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Sean Gillia

Rushing into the Past or Why I Own a Turntable

November 29, 2006 at 6:44 PM

I wanted to hear a recording of Grumiaux playing the Haydn G major concerto, especially his candenzas.

I have Accardo's take (perhaps my favorite), Stern's (a muscular live recording), Reiner Kuchl's (fine, but uptight -- while listening, I found myself inadvertently tensing and pursing my lips), and Tetzlaff's (another contender for favorite).

But I wanted to hear Grumiaux. A search of the standard spots (Amazon, Arkivmusic, etc.) yielded nothing, except mention of a Philips recording on CD that was not available anywhere.

I placed pre-orders. Weeks later no luck.

Then I tried Ebay. Nothing.

Undaunted, I reached out to those rare CD places. Niente.

I went back to ebay, did a search, and WHOAH -- there it was, in Scotland! And the auction was ending in an hour. I bid. I won. In my excitement, I decided to change the shipping address, not realizing until 10 days later, that I had neglected to alter the zip code. Manhattan address. Brooklyn zip code. The U.S. Postal Service says the item should eventually be rerouted to the proper street address. They could not have been referring to my local Brooklyn PO. That sucker's gone. For good.

I could find no other CD, but I did see that the recording was available in LP form.

Problem: I own no turntable. Do I back down? Not a chance. It's like the tag line for Jaws 2 (or 3, or 4, or 5) -- this time it's personal. I bid on and win a near-mint vinyl LP of Grumiaux performing the Haydn G Major concerto. It arrives safely from the Netherlands.


Okay, maybe I can't listen to it, but at least I have the potential to listen to it. I leave it on my desk and I stare at the record for five days. This is not satisfying. Worse. It makes me REALLY want to hear the recording.

I check prices of turntables. Maybe I'll bid on one. No, no good. Too delicate, I read, for most amateur shipping.

Maybe I'll buy a cheapo turntable new and satisfy my (inflated) desire to hear this recording.

Well, the cheapo ones don't have great reviews from purchasers.

Okay, well then, maybe a step-up model. A tiny step up from bargain basement. And so it was done.

The turntable arrived last week. I set it up -- somehow, because it doesn't really fit in the storage unit very well. I can't open the dust cover all the way.

I listened to the recording. At what cost, you may wonder...well, I refuse to calculate's too depressing...too stupid...but it is a lovely recording. And it has that warm fat analog quality (or so I tell myself, repeatedly). Plus, I confess to a fondness for recording techniques of that era -- the way the soloist is so far in front of the orchestra -- as opposed to the more “democratic” methods of today, where the soloist sits more as part of the ensemble.

I listened to my recording several times. I did it again the next day.

I now own one turntable and one record.

My daughter came up with an LP of Oliver! that my mom gave her when she was moving. We listened to it. Good stuff.

I returned to the Grumiaux.

There's only one thing for me to do. And it does make a kind of sense, really. I mean, now that I own the turntable and all.

I hit ebay. Hard. I decide I'll make a record collection of Grumiaux recordings. I find and purchase several. They're on the way.

And if I have Grumiaux, what then of Oistrakh? I find some Russian recordings. Interesting. Done. On their way.

Milstein. Why not? They're cheap, mostly. Woohoo!! I've got Milstein coming.

My eldest daughter asks me for some Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. You betcha. A Swingin' Affair. And, hey, what are those V discs? I've heard of those. Cool. Let's get some of those.

This is fun.

And, guess what, there are pressings being made today. They're not cheap, these audiophile recordings, but it would be nice to sample a few.

But now that I have a budding record collection, I'm wondering if I really have the best turntable after all... and there's that whole issue of it not fitting into the storage unit to deal with...

From Maura Gerety
Posted on November 29, 2006 at 10:30 PM
Welcome to the wonderful world of LPs!! I have a turntable and some terrific recordings on vinyl. I wouldn't go so far as to say that stuff actually sounds better on vinyl (although I have my suspicions), but it's just so charmingly retro and nostalgic. :) Enjoy!
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 29, 2006 at 11:38 PM
there is a turntable club in Japan and specilaist shops taht sell records. They may be out of sight but for many music lovers they are seriuosly better than cds and the market is healthy and thriving.
You might find it useful to track down such a club and build up some kind of netwrok of like minded people,
From Scott 68
Posted on November 30, 2006 at 2:00 AM
have you heard zukerman's recording?
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 30, 2006 at 6:09 AM
Around here there are lots of used book and record stores, second hand stores, vinyl events, etc. I have a fair collection of vinyl recordings from my youth. Occasionally I give/lend some to a friend, who transcribes them to CD and then gives me a copy. He is selling some of his old LPs, and I have some that I'd be happy to give away, if you'll pay for shipping. Email me if you're interested.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 30, 2006 at 6:13 AM
I've heard people say that vinyl recordings have a warmer sound than CD recordings. Why is that?
From Bernard Wong
Posted on November 30, 2006 at 6:12 AM
I could have made a CD copy for you while still haven't invested money on the turntable & records. I used to be an audiophile, I still have my turntable setup & many many LPS, & some I still haven't listened to yet. Anyway, you could have picked up alot of old classical LPs cheap nowadays, and alot of them still sounded great!
From Sean Gillia
Posted on November 30, 2006 at 1:32 PM
Thanks, Maura. My daughter was actually disappointed that the turntable didn't look retro; she also requested the crackling sound she associates with records.

Interesting, Stephen. I'll poke around NYC, see what's going on here.

Scott, I have not heard Zuckerman's recording. I'm assuming you recommend? I'll check it out. (Maybe I can find it on LP!)

Pauline, re the warmer sound, I'm probably not representing him accurately, but basically, my brother-in-law, a recording engineer, said that when an analog recording is pressed into vinyl, there is essentially no conversion, you're still getting the sound waves, whereas with digital there is a conversion to 0s and 1s, and as such there is a loss, and although that loss is ever shrinking with technological advances, the conversion to digital is still there.

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