Sunday, May 07, 2006


A classical journey....

....into the JOYS of cleaning records before trying to get a decent transfer. That was what this week was...

I found a nice looking set, "A Night At The Met" on Columbia Masterworks, with some nice operatic numbers from Rise Stevens, Lily Pons, and Ezio Pinza (whom I shall never forget as the voice narrator on a Magnavox hi-fi demo record... which I may post later on AudiOddities...), so, I figure that this should be an easy posting, and bring some culture to the Shanty, right?


This set has to have been one of the MOST challenging I have ever done. This includes spending a night trying to get all the sonic crud out of one track, only pitching it after five hours of frustration.

The tracks DID finally come out, with a bit of coaxing (and THOROUGH cleaning of the discs... even one side was wet-played to try and get a recording of it, which is almost an absolute NO-NO), I got these tracks out of the mire for you.

Some are brilliant. GORGEOUS recordings of EXCELLENT performances. Take, for example, Rise Stevens singing Mon Coeur s'Ouvre a ta Voix from act 2 of Saint-Seans' Samson & Delilah. Fausto Cleva & the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra do the honors here in a very nicely done rendition of the song. Even with the rapid cutoff of the ending note ("Record's almost over, boys, cut it off quick!"). There's still some pops in here, but I think you get the idea.

Another wonderful performance is Rise teaming with tenor Raoul Jobim, singing the Seguililla and Duet from act 2 of Bizet's Carmen. Here, George Sebastian takes over the reins of the Met Orchestra, and does it quite nicely. This was the recording that I had to finally do a wet-play (spray the disc with water, clean it out with a toothbrush, then spray again and get the crud out with a record brush, THEN wet it AGAIN with a spray bottle and play the disc and pray... the disc played with minimal damage) treatment on, as this was the one that I fought with for five hours before punting the file and starting from scratch. You can see it isn't perfect, but it is a whole lot better than it was.

I don't know why Columbia threw in Lily Pons' rendition of the Bell Song from Delibes' Lakme... it's a pedestrian version, maybe an alternate take, who knows. The album cover says that these were from the soundtrack of United Artist's "Night At The Met", but I think they stretch the point juuuuuust a tad.

Case in point: Ezio Pinza's frantic (or traumatic) recording of Finch' Han al Vino from act 1 of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Was this recorded in a closet and Ezio needed to go to the bathroom? It sure sounds like it. For lack of a better (or worse) disc, I nominate this one as the Clanker of the Week. Short and sweet.

Which is strange, because also on the same side as this poorly recorded bomb is a VERY sweet version of Serenata deh Vieni alla Finestra from act 2 of the same opera. MUCH better recording, nicely recorded, nicely sung, just Ezio and a mandolin or lute with the Met Orchestra well in the range of subtle-ness.

Ezio does redeem himself with this performance of Il Lacerato Spiritu from act 1 of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. Now THIS is the power of Mr. Pinza... with Fausto Cleva whipping the Met Orchestra quite well.

The Lacerated Spirit... that how this week has gone, to sum it up... but tomorrow brings a better day and all that stuff... there you have it. A mediocre set with some highlights, and one very very LOW-light.

My work schedule should let me do some more popular discs and other stuff this week, so enjoy the operatic respite, and always remember to keep your discs clean and your wits about you.

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