Beethoven: 9 Symphonies - Kempe

Beethoven: 9 Symphonies - Kempe

Tower Records Definition Serie  TDSA-136/41 (6 discs)

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Beethoven: 9 Symphonies, Egmont overture, Creatures of Prometheus overture, Leonore overture No. 3

Urszula Koszut, soprano
Brigitte Fassbaender, contralto
Nicolai Gedda, tenor
Donald McIntyre, bass
Philharmonischer Chor München
Münchner Motetten-ChorMünchener Philharmoniker
Rudolf Kempe, conductor

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Analogue recording
Comments (25)

Comment by Steven Harrison - November 24, 2020 (1 of 25)

There is one recommendation for this release and no comments. I would be interested in a comment, no matter how brief. I'm considering the purchase. This set was released by Esoteric for 2-3x the cost of this tower release.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 25, 2020 (2 of 25)

I don't own this set but I did notice there are nine buyer reviews on Tower Records' website (and nine is a lot more than usual). They are all excellent. Most of those reviews, if they can be trusted, are obviously from enthusiastic SACD collectors as well as die-hard fans of this series of recordings, since most of them are able to compare the Tower Records release with their copy of Esoteric's set. The consensus seems to be that, in this case, the sound of the Tower Records SACDs is clearly superior to that of Esoteric's.

I hope this helps, while we wait for someone who has actually heard this release to post his or her comments.

Comment by Steven Harrison - November 25, 2020 (3 of 25)

Thanks for the post. I didn't know there was anything on Tower's website that was in English. I'll have to have a look.
Just had a look and it's impossible.
Nonetheless, Athenaeus, thanks for the comments on this set. Just what I was searching for!

Comment by Tony Reif - November 25, 2020 (4 of 25)

If you use Chrome it gives you the option of translating foreign-language websites, and it works fine with (or anyway as good as Google translate, which is what it is).

Comment by Athenaeus - November 25, 2020 (5 of 25)

Oh yes, Steven, you have to start reading Japanese reviews! I'm sure Japanese is a perfectly normal language but when it goes through Google Translate it gets turned into highly entertaining gibberish. But don't worry, after reading this pseudo-language for a while your brain somehow gets used to it and you understand the gist of it.

Comment by Steven Harrison - November 26, 2020 (6 of 25)

Athenaeus, I have already written, however briefly, of my experience with the Tower vintage discs since I purchased the Ruby player. My experience with the Tower Definition discs is less, since I only have the Rachmaninoff Previn set and the Ida Haendel Sibelius, and have only listened to the Sibelius with the Ruby. Perhaps in time I will have a go with the Japanese reviews. But your posts vis a vis Esoteric v Definition series are good enough.
I have the Esoteric Schubert Great symphony by Rudolf Kempe and really like it. I tend to think that that is what has gotten me going about this Beethoven set. I hardly need another Beethoven set, but........great sound does push the window a bit.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 26, 2020 (7 of 25)

Steven, I find it's really worth going through the webpage of a Tower Records release even if it isn't always easy to read the outlandish translations that Google generates. Tower Records provide a lot of interesting information about the recordings they release and especially about how the transfer and remastering were done (because, as you probably know, not all companies are transparent about this, unfortunately).

I have less than a dozen of their discs but based on this smallish sample, I would say their SACDs are usually excellent.

Comment by Steven Harrison - November 26, 2020 (8 of 25)

Okay, I went in to Tower in my google browser and it all went much better. I could only get the first 3 reviews, but didn't care too much for the reviews anyways. The Definition series discs are done the same way as the Vintage series, from the 24/192 masters, so should have the same good sound. The sound for the Bruckner set was just superb.

Comment by DYB - November 26, 2020 (9 of 25)

Just generally speaking, I think the majority of the Tower SACD releases are excellent. I have a lot of them and I've never had reason to doubt that the quality of the transfers would be excellent. I sometimes question their choice of repertoire, but not as often as I question Esoteric's choices, but that's a different discussion.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 27, 2020 (10 of 25)

Steven, the remastering does not depend on the Tower Records series; it depends on the label that originally released the music. For Deutsche Grammophon recordings the transfer and remastering are usually done by the Emil Berliner Studios. They don't prepare the release in Direct Stream Digital; the conversion to DSD happens at the end. Decca and Philips recordings are transferred and remastered by Classic Sound and are, apparently, pure DSD. Supraphon recordings are done by Jan Lžičař who creates a DSD master directly from the master tapes. And so on.

Now, luck has it that this Beethoven set was originally an Electrola release and it isn't clear (at least not to me) how the transfer was done and by whom... So in this case, Tower Records is not as informative as they usually are...

Comment by Steven Harrison - November 27, 2020 (11 of 25)

Athenaeus, The website just said the discs were made from the supplied 192hz/24bit masters, but didn't specify who made them. Who made them will be listed on the disc jacket like all the other releases I have. I've ordered this set, so can supply the answer when I receive the set in a couple weeks.

Comment by DYB - November 28, 2020 (12 of 25)

I have this release. It was licensed to Tower by Warner. It says mastering engineer was Atsuo Fujita and it was remastered by Warner Music Japan in 2020.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 29, 2020 (13 of 25)

Thank you for the information, DYB. However (and this comment is directed towards Tower Records, not against you, DYB), that's not much information. It's always nice to know a bit more about the transfer and remastering, e.g. did they go back to the master tapes? did they try to keep the remastering to a minimum? did they work in PCM? etc. As I said in an earlier post, Tower Records are usually more informative. Of course, all that matters at the end of the day is whether the music sounds good, regardless of how it came about. But still, one likes to have an idea how close that music might be to what the conductor and sound engineer were originally aiming for (and heard) with the technology of their time.

Comment by Steven Harrison - November 29, 2020 (14 of 25)

DYB, since you have this set, any comments other than identifying the mastering engineer?

Comment by DYB - November 30, 2020 (15 of 25)

I wish I understood Japanese so I could translate the note in the booklet. I can only say that the number 192/24 appear. As do the acronyms PCM and DSD multiple times. But the context is a complete mystery, alas. However, based on translations on other recordings it *looks* (just based on proximity of the acronyms) that they are saying the SACD layer was created from DSD and CD from PCM. But this is not a science on my part, just guess-work.

I have not yet had a chance to sample the sound, but will in the next few days and will post my impressions.

Edit: So I'm looking at the Tower site with auto-translate activated. It does say that the SACD and CD layers were mastered separately. And it sounds like they are saying that this was a new transfer at 192/24:

"In terms of sound quality, it seems that past CDs had a narrow range and sound field, and it was recognized that the sound was hard, but this time, from the original 2Ch analog master tape in the home country, 192kHz / The latest mastering was performed using a flat master that was digitized with 24 bits."

And: "The SACD layer and CD layer are mastered separately using a master digitized from the original analog master tape at 192kHz / 24bit."

Comment by Athenaeus - December 1, 2020 (16 of 25)

Then I guess Warner (who own the Electrola catalogue) simply do the transfers internally, as opposed to having an external studio do it for them. Thank you, DYB, for checking your copy of this set.

Comment by DYB - December 1, 2020 (17 of 25)

Wasn't EMI always using Abbey Road to remaster their material? Looking, for example, at their Callas releases, they are all done at Abbey Road and I think that was true of those old blue-cover SACD double-discs that were issued years ago.

Comment by Athenaeus - December 1, 2020 (18 of 25)

Yes, true. It could be that Warner and Tower Records no longer use Abbey Road Studios (the company) when they prepare these SACD releases. I notice that none of the most recent Tower Records sets that include old EMI recordings mention Abbey Road Studios or any of the usual companies that specialize in this kind of work. Examples are Barbirolli's recordings of Elgar and of Brahms that were released this summer by Tower Records.

I'm no expert on the subject. Some of the folks who follow this site and are more knowledgeable than I am might be able to give us a bit of insight.

Comment by Steven Harrison - December 1, 2020 (19 of 25)

Yes, well it all seems interesting, somewhat. The Tower Vintage Series of DGG and Decca recordings all state where the remaster was done, EBS or Classic Sound. While the Definition Series of old EMI recordings, now Warners, does not. The remasters all seem to be 192hz/24 bit, though we all wish they were done in 352hz/24 bit, aka DXD, like Pentatone does their post processing.
No matter what, the biggest improvement I have gotten from these releases has been my purchase of the Ruby player in July this year.

Comment by St. Gregory - December 4, 2020 (20 of 25)

Steven, would you mind sharing any comments about improvements to SACD listening experience in general, since you purchased the Ruby player?

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