There is a new cd release of Clara Rockmore and Nadia Reisenberg on
This material that was recorded on the same days in July 1975 as the
Delos release, Art of Theremin.
I much prefer the sound of the Bridge 'Lost' recording, it is alive. I
always thought the Delos cd recording had a dull, flat quality,
compressed sounding. The high frequencies sound heavily filtered. The
low end has no power. I was told by a theremin expert that the LP
release of 'Art' sounds much more natural, but I don't have an lp copy
Since the original multitrack recordings were only recently found in
Moog's basement, I doubt that the Delos cd (released in 1987) was made
from the original multitrack tapes.
There are also occasional ticks and pops on the Delos cd of 'Art',
which makes me wonder if they used an LP as the source for the cd
release. I don't know.
While there are the occasional noise reduction artifacts noticeable on
the Bridge 'Lost' recording, the performances of Clara and Nadia, and
the lively sound of the Theremin, and Piano are truly magnificent, and
this restoration presents this in a convincing and engaging manner. I
I highly recommend the 'Lost' cd if you liked 'Art' in the slightest
Regarding modern theremin sounds compared to Clara's theremin sound, no
one will ever make a theremin sound like Clara Rockmore, no matter what
theremin they play, including hers. Clara said that herself.
The sound of a given theremin depends not only the harmonic balance of
the instrument and amplifier and loudspeaker, but who is playing it,
even more so. I collect theremins, and theremin recordings, and am
learning to play.
I have 2 vacuum tube theremins (one is an RCA AR1264), and 2 solid
state theremins. They all sound different, but with a bit of
adjustment (eq, waveshape, compression, distortion, etc) can sound very
A modern Moog Etherwave Pro is a tremendous instrument, and if Bob Moog
was alive today he would tell you it is far better instrument than any
of this tube theremins that he built and sold since the 1950's. In
fact he told me that years ago when I asked him about one of his
vintage vacuum tube moog theremins I was considering purchasing. The
EPro can make many different sounds with adjustable waveshape and
The discontinued Moog Ethervox is also a marvelous instrument. More
linear in play than the RCA, and the tone can be made to sound much
like the RCA and other sounds.
The original RCA had only 1 sound. But that one sound will change as
vacuum tubes are swapped in, or certain resistor values are changed in
Clara's custom Termen theremin had the ability to adjust the timbre,
but she always had it set only 1 way. 'That' magical sound. Her
theremin had been silent for years when Bob Moog and Mike Jason helped
by bringing it back to life, and getting 'that' sound for Clara.
Bob Moog from the liner notes of 'lost'
"The high point of my experience with Clara came when she called me
because her instrument had become completely unreliable. Building
theremins had been a hobby of mine for thirty or forty years, then it
became a business, so naturally I was very curious to see what was
inside hers that could produce such a beautiful sound. Electronics age
faster than people do, and Clara's theremin, which must have been fifty
years old by then, was filled with broken connections, parts that were
beginning to fail, others that had shorted out. I replaced various
solders and connectors, and then, with Mike Jason, Clara's own
technician, tried to overhaul the instrument to make it work as much
like the original as possible. We started Friday night, worked all day
Saturday, and then put everything back together Sunday morning. Clara
tried it out, said "No, it doesn't sound just right." The trouble was
we didn't know exactly what 'just right' meant, but we fiddled with the
adjustments for half an hour or so. Clara tried it once again and said,
"No. Closer, but not close enough." So once again Mike and I worked and
when she tried it again she didn't stop. She started playing SUMMERTIME
and went right through to the end, and when she turned around she had
tears in her eyes. And through her tears she said, 'I thought I would
never play this instrument again.' "
Bob Moog did more than anyone else to make theremin a popular
instrument today, a precise instrument and not just a toy sound maker.
He commissioned the recordings that we have now on Delos and Bridge,
and he never made a penny on them. Without them, we would only have
the Fuleihan recording of Clara. We also have the DVD of Clara and
Nadia, 'The Greatest Theremin Virtuoso' thanks to Moog, so we actually
get to see how she performs her magic.
I think the sounds that most people associate with the theremin are
either the scifi and scary Hollywood sound of Dr. Hoffman, due to his
nervous vibrato and chicken pecking playing style, with much glissando,
and the singing lady sound associated with Clara Rockmore and her
aerial fingering, and articulated notes that sing and breathe.
She was a violin virtuoso since she was 4 years old, so her intonation,
and ability to make an instrument sing and breathe were already there
before she ever came near a theremin. She had music in her soul.
Clara and Nadia had played together since they were small children,
Clara learned to read music at age 3. Nadia is one of the finest
pianist that has ever lived, and teacher to many of the finest living
pianists. Clara and Nadia played as ONE.
Sorry I rambled. Theremin recordings are actually what brought me to
audio restoration many years ago.
I happen to know that there is a precision thereminist on this list.
He is the one who introduced me to ARSC. I'll leave it to him to speak
up if he wants.
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