Music and Recording Features

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Richard Lehnert Posted: Jan 23, 2013 3 comments
This reconstruction of the Ninth's Finale is the result of 30 years' work by Bruckner scholars Nicola Samale, John A. Phillips, Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, and Giuseppe Mazzuca (SPCM). (See March 2010 feature story.) For this new "Conclusive Revised Edition 2012," SPCM shortened by 18 bars the coda, of which little of Bruckner's writing survives, and reworked it to include, based on Bruckner's description, a development of the trumpets' "Alleluia" in bar five of the Adagio. This works well, though the coda now seems a bit short. A further "final" edition is in the works.
Robert Baird Posted: Jan 04, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 2013 1 comments
In a discussion about what their music is—and is not—Dave King, drummer for the Bad Plus, remembers opening a show for free-jazz patriarch Ornette Coleman at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. After their set, the band joined the audience to watch Coleman.

"After the first couple tunes—and this was in a seated theater—I swear, half the audience had left. Fifty years into your career, and he's still making people want to check it out and then decide if they can take it. And that's every night, I bet.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Dec 24, 2012 7 comments
Just in time for the New Year, Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records has released the first-ever DSD (Direct-Stream-Digital) download of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra's recording of Mahler's Symphony No.1. Recorded live in Davies Symphony Hall in September 2001, shortly after 9/11, and first released as a hybrid SACD in 2003, the recording is one of the only four Mahler symphonies in SFSO's complete Mahler cycle that were recorded directly to DSD.

The Mahler 1 files, available in four formats, are all derived directly from San Francisco Symphony's master, not from a copy of the SACD. The formats include two DSD formats: DFF and DSF. For those whose computer playback software or DACs are not equipped to play DSD files, 24/96 and 16/44.1 PCM files in WAV format are also available.

Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Dec 12, 2012 5 comments
In order to get in the right mindset for the Dallas Wind Symphony's first ever Christmas CD, Horns for the Holidays, from Reference Recordings and recording engineer Keith O. Johnson, you have to understand something about Dallas.
Robert Baird Posted: Nov 13, 2012 0 comments
Humble, unprepossessing, modest are not words normally associated with lead guitarists, or lead singers, or lead anything. But Albert Lee, the Fender Telecaster devotee, has, by all accounts, always been refreshingly down to earth. The other unusual quality about Lee is that he's an English guitarist who, in country music, can hold his own against any American player.
Richard Lehnert Posted: Nov 13, 2012 Published: Jan 01, 1998 3 comments
A few conductors have perhaps equaled Georg Solti in their conducting of Richard Wagner's baton-breaking Der Ring des Nibelungen—Karl Böhm, Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Keilberth, and Reginald Goodall have all had coherent visions of the work which they were able to translate effectively to disc. But no one has ever equaled what Solti, producer John Culshaw, and what looks increasingly like a hitherto unsuspected golden age of Wagner singers, together accomplished: what is still the recording art's crowning achievement.
Robert Baird Posted: Oct 10, 2012 Published: Oct 01, 2012 9 comments
It's the first rule of being a stereophile: sound quality is serious business. Simon Gibson, one of the engineers at Abbey Road Studios who worked on EMI's new Signature Collection of hybrid SACD/CDs, knows the drill: remaster and change the sound of a much-loved classical recording from the label's glorious back catalog and you risk becoming a target of blogs and forums. Gibson's aware that the more hallowed the recording, the more quickly knives come out at the mention of remastering.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: Aug 25, 2012 3 comments
Photo of the author in Bayreuth: Paul Hyde

For audiophiles, the acoustic of the Bayreuth Festspielhause in Germany, home of the annual festival of Richard Wagner's operas, vies with Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Vienna's Musikverein as one of the most fabled for recording as well as listening. As a participant in the Music Critics of North America 2012 institute at the Festival, I had the opportunity to not only explore the venue from a near-ideal seat in Row 25 Center, but to also visit the fabled "covered pit" from which many of the greatest Wagner conductors of the last 136 years have led exalted performances.

Robert Baird Posted: Aug 21, 2012 Published: Sep 01, 2012 3 comments
"We tried to do some work between the legs of . . .

"Ummmm . . . that sounds weird."

Rock musicians—do they ever think about anything but sex?

Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson chuckles. He explains that what he meant to say was that he, singer-bassist Geddy Lee, and the exalted, formerly mustachioed object of Planet Earth's most fervent drummer cult, Neil Peart, were trying to write songs during a break in a recent tour.

Robert Deutsch Posted: Aug 20, 2012 0 comments
I'm a great fan of the musical theater: musicals, operetta, and opera, more-or-less in that order. A typical summer vacation for my wife and me involves driving from Toronto to the East Coast, stopping off to see musicals (and some plays) at places like the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA, the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, , and the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME. The Glimmerglass summer opera festival, near Cooperstown, NY, is not far from the route we usually take, but I never thought of visiting it because my impression has been that they specialize in performances of modern and obscure operas, which are not quite our cup of tea.

My discovery of the fact that Glimmerglass has greatly expanded the range of its offerings came about through sheer serendipity. . .

John Marks Posted: Aug 09, 2012 0 comments
Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Fantasy Symphony Season competition, announced in this column in February, has been a smashing success—as far as I'm concerned, it's the most worthwhile write-in competition yet. The 13 winning entries and one hors-concours laureate are posted in the follow-up to February's column on Stereophile's website. The update lists the compositions in each winning Fantasy Symphony Season entry. I created a spreadsheet to determine the most popular composers and works in the winning entries.

Robert Baird Posted: Jul 10, 2012 1 comments
It is perhaps the most cherished tale from hi-fi's primordial past: In 1951—when music was first being recorded on magnetic tape, when the use of much-improved microphones became a mix of science and art, and when Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, was still a little nipper, years away from his first martini (though I wouldn't swear to that)—the team of Robert (Bob) and Wilma Cozart Fine began to build a legendary catalog of recordings of classical music. It eventually included the work of conductors Rafael Kubelik, Antal Doráti, and Frederick Fennell; the Chicago and Minneapolis symphony orchestras; the pianists Byron Janis and Gina Bachauer; and the cellists Mstislav Rostropovich and János Starker—all released with often wildly colorful covers under the still-evocative title of Mercury Living Presence.
Jason Victor Serinus Posted: May 19, 2012 17 comments
If any single voice was synonymous with the flowering of the LP era, it was that of German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The great artist's death at his home in Bavaria on Friday, May 18, 10 days short of his 87th birthday, sets the final seal on an age in which art song, oratorio, and opera received equal respect from record companies and the listening public.

Equally adept at all three disciplines, Fischer-Dieskau became perhaps the most recorded baritone in history. There was a period in which nary a month went by without another LP from Fischer-Dieskau on which he sang either solo or in ensemble. Even today, when so many recordings have gone out of print, and large number of LPs have never been remastered for CD, arkivmusic.com lists no less than 490 titles that include Fischer-Dieskau's voice. The most recent release, a four-SACD remastered compilation of some of the monaural Schubert lieder (art song) recordings he made with pianists Gerald Moore and Karl Engel early in his career, became available on the website on May 8. Its 39 performances are but a fraction of the Schubert recordings he made in his five decades before the microphone.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: May 03, 2012 0 comments
Photo: Aiyana Elliott

Even when Loudon Wainwright III (left in photo with Ramblin' Jack Elliot) was a young man he was writing autobiographical songs, and his old themes of family, sex, and death resonate more deeply on his new record, Older Than My Old Man Now. He usually performs solo, armed with just an acoustic guitar or a banjo, but most of his recordings present more heavily produced versions of LWIII's music. When I chatted with LWIII in late April I wanted to explore that dichotomy and how those transformations take place.

David Lander Posted: Apr 20, 2012 0 comments
Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice
By Tad Hershorn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. 470pp. Hardcover, $34.95.

One night in 1942, Billie Holiday was singing at a Los Angeles nightclub. Between sets, she crossed the street to have a drink with Norman Granz. She was in tears because some black friends who had come to hear her had been turned away.

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