Editor's Choice: Stereophile's Sampler & Test CD Track 6

[6] Brahms: Horn Trio in E-flat Major, Op.40, Finale: Allegro con brio (from Serenade, STPH009-2)

Performers: Julie Landsman, horn; Sheryl Staples, violin; Max Levinson, piano
Recording Venue: St. Francis Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recording Dates: July 30-31, 1995
Producer & Musical Director: Heiichiro Ohyama
Executive Producer: Gretchen Grogan
Assistant Engineer: Wes Phillips
Piano Technician: Michael Blackwell
Microphones: two DPA 4006 ½" omnis with (diffuse-field) nose-cone grids (spaced pair); two DPA 4011 ½" cardioids (ORTF pair)
Mike Preamps/ADC/Recorder: Nagra-D (20-bit) at 44.1kHz
Mixer: Sonic Solutions Digital Audio Workstation (4 channels)
20-16-bit Noiseshaping: Meridian 618

As a digestif to follow the Mozart "suite," I include this delightful 6/8 rondo, so suited to the French horn with its hunting-call heritage and galloping rhythm. And Julie Landsman digs into the music with sure-footed gusto, the movement rushing to its close in a "blaze of color and excitement," as noted in the booklet text for the original CD.

Like the Mozart Flute Quartet movement, this performance was assembled by editing together passages from two concerts, with some patches taken from the final rehearsal. Editing is like all things: Used sparingly and with taste, it can improve things; overused, it can turn a thrilling live performance into something sterile. Given the choice between leaving a very slight audience noise in, or replacing it with a not-quite-so-well-performed, noise-free version of the same passage, I will always leave the audience noise in. Which you can hear, vide a delicious cough at 2:52. But I do edit to remove the wrong notes, the "clams" that occasionally occur in live performance. Not to do so would be a disservice to the musicians.

What you should hear: As well as being notoriously difficult to play, the horn is a notoriously difficult instrument to record. Its bell faces away from the microphone, meaning that its character is very dependent on the hall acoustic. In this instance, the horn's sound is reflected from the piano's lid and is remarkably robust. Compare the sound of the distantly miked piano here with that captured with the mix of spot and distant miking on the previous track. While adjusting the mix of the Mozart, I used this recording as a guide.