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Is this due to modern performance technique (HIP or otherwise), or because of recording technology?

For example, older recordings of Bach's solo violin sonatas and partitas are scratchy and can grate if you are not used to this. Similarly with Beethoven's violin sonatas.
 

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Must it not be because of recording technology?

The style of playing violin music has changed, to my mind, in the opposite direction. The earlier twentieth-century players used a very smooth throbbing-vibrato technique that I don't much like - I feel as if I've eaten too many chocolate creams. The modern style seems more understated.

But I take your point about the crackling. That is what makes me think it must be less-advanced technology.
 

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Must it not be because of recording technology?

The style of playing violin music has changed, to my mind, in the opposite direction. The earlier twentieth-century players used a very smooth throbbing-vibrato technique that I don't much like - I feel as if I've eaten too many chocolate creams. The modern style seems more understated.

But I take your point about the crackling. That is what makes me think it must be less-advanced technology.
Agreed in regards to the difference in this instance being due to improvements utilized in recording technology.

Another reason that one may hear "differences" in the sound of the violin(s) being heard is the actual type of violin strings being used -

"The Violinist.com Guide to Choosing Violin Strings"

https://www.violinist.com/wiki/violin-strings/

"Gut strings are known for having a warm, rich sound with many complex overtones. Gut strings tend to take longer to stretch than synthetics, and once stretched they are generally stable but can react to changing weather conditions and generally require more tuning than synthetic core strings. Different string gauges for gut strings can change the quality and power of tone drastically. Usually a smaller gauge gut string will have less carrying power and be rather 'bright' sounding, whereas a thicker gauge gut string will be more powerful, gritty and with a higher string tension. Musicians playing Baroque or early music often prefer gut strings for the sound."

"Strings made of steel core have a direct, clear sound, and few overtones, although those that are wound can have more interesting overtones. They are much more stable in pitch than gut. They also last longer. They are very bright sounding, and sometimes thin, although again the thinness can be negated by windings."

"Synthetic Core strings have the warm sound qualities of gut, but are much more stable pitch."
 

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Apart from any instrumentalists technical and musical approach, recordings these days will have many mics strategically positioned within the concert hall in order to capture the sound of the room's acoustics as well as the performers. Mic'ing techniques and the mics themselves are extremely sophisticated and come in different combinations and types to suit the style of music and the instrument(s) being recorded. When mixed together satisfactorily, the differing sound perspectives in the mic recordings add great depth and in particular, warmth and a noticeable 'bloom' to the sound.
 

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It's not due to the violin playing of the older, mono or analogue stereo era violinists, who were, if anything, more focused on the beauty of their sound than many of today's violinists (as were the older pianists). Rather, it has to do CDs, and the transfers that were made from the warmer, more inviting string sounds heard on LPs to the colder, more metallic, even grating CD format--especially in the earliest remasters & transfers made in the 1980s & 90s.

The violin tones of five of my favorite violinists, for example, Adolf Busch, Josef Suk, David Oistrakh, Michael Rabin, & Arthur Grumiaux, all sounded beautiful on LPs, but a certain degree of bloom & warmth was lost from their violin tones when their recordings were initially transferred to CD. In other words, from my listening experience, the "scratchiness" and "grating" qualities of the violin sound on recordings unquestionably began with the advent of the CD.

For instance, I don't enjoy listening to a number of the earlier (& even later) CD recordings by Josef Suk or the Suk Trio on Czech Supraphon (such as Suk's Beethoven Violin Sonata set with Jan Panenka, or the following CD from the Suk Trio: https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Pi...ywords=Suk+Trio&qid=1624368899&s=music&sr=1-2). The string sounds are too harsh. Yet I heard Suk play live in concert in the 1980s and he had a beautiful violin tone--there was nothing whatsoever grating about it.

a. Suk/Panenka, Violin Sonata no. 3, recorded from an old Supraphon LP:
b. Suk/Panenka, Violin Sonata no. 3, remastered for the 2nd Supraphon CD release (the box set release), which I should point out was better than the remaster for the initial CD release:
.
c. Here's the initial Supraphon CD release:

The differences may not sound too significant here, via You Tube, but they become amplified when these recordings are listened to on my home stereo (or car stereo), & especially in the louder, more animated passages (which is where the harshness & grating quality of the violin becomes most noticeable and hard to listen to).

Nor do I overly enjoy listening to David Oistrakh's Sibelius Violin Concerto, with Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra, either, for instance, or even his later recording with Rozhdestvensky, on the initial CD transfers.

Here is Oistrakh's violin tone on an earlier 1956 mono recording of the Sibelius VC with conductor Sixten Ehrling that was recorded from the old LP, & to my ears, his violin tone is warmer (though it's not quite as warm as when heard directly from the LP):


(Now, for the sake of comparison, here's the CD recording?, I believe:
)

Oistrakh's Sibelius recording with Ormandy also sounds warmer when it is recorded from the old Columbia LP:
, or here:
. Although I don't expect the sound quality is as good as it would be if we were in the same room with the man in the YT link and hearing this music played directly on his turntable.

--Now, here's the Oistrakh/Ormandy, Sibelius VC recording, on CD:

The same is true for period violins. On LP, I used to love the sound of period violins (& cellos)--it was quite beautiful, but when the transfers were made to the CD technology in the 1980s & 90s, the instruments suddenly sounded much harsher & more grating than before.

I had the same problem with violins in chamber music, as well, such as in string quartet & string quintet recordings. Even today, I've never entirely warmed to mono & analogue string quartet remasters on CD, and still prefer listening to these recordings on my late analogue and early digital era LPs.

However, in the early 2000s, some improvements were made to the remastering process (or processes), with the advent of DSD, etc., and when these advancements are used to create new analogue remasters, which isn't as often as I'd like, the string sound can become less grating. But, I gather it's expensive to remaster using these technologies, and therefore many reissues are not remastered (especially by EMI). So, the listener too often gets the same 1980s & 90s remasters repackaged (& repeatedly so, with subsequent, further reissues). Which I've found frustrating.

Two remastering processes that have warmed up the sound & amplitude of the violin (& strings in general) on analogue recordings, and reduced the grating quality are (1) Pentatone's hybrid SACD, multi-channel DSD "Remastered Classics" series, which unfortunately seems to have become stalled, and (2) Universal Eloquences's AMSI or "Ambient Surround Imaging" remasters, which frustratingly appears to have been discontinued by Universal (this series is not to be confused with the Australian Eloquence label). Both series get closer to the more inviting warmth of my old LPs, not only for violins, but also for the solo piano. & I don't even play the DSD hybrid SACDs on an SACD player, but rather on my conventional player. So the violins & pianos may sound even warmer & more lifelike on a hybrid SACD player...?

Here are some further examples to listen to and compare,

1. a. Arthur Grumiaux & Claudio Arrau playing Beethoven Violin Sonatas in what is described as "LP sound". I don't know if this is recorded from an actual LP, or a remaster and stereo equipment that were specifically chosen to sound more like an LP, but, in either case, Grumiaux's violin sounds very lifelike:
.

b. Pentatone's "Remastered Classics" hybrid SACD issue, which can be sampled on their website: https://www.pentatonemusic.com/rc-beethoven-sonatas-for-piano-and-violin-nos-1-and-5-arrau-grumiaux

https://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Sonatas-Violin-Arthur-Grumiaux/dp/B01GWAQD48

c. Now, have a listen to Grumiaux & Arrau playing the "Spring" Violin Sonata on the original CD transfer:
, and Violin Sonata No. 8, as well:
. The negative differences should be noticeable.

2. Here too is Arthur Grumiaux's recording of Brahms Violin Sonata No. 1, with pianist Gyorgy Seebok. This recording also sounds better on Pentatone's hybrid SACD than it did on the initial Decca CD, IMO. The following links are to three different versions of the same Grumiaux/Seebok recording, so people can make comparisons & hear the differences for themselves; although I admit that the differences here aren't as immediately noticeable when listening indirectly through You Tube as they are when I've listened & compared these recordings directly on my home stereo.

a. Philips LP:
b. Philips CD:
c. Pentatone hybrid SACD: https://www.pentatonemusic.com/brahms-sonata-horn-trio-vieuxtemsp-ballade-grumiaux-rqr

3. Grumiaux's Mozart Violin Sonatas also sound better to my ears on the Eloquence AMSI remasters, and on LP, than on the initial Philips CDs:

a. Philips LP:
b. Philips CD:
c. AMSI remasters: In comparison, the Grumiaux/Haskil AMSI remasters are wonderful, but unfortunately, the only sound samples that I can find are on Amazon.de, & they don't seem to work anymore:
https://www.amazon.de/-/en/Clara-Ha...nce&qid=1624299680&smid=A3JWKAKR8XB7XF&sr=8-1
https://www.amazon.com/Haskil-Spiel...haskil+mozart+eloquence&qid=1624299197&sr=8-1
However, if you can find sound samples elsewhere, in addition to the Grumiaux/Haskil violin sonatas, you might also compare the AMSI remasters to the warmth of the strings & piano on the following 1961 vinyl LP of Haskil playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K. 415, with the Festival Strings Lucerne, conducted by Rudolf Baumgartner:
.

4. Josef Suk's violin tone is likewise warmer & more present--to my ears--on this second 96kHz 24-bit "Legends" Decca CD reissue of the Brahms Violin Sonatas 1-3, with pianist Julius Katchen, than on the initial Decca CD: https://www.amazon.com/Brahms-Violin-Sonatas-Johannes/dp/B000059ZIC.

a. Original Decca CD:
b. Decca "Legends" 24-bit reissue (the violin here sounds closer to how Suk's tone sounded in concert, as I recall):

5. For further comparison, here is Michael Rabin playing Jules Massenet's Méditation on both LP and CD:

a. LP:
b. CD:

Granted, the CD version of Rabin's Méditation offers the smoother listening experience and there are no crackles; however, for me, Rabin's violin tone is slightly warmer & more present on the LP version than on the CD. Although the CD sound is good, too, I'm not denying that (being that the ICON remaster is excellent).

6. Lastly, I find a world of difference between my 1980s Japanese LP pressings of the recordings of violinist Adolf Busch and pianist Rudolf Serkin, as a duo, versus hearing them on CDs.

a. While the following YT link doesn't sound as good as the same music played on my 1980s Japanese LPs, here's a link to Busch & Serkin playing Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 5, Op. 24 "Spring", recorded from the Japanese Victor 78 LPs:
.

b. Now here's a link to the CD recording:
. Obviously, there is less surface noise on the CD recording, which is a plus, but in a direct comparison that I made at home, Busch's violin tone sounded a lot warmer to me on my Japanese LPs than on CD. In fact, if I didn't own these beautiful sounding LPs, I'm not sure that Busch would have become one of my favorite violinists.

Granted, the problem is also partly a stereo dependent issue, since some stereo systems will reduce the harshness more than others, making the differences more negligible. While other systems--such as my less than stellar car stereo, for instance--will accentuate the grating of the violin. I've also noticed in recent years that 'downloads' seem to have significantly reduced & mitigated the problem, by, I gather, bypassing the CD altogether.

On the flip side, the sound of LPs can degenerate over time, depending on how often they get played. Plus, there's all the annoying crackles & hisses that develop with age, which the CD has eliminated (except on historical recordings). So, to a degree it's a trade off.

P.S. As Mikeh375 writes above, how violins are microphoned also plays & has played a significant role, both on stage, and in the recording studio. Although I don't know if I prefer violins to be miked in concert or not, since sometimes I feel that they may accentuate the harshness of a violinist's sound. But I've never heard a concert that wasn't miked, so it's hard to say.
 

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^^^^super post Josquin13, immensely knowledgable and informative.
You have a point about mic'ing violin solos as I am finding out atm with a home recording I'm involved with. With concert (concertos) recording, the mic set-ups in the hall if balanced properly, will tend to mitigate any harshness if for no other reason than the fact that the soloist will not be too closely mic'ed in a set-up designed to catch the overall acoustic and performance. So called 'overhead' mics dotted above the orchestra and what's known as a 'tree' combination (a pair of mics designed to capture the stereo field), near the front of the orchestra will be used, along with other ambient (outrigger) mics placed to the sides to capture the wider acoustics.

Close mic'ing can be an issue though and can certainly bring out the harshness of a violin without proper placement and correct choice of mics. The techniques of recording have developed into an art in themselves over the decades and talking recently to a pro violinist about this (just last week in fact), he said that the quality of his sound is as much dependant on an engineer as it is his playing and instrument.
 

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mikeh375 writes, "The techniques of recording have developed into an art in themselves over the decades and talking recently to a pro violinist about this (just last week in fact), he said that the quality of his sound is as much dependent on an engineer as it is his playing and instrument."

That's interesting, coming from a violinist. & we haven't even mentioned the reverberance of a concert hall or recording venue, which can all but ruin a recital or recording if not taken into account and mic'd effectively.
 
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