Music in the Round #13 Recordings In The Round
L'ARPEGGIATA: La Tarantella Christina Pluhars, L'Arpeggiata Alpha SA 503 (SACD)
This collection of vocal and instrumental arrangements of Italian music from as far back as the 17th century was inspired by the behavior of victims of spider bites (tarantella comes from tarantola, which means tarantula). For all that, it comes off not as scholastic but as delightful. The range and color of plucked, strummed, and struck instruments is fascinating, the rhythms varied and exciting. The sound is outstandingly detailed and deep, although the use of the 5.1 channels is unusual. All the soloists and the ensemble are captured in the main L/R channels (with a phantom center fill), the surrounds for rear ambience, and the center channel only for forward ambience. It works amazingly well.
CHESKY: Area 31 Violin Concerto, Flute Concerto, The Girl from Guatemala Tom Chiu, violin; Jeffrey Khaner, flute; Wonjung Kim, soprano; Anthony Abel. Chesky SACD288 (SACD)
Known in these pages mostly as a record producer, David Chesky is an accomplished composer with a definite flair for Latin rhythms, which figure frequently in these entertaining and approachable pieces. Each is colorful, somewhat jazzy, highly inflected, and presented in the Chesky label's usual clarity and unambiguous soundstaging. Obviously a labor of love for the composer-producer, but we get to enjoy it too.
HANDEL: Arias Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano; Harry Bicket, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Avie 0030 (SACD)
I may be the last one to the party in recommending this fabulous collection, sung brilliantly and dramatically and accompanied—or, rather, partnered—by musicians with all appropriate stylishness. Unlike Renée Fleming's overtly operatic collection (Decca 475 618-6, SACD), Hunt Lieberson approaches these great pieces like art songs and communicates meanings beyond the words. Big voice, front and center, with comfortable and coherent surround ambience.
THREE ALONE: Trio and Solo Bob Ravenscroft, piano; Steve Millhouse, bass; Rob Schuh, drums Ravenswave RAVE-9002 (2 SACDs). www.ravenswave.com
This set consists of a multichannel piano-trio disc and a two-channel solo-piano disc. The two discs have different programs of original modern jazz by Bob Ravenscroft that looks back with appreciation on jazz traditions. It may be easy listening, but it's not superficial. Of special note for audiophiles is the outstandingly lucid and immediate sound produced by recording direct to DSD, and the independent mixing and mastering for each of the three audio formats on these hybrid discs.
BARTÓK: The Miraculous Mandarin, Dance Suite, Hungarian Pictures Marin Alsop, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Naxos 6.110088 (SACD), 5.110088 (DVD-Audio)
I found the recent Alsop-Bournemouth Brahms Symphony 1 only okay. Here, the team displays a greater affinity for 20th-century compositions. The skillful pacing of the Mandarin suite is chilling, eerie, delirious, and played to the hilt. As with the accompanying performances, this may not be as balletic or as echt Hungarian as those of Fischer, Dorati, or Solti, but it's great concert music. Naxos continues to record their multichannel at relatively modest resolutions (typically, 24-bit/48kHz), but the recording and mastering work of Mike Clements and Andrew Walton has captured the richness and warmth that were the hallmarks of the classic EMI LPs from Bournemouth 20 or more years ago.—Kalman Rubinson