How was classical music recorded?
Historical classical music recordings are generally classic music recordings made prior to 1957, although some records were recorded as early as the 1920s.
They include both popular and classical genres, including jazz, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, gospel, pop, Broadway musicals, opera, symphonies, chamber ensembles, choral works, soloists, instrumental solos and duets, vocal quartets, and operatic excerpts.
In part one of this article, we delve into what makes a classical recording different from modern music productions.
As time passes, even later releases, made in the early days of stereo, are also being reissued as “historical” discs, especially if they were once available but lost popularity or were dropped from record companies’ catalogues because of poor sales. Such recordings often derive from tapes made and stored by broadcasters or organizations staging the event.
Typically such recordings are of artists whose work was particularly noteworthy at the time it was first released, or were otherwise unavailable because they were private studio recordings made at concerts or broadcast events.
The latter can be of fairly high quality if the recording derived from tapes made and archived at the broadcasting station or organization staging the performance.
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How was Classical Music Recorded: Recordings issued by arts organizations
The Metropolitan Opera of New York has been issuing important recordings since it began broadcasting operatic performances in 1931. The Met Opera of New York offers a wide variety of recordings, including those of famous singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Renata Scotto, Joan Sutherland, Plácido Domingo, Jessye Norman, Beverly Sills, James Levine, Deborah Voigt, and others.
In addition to classical music, the Met Opera of NY has recorded many popular musical artists, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Sarah Vaughan, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Johnny Cash, and many others.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra issued a box set called Boston Symphony Orchestra Symphony Hall centennial celebration: from the broadcast archives 1943–2000 in the 1980s, which contains twelve CDs of historic broadcasts dating from 1943 to 2000. This collection includes performances by Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Erich Leinsdorf, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Kurt Masur, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir Georg Solti, Seiji Ozawa, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel, John Williams, Thomas Ades, David Robertson, and others.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has also issued several important recordings, including one featuring conductor Arturo Toscanini, and another featuring violinist Jascha Heifetz.
Though there’s less time spent on processing the sound source, the focus turns towards painstakingly editing together the best performances from multiple takes of the same music.
Other notable recording institutions include the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
How was Classical Music Recorded
How was Classical Music Recorded: Major label reissues
Many of the major record labels are now reissuing some of their most important historic recordings. Some of the notable releases include:
* A recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 performed by Glenn Gould.
* A recording of Mozart’s piano concerto no. 12 performed by Vladimir Horowitz.
* A recording by Duke Ellington of his composition “Black, Brown and Beige.”
* An album featuring songs recorded by Bing Crosby during World War II.
* A collection of music by Johann Sebastian Bach.
How was Classical Music Recorded: Record labels specializing in historic recordings
There are a number of record companies that have specialized in releasing historical music. These include:
Arbiter Records, founded in 2000, specializes in reissuing classic albums from the 20th century. They specialize in reissues of early jazz records, including those of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and others.
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