Thursday 26 September 2013

The worst brass section I have ever heard on a classical recording


This is a curiosity!

Now, I have far from 'perfect pitch/ exact intonation' - but this LP is truly excruciating; reminding me of lunchtime concerts from (unauditioned, unrehearsed) orchestras of students

From Händel: Orchestral Works - Part 1/3 - Water Music

Recorded 1974 - La Grande Ecurie & La Chambre du Roy

Go to Part I: WATER MUSIC (Complete)
and then

VIII. Minuet (21:49)

to get the full flavour of the thing.

It is utterly incomprehensible to me how this recording was released  - but presumably there was an interesting story somewhere.

It may be that people were making (ahem) 'allowances' for the musicians playing on original instruments - presumably natural/ unvalved French Horns etc.

Or something...

(In the seventies I sat through a few rather similar debacles at live performances featuring natural trumpets - Bach concerti, Cantatas, Passions and the like. It was important to know the piece well, so as to understand what the musicians were 'getting at' - otherwise it sounded like Charles Ives on a bad day.) 



Samson J. said...

Hahahaha, I didn't believe you until I listened to it!

Anonymous said...

Natural brass instruments have a gorgeous tone but are unwieldy beasts that betray even fine players. Very few natural trumpeters from the 70's would be considered strong players by contemporary standards.

Here's one fine recording where, though everything is correct and controlled, you sense just a bit how hard it is to play the things:


Bruce Charlton said...

@bbtp - Yes, I have heard Crispian Steele Perkins playing natural trumpet beautifully, live from about 12 feet away.

But, I have to say I regard the valved trumpet as a genuine example of progress!

(I presume you know about the keyed trumpet - which came in between the natural and valved - )

Trying to think about how that recording came to be so bad - I think the explanation is likely to be fatigue - There is quite a lot of brass playing in the Water Music and (assuming the piece was recorded in order) the earlier parts are better than the later; so the brass section probably got progressively more tired as the recording session dragged-on...

(Or perhaps progressively more 'tired and emotional' - given brass players well known propensity for liquid lubrication).

Add-in limited studio recording time (because it is expensive) and the imperative of a recording contract - and maybe that is sufficient explanation...

But imagine if you had bought the records, and had to listen to them repeatedly. Torture!

Agellius said...

An amazing coincidence: Just the other day I bought a copy of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks (not sure if that's the exact title) by the very same group and conductor. I knew nothing about the group, I just like Handel. I haven't listened to it yet but I'll keep an ear out for out-of-tune brass.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ag - Remarkable. But was your recording 1970s vintage?

Curle said...

The past is not always so easy to understand. Though it has a strange compelling attraction upon multiple listens, it still amazes me that the following example of popular hillbilly music was out of tune and very popular not so long ago. I'm sure there are British equivalents: