Teasing the Korean

Does the First Version You Hear Become the "Best" Version?

16 posts in this topic

When you really fall in love with a piece, to what degree does the first interpretation you hear become the yardstick by which you measure the others?  And to what degree can you "objectively"revisit that first version years later, after hearing other interpretations?

Obviously, if you know what you're looking for, you will probably seek out a celebrated version to begin with.  

Just curious.

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I'll jump in there.

For me, the first version of a piece is not necessarily my favorite version. I'll give one example: "Straight, No Chaser". The first version of that that I heard was, not surprisingly, the 1958 Miles version. That is an excellent track as far as the solos go, but that is all that it is. It is a throwaway vehicle for some blowing on the blues changes, and is in the wrong key (F). The definitive version is Monk's own version on the "Five By Monk By Five" album (Riverside, 1959). It is in the proper key (Bb) and Monk's accompaniment of the two horn solos (Rouse and Thad Jones) is nothing short of amazing. Monk's playing is always closely related to the piece, not just using the basic blues changes. (He was a stickler for that, and chewed out Donald Byrd for simply running chord changes.) The piano is, also, particularly clearly recorded.

Edited by Shrdlu

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In my experience, the "first version is the 'best' version" thing holds true for CLASSICAL music much more than it does for JAZZ.  In the classical world, people even refer to "imprinting" on a specific version of given work.  In my case, one example of "imprinting": The very first version of Brahms' Second Symphony that I heard was Bruno Walter's "Indian Summer" interpretation with the Columbia SO. It's still one of my very favorite recordings -- of any music. 

Again, speaking only for myself, I can't think of any comparable analogue in jazz.  When I hear people other than Miles or Coltrane play, say "All Blues" from KoB or a piece from A Love Supreme, it's supposed to be different. There is no theoretical Platonic ideal in jazz like there is classical music.  The fact that there is no score in jazz (like there is in classical music) means that jazz is performer-centric, rather than composer-centric. (Of course, this isn't absolute. I'm speaking in relative terms.)

BTW, this way of thinking about these things might just be my way of making sense of it.  Others may feel very differently!

Edited by HutchFan

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1 hour ago, HutchFan said:

In my experience, the "first version is the 'best' version" thing holds true for CLASSICAL music much more than it does for JAZZ.  In the classical world, people even refer to "imprinting" on a specific version of given work.  In my case, one example of "imprinting": The very first version of Brahms' Second Symphony that I heard was Bruno Walter's "Indian Summer" interpretation with the Columbia SO. It's still one of my very favorite recordings -- of any music. 

Yeah, I was really talking about classical music, hence my posting in this forum. 

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Just now, Teasing the Korean said:

Yeah, I was really talking about classical music, hence my posting in this forum. 

Oh. Whoops! I didn't notice that you put the question in the classical forum. 

Doh!  :P

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The "first interpretation = best" syndrome was strong in my relatively early years of listening. As time passed, I became more open to other interpretations, which often supplanted the original favorites. I've also become more "objective" about other interpretations, while managing to retain some fond memories of the "first and best". But there are a very few recordings that I loved so much on first hearing that I never had any desire to acquire others (though I've heard other live performances) - Mravinsky's Tchaikovsky symphonies 4-6 on DG and Borodin Qt.'s EMI recordings of Borodin's 2nd SQ and Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence sextet (with Yu. Bashmet, N. Gutman) are the only ones that come to mind right now. [Disclaimer: I rarely keep more than 2 recordings of pieces other than major favorites by LvB, JSB and WAM. Too much unheard music yet to explore, plus space limitations.]

Edited by T.D.

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The first version is the right version, and if the next one does something differently it sounds wrong. But sometimes the new version does something better. My collection is still pretty small with few duplicates so I don't face this problem too often.

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Probably if you hear the "first version" recurringly before encountering alternate versions ....

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One guy for whom the first version is definitive is Tom Jobim. He said someplace that he used to go to America to record so that his compositions would be played correctly. That was advantageous for us, because he was accompanied by top U.S. musicians, such as Ron Carter and Urbie Green. Tom was very fussy about all the details. Stan Getz played some wrong notes when he recorded "Desafinado": the Jobim version on "The Composer Of Desafinado Plays" maps out the right notes.

This fact does not rule out that fact that the double album "Terra Brasilis" is a superb look back at many of Tom's pieces.

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My "first version" of a lot of things, due to time/place was Leonard Bernstein/NY Phil. It was only later, much later, that I began to hear other conductors and other orchestras that I realized that Bernstein had a bit of a taste for, uh...."flair" that I preferred in its absence.

So, to the OQ of the OP, no.

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15 minutes ago, JSngry said:

My "first version" of a lot of things, due to time/place was Leonard Bernstein/NY Phil. It was only later, much later, that I began to hear other conductors and other orchestras that I realized that Bernstein had a bit of a taste for, uh...."flair" that I preferred in its absence.

So, to the OQ of the OP, no.

An exception for me would be Bernstein's La Mer, which was literally the first version I heard; but the Eugene Ormandy became the one that I played the most, so this is the version that I can't shake when I listen to other versions.  I always think that some passage is too slow, or too fast, or that this instrument is too loud, or this other instrument isn't loud enough.  

 

 

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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My first La Mer was the Munch on RCA, which maybe, for some of us, raises the question of "what impact did your parents and neighbors membership in a record club have in the music you were exposed to growing up?"

Bernstein, Ormandy, Munch (and Reiner), Columbia & RCA, record club powerhouses...made it easy for "small town" people to get "sophisticated" music without having to leave home.

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15 minutes ago, JSngry said:

My first La Mer was the Munch on RCA, which maybe, for some of us, raises the question of "what impact did your parents and neighbors membership in a record club have in the music you were exposed to growing up?"

Bernstein, Ormandy, Munch (and Reiner), Columbia & RCA, record club powerhouses...made it easy for "small town" people to get "sophisticated" music without having to leave home.

Some of our parents were less sophisticated that others.
Parents' Record Collection Deemed Hilarious https://local.theonion.com/parents-record-collection-deemed-hilarious-1819565724

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Just saying, I grew up in a small town, and there was a household or two that fancied themselves "sophisticated", and that was where I heard the Bernstein stuff and others of it's ilk (mid-Century American orchestras, known repertoire, certain Classical "hits" of the day). There were no record stores around really pimping on the classical, these folks had record club memberships. And they really weren't "deep" listeners, they went for what was there that they knew. You go to the Goodwill stores now, looking for classical records, you'll see what I mean.

My folks had the RCA record club, and they were neither "sophisticated" nor had aspirations to be. That's why I got all these Frankie Carle records now. Great way to get exposed to tunes (at least that there are these tunes), but other than that...

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3 hours ago, JSngry said:

Great way to get exposed to tunes (at least that there are these tunes), but other than that...

Right you are, there...  My first radio job in the early '60s was to host an evening show of the Candlelight & Wine ilk:  lots of Mantovani, Frank Chacksfield,101 Strings, Percy Faith...  But boy did I learn some songs a.k.a. The Great American Songbook.  And was able to slip in some slightly hipper nice Mancini, Ray Conniff, Robert Farnon, and got to appreciate some great arrangers, who could make treacle appetizing.

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My college roommate was a classical music lover. The first versions I heard of many classical pieces were his LPs. I liked many of them quite a bit, but over the years I became familiar with many other versions. So very few pieces that I would now call my favorites are the same versions I heard on my roommates LPs many many decades ago 

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