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This year, Anton Bruckner would have turned 200 years old, so many commemorative editions of his works have appeared on the market.

They include both music specifically recorded for this anniversary and reissues. For example, the CD JAPAN Store recently released three reissued SACD-CDs with music by this composer, conducted by Jeffrey Tatte and Ricardo Mutti. The Tacet label decided to prepare something different.

Instead of, as stated in the press materials, "promoting the 100th release on the occasion of the Bruckner Year with flowery but ultimately meaningless advertising slogans," Tacet wants "to encourage reflection on production processes in classical music." We receive the same CD in two versions – uncut, with the complete recording, and edited, where individual fragments from different approaches are selected and combined into a new whole. Which is better? – We must answer this question ourselves.

The new recording of Anton Bruckner's 7th Symphony is available twice in full length, in two versions, each on one CD. One is a live recording (Uncut), and the other is a produced, edited version (Cut), both under identical recording conditions, but with slight differences in the length of individual fragments. This means that the evaluation is not influenced by different circumstances during the recordings, but only by the "recording situation". The publisher writes:

We are very pleased that András Keller and Concerto Budapest, with whom we have had a fruitful collaboration for many years (this is our eighth recording), agreed to implement this project! Furthermore, this compilation was only made possible thanks to the intense dialogue after the recordings. More on this in the booklet.

And next:
András Keller stands in an unbroken European tradition that stretches far into the past, perhaps even to Anton Bruckner. The playing of the strings, the sensual melody lines of all the instruments, the quality of the singing even in the emotional passages are touchingly old-fashioned yet timelessly modern. And the monumental arches and crescendos in Anton Bruckner's music are tailor-made for any listener who asks themselves: What do I expect from a recording? What moves me more, the live recording or the produced "Cut or Uncut"?

Recording – Document or Creation?

In public perception, recordings of classical music appear as documents – whether as recordings of a concert or recordings without an audience. Most listeners imagine it like this: After the preparation process, i.e., rehearsals, the orchestra plays a given piece, it is recorded and then released. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such a procedure only existed in the days of shellac records, when the technology required "live" recordings, "direct-to-disc," without the possibility of subsequent intervention.

With the advent of the cassette, everything changed. Since then, realistically speaking, since the late 1940s, the musical event we receive in the form of a recording is a work composed of various elements. This also applies to classical music recordings.

In the accompanying booklet of the relevant release, we read:
Live recordings should actually show a single concert without any manipulation. For historical performances, there was no other way. With modern "live recordings," however, this is often no longer the case, as we can combine different versions (multiple concerts, rehearsal fragments, post-concert recordings). This is no longer perceptible in the final recording. Or maybe it is? This is exactly what we want to learn from you, dear listeners! That is why we show you both versions: the complete version, the unedited version, and the version with multiple editing points.

The most significant musical works created after 1945 are edited works. Often very hard. Released by Rudy Van Gelder – more → HERE – released by people who record rock music, but above all, this technique was preferred by producers and performers of classical music. Thanks to this, they were able to assemble a "perfect" performance that could never have been achieved by merely recording the entire performance. Not only, but especially for them, the first digital tape recorders were developed – the people at Denon dealt with classical music, their first recordings were jazz, Thomas G. Stockham, Jr. designed his Soundstream tape recorder with classical music recordings in mind, and so Decca already had its own digital recorder by the end of the 1970s (summary on this topic → HERE). The idea was to be able to copy song fragments without loss of quality and multiplication of noise and to ensure perfect digital editing.

To remind you what this is about, I remember the story I told when I talked about the RADAR recording system (Random Access Digital Audio Recorder, more → HERE). It was about the album Miles Ahead by MILES DAVIS. ED MICHEL, who prepared the material for the album, said:

[Teo Marcero] could not return to the cut A-tape – the tapes were marked A and B, and the stereo tape was marked C – because the A-tape was so heavily cut that it was discarded. Teo could only say by ear what had been used, but it was an incredibly difficult task. There were many takes that we recorded. (MICHAEL JARRETT, Pressed for All Time, Chapell Hill: The University of Northern California Press 2016, p. 50.)

A good producer can make the result better than the original recordings, and the listener has no idea how much work went into preparing a particular CD. Ideally, it seems to us as if we are listening to a "live" recording. The words of the editor of the magazine "Stereophile," Herb Reichert, who in his review of the Marantz Model 30 amplifier wrote about the album A Tribute to Jack Johnson by the aforementioned trumpeter, should be felt as praise, albeit unconsciously, of the editing technique:

A carefully prepared reissue of the album by Miles Davis titled Jack Johnson (LP, MFSL 1-440), which is stronger and livelier than the original release, is an album I keep coming back to for inspiration. It is a pure, direct artistic testament, through which Reverend Miles offers me a personal service by conveying his desire for something real and lasting, using only wonderfully resonant tones, surrounded by the driving sounds of a heavenly band. (HERB REICHERT, Marantz Model 30. Integrated Amplifier, "Stereophile," January 2021, Vol. 44, No. 1, p. 53.)

Reichert is, of course, right – A Tribute to Jack Johnson, released by Columbia in 1971, is a brilliant album, although it is one of Davis's lesser-known albums. He is also right with its artistic message, as he correctly recognizes the direct emotional "transmission" of energy from the artist and his team to us. However, this short fragment shows something I mentioned above – namely, that a successful musical work has an inner truth that penetrates the listener due to the means used to achieve this goal. Sometimes even, as in this case, when the means in question are contrary to the perception of the work.

The fact is that the album in question is not a recording session in the usual sense of the term. It was "constructed" by the producer, Teo Macero, at the request of the musician. The instruction was simple: "I'm going to California. I have 3,000 dollars. I'll give you 1,500, and you put together some music from the tapes in the archive." This is a true story, recounted by Macero, who collaborated with Davis on several important albums, and it was told to Michael Jarrett, who has been mentioned earlier.

The work on this "musical testament" involved searching through tapes of previously unreleased material, cutting them, splicing them together, and — there it was. As he says, there are many repetitions, making the album sound today like it was a precursor to fusion music. That is one part of the story. The other was written by the musician himself, who started performing these pieces on stage at exactly the same time. What was characteristic of these concerts was that Davis transitioned from one piece to another without a pause, as if they formed a whole. The audience and music critics thought this was his new style, reinforced by the mentioned album. But it was the other way around — the art imitated life, and the authors of the album, with equal rights, were the artist and the producer. As Jarrett says: "A good editor can make a great book even better. A poor one can ruin that book" (MICHAEL JARRETT, op. cit., p. 143).

The same goes for the album with Bruckner's Symphony No. 7. As Andreas recalls, the recording took place over three days, during which many takes of individual sections were made, and the symphony was recorded in its entirety several times. When he presented the assembled material to Keller, neither of them knew which version was better — the full performance or the edited one. This was the impetus for presenting both versions to us, the music lovers. As it turns out, in the first part, about 80% came from two concerts on the last day, in the second part 91%, in the third part 94%, and in the last part over 82%. In the first part, there are 50 editing points (places where different versions are spliced together), in the second part 47, in the third part 35, and in the fourth part 49. In the entire symphony, there are 181 editing points. A lot? Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very lightly edited album. Herbert Von Karajan was known to edit elements that lasted only a few seconds! The comparison is all the more meaningful since all the recordings were made in the same room, by the same musicians, without an audience, at the Italian Institute in Budapest, from January 15-19, 2019. This institution, established in 1937, offers the so-called Great Hall of Pesti Vigadó, one of the venues where the Hungarian Symphonic Orchestra records. It has a classical box-like shape, few sound-absorbing spots, and a high, even very high ceiling, with galleries on the sides and seats arranged on a flat surface.

Andreas Spreer has many incredibly interesting analog recordings in his portfolio, made using Neumann tube microphones and tube preamps, but he is equally comfortable with digital technology. All the more so since it offers the possibility of listening to music in surround sound (5.1) - Tacet has developed its own way of placing musicians around the listener, called TACET Real Surround Sound. It is accompanied by a special logo, visible on the cover of the album in question, posted on the publisher's website. Interestingly, on the finished album we received for review, it was no longer there. There is also no information on the album about the use of tube devices, although the microphones were almost certainly tube mics. As he told the author of the book "Passion for Vinyl," "He likes to move along different paths." And further:
"On one hand, I like working with the most modern surround systems and exploring new territories. But at the same time, I am fascinated by tube devices from the 40s and 50s. For many, this was the golden age of music recording, thanks to all those wonderful microphones, amplifiers, and reel-to-reel tape recorders that were in use at the time." (ROBERT HAAGSMA, Passion for Vinyl, Record Industry, BV, Haarlem 2013, p. 49.)


The recording was released on a double Compact Disc. One disc contains the unedited version, and the other the edited version. It's a pity we don't have them in SACD version. The album is released in a regular jewel case, with the second disc opening "from the inside," not from the outside. The cover features a painting by Paul Klee titled "Häuser an der Brücke." Some time ago, the publisher announced a change in the graphic design, and the new cover is indeed somewhat different. But in my opinion, it is not a significant change. The most important thing still seems to be the yellow Tacet logo, reminiscent in color of the Deutsche Grammophon logo (although Spreer denies this inspiration).

This material can also be purchased from one of the online shops, both in FLAC 16/44.1 and FLAC 24/96 versions, i.e., in the resolution in which the recording was made and mastered. However, it won't be cheap — the Presto Music store charges 112 PLN [the Polish currency Zlotys] for the first version and as much as 151 PLN for the second; more → HERE. On the Tacet website, you can buy it in surround format, TACET Real Surround Sound. You can compare the first few minutes of the first part on YouTube → HERE.


Comparing the two versions of the same album as proposed by Andreas Spreer was a significant experience for me. This is because it is one of the very few, in my collection the only, recording that can be compared in this way. The experience is all the more remarkable because the performance and recording of Symphony No. 7 in E major, Bruckner: Cut or Uncut? are of a high standard — it's an excellent recording.

Tacet's registration is dark and dense. The stereophony is centered on the listening axis, in the sense that the listener is seated not too close to the orchestra, perhaps in the first third of the audience. This means that the extremes of the panorama are not wide, but depth predominates. This depth is exceptionally natural because it is soft, dense, and fluid. There is not too much selectivity here; rather, as during a live performance, we "feel" the scale of the orchestra, and we "sense" its power with our whole body. Therefore, quieter fragments, whether it's the pizzicato of the double basses or soft timpani strikes, are all clear yet integrated into the whole.

It is also an incredibly dynamic recording. The fluidity and dark texture I mentioned make it seem for a moment as though the sound is subdued, with the musicians starting phrases somewhat lazily and only accentuating them more forcefully after a while. As you listen to the album longer, you will realize that what we mistook for calmness is actually a lack of tension, and the darkness is merely — and wholly — the natural softness of the orchestra heard in a large room from the best vantage point.

Now — I really like this recording, both versions. But I also know very well which one I would prefer to listen to — and that is the EDITED version. You see, I have never had illusions that something like a sonic "document" exists. I didn’t even need to go through a postmodernist aesthetics and sensitivity course, which I had throughout my doctoral studies, to "feel" that where there is a human being, there are choices. And if there are choices, it is not an objective view, but merely an attempt to asymptotically approach a state where we can agree on the essence of the work — photography, film, literature, musical recording, etc. — and pretend that it is indeed a document, that is, "the truth as it is."

That’s why I consider musical recordings to be an art form where the goal is to deliver the best to the listener, and it must be the vision of the producer. Whether it’s a complete recording or an edited one — doesn't matter to me, as long as it is a thoughtful endeavor, and I receive the best version of the musical event. And in this case, for me without a doubt, it is the Cut version.

I didn’t even have to think too long about this choice. Disc No. 2, which contains the edited version, seemed coherent, strong, and energetic. Perhaps it is precisely this kind of momentum that was the most interesting to me. The Uncut version was slightly less disciplined temporally, in the sense that it lacked a bit of the abruptness. It was as if the drummer in a jazz band was playing a solo, had it planned, but during the moment of making choices, he hesitated for a fraction of a second, "what now?" The Cut version, continuing this comparison, is a perfectly balanced solo with both improvisation and incredible awareness of the performance, its certainty.

Yes, it was precisely the certainty of phrasing, the certainty of rhythm, and ultimately the certainty of dynamics that were so appealing to me in the edited version. Although when I returned to the unedited version after several listens and listened to it without comparison, I also liked it. There is something innocent about it. In the sense that it plays with an awareness of its limitations. This is absent in the edited version. What is present instead is confidence in one's skills and certainty about the chosen direction. And I like that even more, especially when it comes to a monumental work like Symphony No. 7 in E major (WAB 107).


In summary, I would like to say that what Mr. Spreer and Mr. Keller have given us is like candy from childhood — always too little, but when we get it, we are in heaven for a while. It’s fantastic that it wasn’t a "setup" in the sense that someone planned it beforehand. I’m sure the result would have been different, in my opinion — worse. Instead, we get a very good unedited version and an excellent edited version. Moreover, in a sense, these are two different performances, so we’re not buying just one, but two albums — not two copies, but two different albums with the same material and the same performers, but with different performances. And that is beautiful, and that is fantastic. As for me — ˻BIG RED BUTTON˺, which is an award for excellent realization and a brilliant idea.

Wojtek Pacula

This is an automatic translation (using Google Translate) of the Polish review on highfidelitynews.pl. Published with the kind permission of Wojtek Pacuła. You can find the original review here.

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