Music in the Round #9 Records in the Round
SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartets 2 & 8
Artegra ART1002 (SACD)
I've mentioned this recording before, because I've been enjoying an advance copy for months. The official release is equally superb, with powerful and dramatic performances, and is one of the two or three most transparent and vibrant chamber recordings yet. All the details of the sound of each instrument are available to the attentive ear.
CONCERTO KÖLN, SARBAND: Dream of the Orient
Archiv 474 992-2 (SACD)
This is an unusual combination of traditional and composed Turkish music and 18th-century European classical pieces that borrowed their "oriental" flavor from Turkish sources. The pieces are performed by a combination of Western and Turkish ensembles, and the contrasts are fascinating. The sound, except for a few unnecessary but acceptable surround effects, is positively brilliant; though not a wall-banger, this recording has staggering dynamic range.
ERIC BIBB, RORY BLOCK, MARIA MULDAUR: Sisters and Brothers
Telarc SACD-63588 (SACD)
I received this disc the same week I was in Unity, the small Maine town where it was recorded. There's a down-home vigor and humanity in these familiar and soon-to-be-familiar songs, rendered with a unity of spirit by the three singers. The recording captures a wooded warm acoustic and should be played at only moderate levels, as if Eric, Rory, and Maria were singing only for you.
BLUE MAN GROUP: The Complex
DTS Entertainment 69286-01120-9-4 (DVD-Audio)
The Blue Man Group's previous releases had great sound but were kind of repetitive. Here they're joined by some mainstream artists, and the results are fantastic, musically and sonically. All the songs are worthy, but Dave Matthews' "Sing Along" and Venus Hum's revisiting of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" are standouts. The surround effects work well while not being overdone, and the clarity, especially on the DVD-A tracks, is outstanding. Wanna hear interesting bass sounds? Check out "Piano Smasher"! And don't let the teasing menu structure keep you from the very worthwhile "added features."
MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro
René Jacobs, Concerto Köln, soloists
Harmonia Mundi HMC 801818.20 (3 SACDs)
This recording was reviewed very favorably by David Patrick Stearns in the October 2004 Stereophile; he awarded the two-channel CD a full five stars for sonics, four and a half for performance. (Was it penalized a half point for Simon Keenlyside's Count?) DPS will get no argument from me about the performance, which joins the sainted Erich Kleiber recording on Decca as one of my favorite ensemble performances. However, five stars for sound leaves no room to rate the substantial improvements wrought by the multichannel recording, which opens up the stage and lets the orchestra and singers breathe more naturally. Spacious, clear, unspectacularly spectacular.—Kalman Rubinson