Our Philosophy of Sound

Our Philosophy of Sound

Philosophy

Our objective is simple: to approximate, as much as possible, a natural sound in these very old recordings, without affecting the music in any way.

We have to understand that the Furtwängler wartime recordings were the first ever made with "magnetic" technology, which eventually became the magnetic tape used until the advent of digital recording. It allowed recording long stretches of music without the side breaks and surface noise of acetate recording. Unfortunately, as may be expected with new technologies, mistakes were made and some other "noises" crept in. We have tried to minimize these as long as it does not compromise the music.

We have been very cautious in "cleaning" coughs and other ambient noises. It has been done only when there is no chance it will alter the music.

We do not believe that there is anything sacred about technical limitations of that time or about mistakes made by recording engineers, such as changes in volume during the recording. These have been corrected as much as possible. It should be clear that despite the obsession we have these days with "authenticity", this obsession is usually misplaced. That is especially the case in old recordings. They bear little resemblance to the original sound of a concert. The limitations in frequency response of the equipment used not only effectively changes the equalization of the original sound, it also changes the ambience information in the extreme frequencies, thus changing the ambience itself.

There is no way we can get the original sound, or even know exactly what it was. However, we can try to approximate a sound that reproduces, as much as the recorded material allows, the natural sound of the instruments and thus is more pleasant to hear. We do not claim authenticity, and believe that anyone that does is talking nonsense. All we claim is the best sound we can conjure from these old recordings.

The Sound

Attempts have been made before at improving the sound of these recordings. Some have been successful in a limited way. However, in most cases they have been limited to raising extreme bass and treble, without due consideration of the crossover frequencies. The results are at times disturbing. Also we find masterings that are either too bright or too dark. We have attempted to strike a balance here, trying to produce a sound that is at once deep and clear, as close as possible to a modern good recording. Fortunately, most of these recordings allow this to some extent. We confess a bias in favor of a full bass sound, as we believe Furtwängler would have liked, without making the sound dark. We believe we have succeeded at this.

Even worse, some masterings soften the sound, or make it "mushy", robbing the interpretation of its edge. We believe that a hallmark of Furtwängler's art is the strength and incisiveness of some attacks, especially with the tympani. If you want your Beethoven, Brahms or Bruckner to be softer, we suggest you listen to Karajan. What makes Furtwängler great is his capacity to move you and a good master should not detract from this experience.

Unfortunately, many also have distortion, especially in the high frequencies. This cannot be fixed, although at times it can be made more bearable. However, it can become more evident when the high frequencies are raised to the optimal level. We will just have to live with this. We believe that the experience of hearing these recordings with an up-to-date equalization more than compensates for this.

An important improvement involves eliminating or, at least, minimizing the "boxy" sound associated with old recordings. This is a result of limitations in frequency response of older microphones as well as the recording equipment. One of the most important achievements in these remasters is the great improvement achieved in this area through imaginative equalization. With this, as with other issues we encountered, our main guide is our own ear, so we are not giving a fancy "technological" name to these remasterings. If we did, it would have to be called something like "EAR Mastering".

Ambience

As stated above, the recordings do not reflect the ambience of the original performance due to limitations in frequency response of the recording equipment and, to an unknown extent, the microphone placement. Many of these recordings have very dry sound indeed. For these reasons, we have added very moderate amounts of ambience to many of these recordings. We have used a convolution reverb, which is more natural sounding than a regular electronic reverb. We have also used it in very small quantities, which, in most cases, will go unnoticed. Even in these small quantities, this ambience helps to make the sound more natural without calling attention to itself.

Our success in rescuing a sound that is surprisingly full and modern, considering the age of these recordings, point out how negligent some major record labels have been in working to improve the sound of these priceless interpretations. It is true that we have spent many, many hours at this, something that perhaps record companies are unwilling to invest in, particularly in these times of low sales. However, if any recordings deserve this investment of time and love, these certainly do. We hope you will agree.