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Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Boulez

Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Boulez

Esoteric  ESSG-90231

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mahler: Symphony No. 6

Wiener Philharmoniker
Pierre Boulez, conductor

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Comment by Steven Harrison - December 30, 2020 (1 of 31)

Recorded 1994. Esoteric made their remaster from the 96/24 EBS remaster of the original 16bit recording. At least for the past couple of years Esoteric has been printing that in the booklet. Sounds very good and I have no complaints. Helps to have the Ruby player too.

Comment by Athenaeus - December 31, 2020 (2 of 31)

Hi Steven, were you able to compare this SACD with the original RBCD? There have been a few discussions over the years on this site about the merits of converting "old" PCM recordings to SACDs. I must say I'm skeptical about this type of conversion but some have argued that it makes sense from an acoustic point of view (I'm thinking in particular of the discussion under the Karajan/Grieg release UCGG-9068). So although I'm skeptical, I don't have a fixed opinion on the matter and I would certainly be interested to know if you — or anybody else — has had a chance to make the comparison with this Boulez recording.

If there is an improvement, it would certainly make the SACD a worthwhile purchase since this is an important Mahler 6 recording.

Comment by Steven Harrison - December 31, 2020 (3 of 31)

Well, I do not have the rbcd release of this, so cannot compare. Also, I can never be bothered to compare the two layers on hybrid discs. It's fairly obvious that remastering a 16 bit original to 24 bit is not really going to do too much. But the whole point of these Esoteric releases is to show off the Esoteric gear they use and list in the booklet.
Given that Tower Japan seems to be able to get 24/192 remasters from EBS and Classic Sounds, I can only wonder why Esoteric does not get those as well.

Comment by DYB - January 1, 2021 (4 of 31)

I'm very puzzled by Esoteric's choices of repertoire and really digging in on these 16-bit up conversions. The results have been extremely mixed. The Kleiber "Tristan" I thought was excellent. But Karajan's set of Tchaikovsky's 4-6 Symphonies was bad; very difficult to enjoy because the sound is so bright and harsh and metallic. (Did not compare it to the original DG issues, but it seems to me a lot of those DG 1980s recordings were just awful.)

Comment by Tony Reif - January 2, 2021 (5 of 31)

Since this was a 4D recording, EBS would have had a 21 bit master to work with. Like Boulez's Ravel, which sounds excellent in DG's SACD mastering.

Comment by DYB - January 2, 2021 (6 of 31)

Tony, ah that's interesting. I didn't realize the 4D recordings were 21 bit.

Comment by Athenaeus - January 3, 2021 (7 of 31)

Steven, could you check again what is printed inside the booklet? Does it really say "16 bits"?

Comment by Mark Werlin - January 3, 2021 (8 of 31)

Athenaeus: I've done pre-conversion of dozens of CDs to DSD64. Many of the CDs of orchestral and chamber music that I've run through sample rate conversion/modulation sound significantly better through my system as DSF files than as 16/44.1 files.

The Boulez Mahler 6 was sourced from an earlier conversion to 24/96. I would expect the SACD to sound better than the original CD.

Comment by Steven Harrison - January 3, 2021 (9 of 31)

Atheneus,
Direct copy from the booklet "This SACD was remastered with the 96kHz/24 bit master, that was up-converted from the original 44.1kHz/16 bit master with the high technology."

Comment by Tony Reif - January 3, 2021 (10 of 31)

Hmm, that's interesting. Even though the 4D converters were claimed to be 21-bit, it may be that DG, at the time of Boulez's Mahler 6 (May 1994), were dithering the signal to 16 bits for recording because they didn't have higher-res recorders. This is what Tony Faulkner implies in a long open letter to DG in Studio Sound, June 1993, which the Head of DG's Recording Centre does not address in his reply:

https://worldradiohistory.com/hd2/IDX-Audio/Archive-Studio-Sound-IDX/IDX/90s/Studio-Sound-1993-06-OCR-Page-0085.pdf

Nevertheless, both Mark and I are hearing Boulez's Ravel SACD source as at least 20 bits. It was recorded in March 1993, but the SACD credits state:

Audio Content Source Material SACD Layer
44.1kHz / 24 bit PCM Stereo Audio
44.1kHz / 24 bit PCM 5.1 Surround Sound Audio

Obviously they cannot be referring here to the original recording's word-length, although that's what it seems to be saying. However, there WAS a 4-track 24-bit Nagra location recorder (battery operated) introduced in 1992. Was DG perhaps using it back then?

Boulez's Mahler 3 was recorded in February 2001 and the source material for that SACD is stated as 48/24 - and that's credible.

Comment by Tony Reif - January 6, 2021 (11 of 31)

Rainer Maillard of Emil Berliner Studios was the Tonmeister on this recording, so I emailed him asking him about how it was recorded. His reply: "The recording was done in 4-track on a Nagra-D (24 bit). But I only edited a 16-bit version for CD at the time using Sony DAE 3000. If there would be a real remastering by Esoteric, they would have to use the original 4-track tapes and have reedited and remixed the work (they would need the score with the edit marks too)." He also said this about DG's 4D system: "The bit length of the converter and the recording medium weren't the same for a few years. In the beginning we used 19, 21 and later 23 bit ADC in combination with noise shaping technology and the Sony PCM 1630 [16 bit] recording system....We recorded 24 bit in multitrack much earlier than in 2-track, because we modified our Sony 3324 from 24 track/16 bit to 16 track/24 bit first....Please be aware that converting, recording, editing, mixing, mastering and archiving in 24bit all have their own specific developments. The whole 24 bit chain was not ready at one moment. It took some years (and a lot of money) to get everything together."

Comment by Steven Harrison - January 7, 2021 (12 of 31)

Tony,
Wow, thanks for that truly interesting post. Pity that the proper remastering was not done here.
Of course if Esoteric requested that in the licensing agreement, the fee would be much higher and the subsequent disc price would likely reflect that.
While the current disc price itself is in keeping with standard Japanese pricing, the shipping and other fees are what double the cost and make these so expensive.

Comment by DYB - January 14, 2021 (13 of 31)

Wow very interesting response indeed....and what a waste for Esoteric to not have used the original masters. One hopes DG will do so - and soon.

Comment by Darryl Roberson - January 15, 2021 (14 of 31)

Hello, new to the site. I very much agree with Mark Werlin's comment, as the proof is in the hearing and Esoteric has apparently done much of this upsampling, though it's not cheap to find out how good it is. This seems to have just been released in the past few days, so any comments will be most welcome.

Comment by Mark Werlin - January 16, 2021 (15 of 31)

Hello, Darryl, and welcome to the site.

There are many fine performances of the Mahler 6th on SACD (I have six in my collection). Pierre Boulez, unlike other Mahler conducters, was in the vanguard of post-war classical music. He brings a composer's sensibility to his interpretations.

I trust Steven Harrison's comments about the sound quality of this disc. The Esoteric SACD can't be sampled online, but the DGG CD release can be auditioned on the Presto website, with a search for Boulez Mahler 6.

Comment by Steven Harrison - January 22, 2021 (16 of 31)

Perhaps I need to make an additional comment here. I seem to be the only one here who has this disc.
It was released on December 20,2020 though it is listed here as not released yet.
My comment on sound quality stands firm.
DYB's comment on "original" master is incorrect. In reading Tony's post it is clear that there is only the original 16 bit master.

Comment by Athenaeus - January 22, 2021 (17 of 31)

DYB's comment seems correct to me. Rainer Maillard's message mentions "the original 4-track tapes". His message seems to imply these tapes still exist.

Comment by Steven Harrison - January 23, 2021 (18 of 31)

Yes the recording was done in 24 bit. But the edited master was in 16 bit. There was never a 24 bit master, ever.
I might add that Universal Classics Japan uses new 24 bit masters from EBS in their reissue series, as does Tower Japan in their Vintage SACD Series reissues. I've noted elsewhere that I find the sound quality of the Tower reissues to be very good. Perhaps one day this Mahler 6th will show up in one of those reissue series. At present, there are 3 Esoteric releases also released in the Tower series.

Comment by Athenaeus - January 23, 2021 (19 of 31)

Ah yes, I see what you mean, Steven, and you are indeed correct. But there is a higher-resolution tape that Esoteric could have used to create higher-resolution remaster, if I understand Rainer Maillard's comment correctly.

I'm not aware of Tower Records doing any SACD reissues of digital recordings (but I don't know their whole catalogue by heart... so I may be wrong). But who knows, they may change their policy and eventually add some digital recordings that could in some way be improved by a remastering.

Comment by Steven Harrison - January 24, 2021 (20 of 31)

AFAIK Esoteric does not make new masters of the material. They are much like Mofi in that. Perhaps in the future that policy may change.
I did not read anything in the recording engineer's post that stated that he had made a 24 bit master from the recording. He just wrote that he made the 16 bit edited master as requested.
Yes Tower has only released older analogue recordings thus far. I have not followed the Universal SHM sacd releases to know if they have released digital recordings or not.

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