Jump to content
The Klipsch Audio Community
Sign in to follow this  
Chris A

Musing While Remastering Mozart Piano Concerto #20 in D minor (K. 466)

Recommended Posts

Quote

mus·ing  /ˈmyo͞oziNG/

noun
a period of reflection or thought.

 

As I looked this AM at today's menu of news and online forum delights before continuing my intrepid journey remastering my two-channel music collection, something struck me:

 

"Why do I derive such pleasure fixing these recordings over the available news-of-the-day and online dialogue with others having shared interests in music reproduction?"

 

As I first think on the news agencies and specialist news bloggers, it isn't difficult to immediately think on changes in overall world gestalt.  That picture--the way that the world looks at itself--isn't really inviting or encouraging.

 

The various audio forums--including this one--really don't make it much of a habit to address a music lover's needs to better enjoy his recorded music over his sound reproduction system. Instead, forums mostly present a close but indirect subject: talking  about hardware and individual problems using it in their collections of hardware--"which DAC did you buy today? Oh, that's got worse reviews than the brand that I own...", etc.

 

As I look elsewhere perhaps to critics' articles on music, I don't see that which motivates me to read on.  Why this is so is a subject related to my remastering knowledge. It's difficult to keep reading on now that the "cat's out of the bag", so to speak.  Besides, music reviews are apparently more rarely read by most "audiophiles" that I know personally, than they might care to admit.

 

The subject of real interest this morning is one of the most famous of W.A. Mozart's piano concertos (...you know...the 3-movement piano pieces with orchestra...).  Piano concerto #20, in D minor (K. 466) is said to have been the favorite composition of Joseph Stalin (a dubious distinction at best) and certainly a composition that has drawn in many future music lovers in the past to the other compositions of this--perhaps the most famous music prodigy and composer.  Why?

 

I suppose the answer lies in its astonishing beauty and musical invention, its overall and lasting effects on the listener's emotions and subconscious state.  But the real reason is that it shows me how great the accomplishments of human effort were 230 years ago.  It puts into perspective that the problems we have today are nothing: how insignificant the petty present arguments and "axes to grind" are compared to the real issues of the day back then and in the years following up to the end of world wars, great famine, genocide, pandemics, poverty and malnutrition, and ignorance of effective governance systems and individual freedoms. 

 

In this spirit, I decided to stop and share a moment of what I consider to be real inspiration: hearing my recording of this Mozart piano composition essentially for the first time - without it sounding like a "table radio". 

 

The spectrum of the third movement before remastering:

 

post-26262-0-85380000-1430924457_thumb.gif

 

And the "after" spectrum:

post-26262-0-82340000-1430924476_thumb.gif

 

The picture of the EQ correction curve for the entire concerto:

post-26262-0-03820000-1430925269_thumb.gif

 

The recording comes from Decca's Mozart Piano Concertos, Alfred Brendel and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner (Decca 478 2695, disc #9).  The XML file for Audacity to correct this recording (all three movements) is enclosed below.

 

I now look at the world with a refreshed set of eyes and ears with anticipation for better things ahead.

 

Try it yourself, for the music that inspires you.

 

Chris

 

Mozart Piano Concerto K466 - Brendel.XML

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, and I have good reason to believe you'll find the same correction curve applies to the single CD and phonograph record by this ensemble and soloist, first recorded in December of 1973.

 

Well, I do prefer the performance, but perhaps for reasons related to my musical upbringing and familiarity with this soloist, director and ensemble that were prolific recording artists of the time when I starting listening to this music in earnest and systematically listening to Mozart's compositions. 

 

I assume that if you grew up on Clifford Curzon, that you'd probably be imprinted on that (which is, BTW, actually my favorite performer of this piece on London CS 7251).

 

Chris

Edited by Chris A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris,

What is the best live performance of that piece that you have heard, which venue? Is it possible to articulate the one performance over the other?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't...which is the point.  I know what real orchestras sound like, live on-stage in the middle of the ensemble as a wind player, or in the audience.  Recordings (un-remastered ones with attenuated bass and other "mastering enhancements") don't sound at all like that. 

 

After remastering, it's a lot closer to real life, IMHO.  In some instances it's astonishing, in fact.

 

The reason why I haven't heard this particular piece live is the same as many here: lack of availability of a great soloist, orchestra, and performing venue (I'd opt for the Meyerson and the DSO if I had a choice, BTW) playing the pieces that I'd like to hear systematically, and at a time/date that I'd be able to support.  I spent a great portion of my life not being able to attend symphony performances after leaving music school because of work/school constraints or because of scheduling conflicts.  That's why I own the sound reproduction system that I do, and many great performance recordings (with potential to sound great at home).

 

As for articulating the differences...I'd point you toward the cadenzas and style of interpretation that the soloists AND orchestras/conductors use.  There's a good reason why we listen to the best - in order to hear interpretations that we otherwise would miss of these great works.

 

Chris

Edited by Chris A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris, you might consider putting up a web site with downloads for the Audacity curves you produce.  Might even make a bit of coin as it builds up.  Few bucks to generate one on request, 50 cents or so per download.  Sheesh, I've load of CDs of performances I like with shitty equalization I'd certainly pay to improve. 

 

I know how good it can be.  I've had my Rek-O-Cut re-equalizer now for over a year and have learned to set it on the fly in a matter of a couple of seconds for most 78s.  The difference is incredible.  Good music without, downright spectacular with. 

 

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you recommending this because of the XML files that I'm placing here?  They're very small files.  I can eliminate the stored images, if that is the issue--I try to keep those as small as possible and still be legible to read the text.

 

The reason why I ask is that I started this thread to encourage "DIY remastering" and shared lessons learned--as I stated in the leading post of this thread. I've spent a lifetime thus far making money.  I currently plan on "giving back" a bit longer (without using my checkbook) than I've had the chance to do thus far.

 

One thing that I do know at this point: being able to visually understand what is going on with current music tracks using spectral plots is, IMHO, critical to success.  Doing it all by ear using graphic equalizers is a hit-or-miss in my experience.  After achieving a corrected curve that is close to the proportions and frequency-SPL value anchor points, then doing the fine tuning by ear is much more productive. 

 

Chris

Edited by Chris A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris,

I know of what you speak. I have often referred to the Reg Williamson record cleaning system, attached the original articles from The Audio Amateur, attached the recipe and sourced the elusive Cyastat SN, all in the spirit if DIY. No matter how much I do, there are still those who want results on a silver platter without the effort. To be clear, you and Dave Mallette are not in that group.

Edited by DizRotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few years ago I started using Izotope Ozone in mastering my own recordings I make for a local Chorale/Orchestra. It's used mainly to "polish up" the final result. IMO it's the best software I've seen in any application. The furnished presets and GUI are really slick, easy to use/interpret, and give the results you expect.

 

About 1.5 years ago I got the bright idea that I might me able to use Ozone for real-time playback "re-mastering-on-the-fly" as a VST Plug-in with J River Digital Media Center. To my delight it worked!

 

Now, with just a click I can change (or bypass) the mastering preset (Orchestral Master or Rock Master with Excitation & Widening, or Jazz Instrumental for instance). The GUI provides excellent visual feedback and any changes you make are seen/heard instantly, and can be saved as a new preset.

 

What I find interesting about what Chris posted is particularly the low-end response changes to the Mozart recording. I've found that often it's the bass that needs to be compensated the most one way or another. Also the peaky spikes in the upper midrange & treble. Some of this is easily accomplished with a proper bass control on the amp/receiver (as most are not properly designed this can be difficult with most equip). But Ozone really helps clean up a lot of that.

 

If you're using a digital media center/PC/Mac as the music source Izotope Ozone is really worth taking a look at. Best software I've ever bought.

Edited by artto

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Neil.  I would make it easier if I knew how to do it and simply post the resulting flac or wav files.  Unfortunately, copyright laws are some of the most abused that I can think of, with music copyright owners, even 75 years old (well after the musicians have lived), still demanding royalties.  This really forces audio enthusiasts to either spend a little time doing this sort of thing, or it puts a burden on those that can do the unmastering to spend equal amounts of time as their unmastering tasks just trying to encapsulate their reverse EQ curves and the other digital tools (e.g., de-clip, notch filters, high and low pass filters, brick-wall limiter, etc.) for others to use. Unfortunately, I've not found a way to roll the individual editing sequences into a macro or something that is automated. 

 

I've also found that automated editing tools to be too heavy-handed and not diagnostic enough on their own to do a reasonable job.  Perhaps there are some tools that might make it easier, such as the freeware Melda tools.  But I've noticed that the really useful automated tools are still sporting price tags. When you see an auto-EQ tool with integral expander, noise cancelers, and normalizers, then we'll be a lot closer to "automatic unmastering".  Melda has at least one tool that I haven't used that looks like it is going down that path: https://www.meldaproduction.com/MAutoDynamicEq.  That'll set you back 99 euros ($112.50US presently). 

Edited by Chris A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The subject of real interest this morning is one of the most famous of W.A. Mozart's piano concertos (...you know...the 3-movement piano pieces with orchestra...).  Piano concerto #20, in D minor (K. 466) is said to have been the favorite composition of Joseph Stalin (a dubious distinction at best) and certainly a composition that has drawn in many future music lovers in the past to the other compositions of this--perhaps the most famous music prodigy and composer.  Why?   I suppose the answer lies in its astonishing beauty and musical invention, its overall and lasting effects on the listener's emotions and subconscious state.  But the real reason is that it shows me how great the accomplishments of human effort were 230 years ago.  It puts into perspective that the problems we have today are nothing: how insignificant the petty present arguments and "axes to grind" are compared to the real issues of the day back then and in the years following up to the end of world wars, great famine, genocide, pandemics, poverty and malnutrition, and ignorance of effective governance systems and individual freedoms. 

What a remarkable thread!  While I'm in the Dark Ages as far as the programs discussed are concerned, I think this concerto is outstanding for audio experimentation.  I've always thought of it as Mozart's "dark and stormy concerto."  It's one of only two Mozart's PCs in the minor key, and that minor key allows for a level of drama and emotional expression that exceeds those of his major key PCs IMHO.  Listening and watching this video performance by Mitsuko Uchida and the Salzburg Camerata lets you get the full impact of the especially intense emotional meaning that Mozart put into this masterpiece:

 

Especially remarkable is how Mozart got such orchestral richness out of so few instruments:  1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and strings (his outer movements add trumpets and tympani).  This is true of all his PCs, but especially his late concertos such as No. 20.

 

Note the absence of clarinets, which he didn't start using in his PCs until No. 22.  But, the oboes, bassoons, and single flute are ravishing.  It must be a challenge for the hard- and software in this thread to bring out all the beauty, accuracy, and emotional impact in good recordings of this work.

Edited by LarryC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"If Beethoven taught us to walk, it was Mozart that taught us to fly."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This recording that you posted is much live-er and closer acoustically than the Alfred Brendel recordings with the Academy of SMITF.  My ears say to me that this performance (on my main setup)--that no one has monkeyed with the audio, so WYSIWYG.  It if anything is so live that if I had the audio tracks only, I'd simply dialed back the 1-7 kHz region by about a dB or two.  Otherwise I'd leave it alone since it speaks to the composer's genius as-is.  And the venue is Salzburg, the city in which Mozart got his start.  It's a very intimate sound compared to the Brendel recording.

 

One of the things that always strikes me about these pieces played on full concert grand...usually a Steinway D270...is the truly magnificent sound as compared to the period forte-pianos of Mozart's time, which in general sound like inexpensive spinet pianos in comparison.  If only Mozart had been able to play such an instrument with his small orchestras.  It's really breathtaking in real life to stand next to one of these instruments while someone of that caliber plays Mozart compositions.  While I was at TCU, my data point was Madame Lily Kraus for Mozart piano interpretation.  I'll never forget her performances...and her exceptionally kind manner.  (She once introduced herself to me personally, probably thinking that I was someone else.  I'll never forget that experience.)

 

Chris

Edited by Chris A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This recording that you posted is much livelier and closer acoustically than the Alfred Brendel recordings with the Academy of SMITF. 

That's why I like small-orchestra recordings frequently posted on YouTube, like this one.  And I think it helps tons to SEE the players up close, to really enjoy and appreciate it.  

Edited by LarryC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris, I too am all thumbs with this dynamic range improvements. If you ever make a copy of the modified Mozart I'd pay you for it (what you figure your time is worth) as I would love to experience the huge improvements.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...