It starts quietly enough, with a simple falling-fifth motif, but the first movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff's neglected Piano Sonata 1 develops into a work of epic proportions nearly 40 minutes in length, with haunting melodies, massive dynamic contrasts, and lush, sensual harmonies.
Stereophile's seventh CD of Minnesotan male choir Cantus, called with delightful originality Cantus (CTS1207) and recorded at 88.2kHz with 24-bit resolution, is now available from our e-commerce page, for $16.95 plus S&H.
John Atkinson: Making It Live
The e-mail from Stereophile reviewer Bob Reina was straightforward: "I want to make a demo of my new jazz group. I plan to record the session in my living room by getting my old four-channel Teac 3440 out of mothballs and sticking one or two mikes on each instrument. I'd like your view on which mikes would be most appropriate for the four instruments . . . "
I have not seen Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and I am not likely to. But the phrase cultural learnings of America is a good jumping-off point for an important topic: cultural literacy.
Iván Fischer, founder and conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has performed with many major orchestras and recorded for a number of major labels, most significantly with Philips, from 1995 to 2004. Fischer/BFO made the first multichannel orchestral recording for SACD, which Philips used as a demonstration disc for their first SACD players. I still treasure that disc—it demonstrates many of the advantages of the medium with a wide and varied program—but it has never been commercially released.
Wes Phillips on the Sessions
One of the enduring myths of audiophilia is that of the recording as a true and honest picture of a musical event—a sonic "snapshot" that captures a unique moment of time the way a photograph captures the light of a day long since past.
Before I even turn on the recorder, Willie Nile is telling me his theory of how the granite under Manhattan Island conducts electricity, which accounts for the perceptible charge that many people feel makes New York City so special. It's also what draws artists like flies, none more passionate than singer-songwriter Nile, who's personally contributed a few volts during his years in NYC.
John Atkinson on the Recording
"This will fix it!" Kimber Kable's Ray Kimber placed some acoustic baffles around the table on which sat my Apple TiBook. We were recording Robert Silverman performing one of Beethoven's masterworks for piano, the Diabelli Variations, Op.120, and I had been bothered by a faint whistle underlying the music. It turned out to be the sound of my laptop's fan, an unforeseen drawback of my decision to dispense with tape and record straight to hard drive for the August 2004 sessions. We had already had a problem with a slight slapback echo from the balcony of the Austad Auditorium at Weber State University in Utah, which Ray had fixed with drapes, and a problem with low-frequency rumble from airplanes overflying the college campus during one session had been solved by Ray phoning the air traffic control tower. However, even Ray couldn't deal with thunder, so that was the one session we decided to finish early.
Mark Wilder, senior mastering engineer for Sony Music Studios, looked expectantly from John Atkinson to Bob Saglio to me and asked, "Are you ready?" As it had been my inquiry that had resulted in this mind-boggling, once-in-a-lifetime, peak-experience get-together, and as no one else was speaking up, I replied, "As ready as we'll ever be."
Morten Lauridsen's magisterial work for chorus and orchestra, Lux aeterna, appears in a fresh new recording, in truly excellent sound, on England's Hyperion label. The vocal ensemble Polyphony is accompanied by the Britten Sinfonia; both are led by Stephen Layton. Better yet, in addition to the CD-only version, there is a separate SACD/CD hybrid release (Hyperion SACDA67449), meaning that it is backwardly-compatible with CD players. Furthermore, the SACD layer contains a surround-sound program in addition to the stereo one.