Ted Lewis "St Louis Blues" http://www.vintageip.com/xfers/stlouisblues.mp3
Ted Lewis "My Mama's In Town" http://www.vintageip.com/xfers/mamasintown.mp3

I'm working on a demo of how this machine handles Caruso compared to my smaller, earlier Victor Victrola VV-X. It's amazing to compare the sound of the acoustic machines to the wimpy sounding CDs of the same recordings. I'll post it when I finish making the recordings.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by John F » Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:01 pm

Back in the '20s and later, the editors of The Gramophone always maintained that acoustic phonographs gave out better sound than the new models with amplifiers and speakers, even when playing electrical recordings (made with microphones). That may well have been true in their day; your experience confirms it.

But I should think that the inherently limited frequency response in acoustic playback makes it physically impossible to get all the sound information that electrical recording engraved in those grooves. The gramophone may distort the sound in a pleasing way, reducing the high frequencies, but it's distortion nonetheless. Listening for pleasure, that's fine. But when transferring records for reissue, as with Nimbus, it's not acceptable - not to me, anyway. I listened to a couple of the early Nimbus LPs and rejected them. I want better.

maestrob speaks of steel needles for use in old gramophones. My family never used them, not that I can remember. Instead, they used needles that I believe were cactus spines, which didn't cause groove wear. Instead the grooves wore down the cactus. There was a handy gizmo to resharpen worn needles. But we had a box of needles so we just put in a new one and threw the old one away.
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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by bigshot » Mon Jul 27, 2015 12:51 pm

It all depends on the age of the recording. Acoustic records usually sound better on acoustic phonographs. Early electricals are good on either kind of player. By 1940, the bass was recorded well enough that electrical transcription has a clear advantage. The introduction of hifi around 1950 blew acoustic playback out of the water entirely. Until hifi, the upper frequency response didn't change much as time and technology advanced. But bass response did. Interestingly enough, the records with the best high frequency response pre-hifi were the Orthophonic and Viva-Tonal records from the mid to late 20s.

The first electrical turntables in the mid 1920s were prone to all kinds of noise and distortion. It took about ten years for electrical transcription to become "ready for prime time".

Fiber needles have advantages and disadvantages. I don't use them myself for two reasons... they get hotter in the groove than steel. Steel needles tend to conduct the heat away. Heat is what distorts the grooves. The other reason is that fiber needles leave organic gunk behind in the groove. I once bought a batch of records that had been played with fiber needles and the first few times I played them with a steel needle, a whole bunch of nasty looking stuff came out of the grooves. The grooves had become pitted and swarmed with clicks because the organic gunk had begun to absorb humidity and rot inside the grooves. A real mess.

I know people who buy up old used fiber needles and resharpen them. That always makes me feel like the hobo who picks up a discarded cigarette off the street and smokes the rest of the butt! I've done a lot of tests on record wear, and steel needles are perfectly safe, so I use those and use a new needle for each record side. The other advantage is that steel needles come in three volume levels, soft tone, medium and loud.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by John F » Mon Jul 27, 2015 1:40 pm

Ever used cactus needles?
John Francis

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by bigshot » Mon Jul 27, 2015 3:50 pm

Never tried them, but I'm told they are pretty much the same thing as fiber or bamboo.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by John F » Mon Jul 27, 2015 4:07 pm

Your acoustic phonograph looks very much like the gramophone provided to Elgar at his home by HMV. There's a photo of him standing next to it, looking askance at a 78. Unfortunately not in the Google image library.
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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by bigshot » Tue Jul 28, 2015 12:40 pm

If it was given to him by HMV, it was probably a Victor Credenza, which looked like this...

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The Brunswick Panatrope Cortez was the phonograph that British royalty owned. I feel royal whenever I play it!

The Credenza was the most popular phonograph designed to play electrical recordings. The Brunswick Cortez was its main competitor. The main difference between them was the horn. Brunswick went with a very large molded traditional horn, the Credenza had a folded exponential horn. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. The exponential horn has a little more bass, but it can sound kind of distant and muffled. The Cortez horn projects beautifully and is crystal clear, but it doesn't have quite as much bass.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by violinland » Thu Aug 06, 2015 2:24 am

Hi Lance. I have only this to say. Imagine living in today's CD world and never having heard a 78 of Schipa. It is great to be back.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by maestrob » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:41 am

I once saw a film of Schipa in a local arthaus singing arias recorded (of course) electrically in IIRC the late 1920's or early 1930's. Magnificent singing: his "Le reve..." is the most beautiful I've ever heard. I've searched youtube, but perhaps I'm not doing it right and can't find it......

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by John F » Thu Aug 06, 2015 11:07 am

Is this it?



Part of the charm is a couple of ornaments he adds that you won't hear from any singer nowadays.
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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by maestrob » Thu Aug 06, 2015 11:55 am

Hi John.

That's the 78rpm version, which is superb. What I'm looking for is a film I saw back in the 1980's, perhaps of different repertoire, and I can't find it on Amazon or youtube. Don't remember the repertoire, but it was a film of Schipa standing and singing (in tails) in great voice several arias.

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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by John F » Thu Aug 06, 2015 3:08 pm

Schipa made a lot of movies. Do you recognize any of these titles?

I misteri di Venezia 1951
Life of Donizetti 1947
Vivere ancora 1945
Rosalba 1944
In cerca di felicità 1944
Terra di fuoco 1939
Who Is Happier Than I? 1938
To Live 1936
I Sing for You Alone 1933
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Re: How do ACOUSTIC 78-rpm vocal treasures appeal to YOU?

Post by barney » Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:58 pm

John F wrote:Is this it?



Part of the charm is a couple of ornaments he adds that you won't hear from any singer nowadays.
Certainly an amazing voice. Ideal Italian tenor.

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