Music in the Round #85: Nimitra, exaSound, Baetis, Roon Recordings in the Round

Sidebar 2: Recordings in the Round

Langgaard: Music of the Spheres, At the End of Time, From the Deep
Inger Dam-Jensen, soprano; Hetna Regitze Bruun, mezzo-soprano; Peter Lodahl, tenor; Johan Reuter, bass; Danish National Concert Choir & Vocal Ensemble & Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
DaCapo 6.220535 (SACD/CD). 2010. TT: 72


This recording was released in 2010, but I was reminded of it when I discovered the even older recording of Rued Langgaard's Messis (2 SACD/CDs, DaCapo 6.220528-29). That and his opera Antikrist, also recorded by the same forces (DaCapo 6.220523-24), are severe revelations of what at least one writer described as the composer's "sarcastic pessimism." That's not to say that Music of the Spheres is any less dark and intense; just consider the names of the accompanying works!

I recommend this disc not for its message but for its music. The Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1893–1952) wrote in a purely late-Romantic style that can be understood and appreciated by anyone who enjoys Mahler or Nielsen. He used all the tools of modern orchestration, and did so with drama and, as required, delicacy. Regardless of these works' titles or texts, I find myself swept up by the momentum that Langgaard develops, and I'm sure that those with a more sympathetic view of the content would find it irresistible.

These are among Langgaard's bigger works. If the music moves you as it does me, visit the DaCapo website, where you can sample a rich trove of chamber and symphonic works, many recorded by these same performers. Thomas Dausgaard is probably the most experienced Langgaard conductor of our time; his Danish team performs with precision and commitment, and DaCapo provides a rich, spacious acoustic with wide dynamic range.

Thomson: Four Saints in Three Acts
Sarah Pelletier, Deborah Selig, sopranos; Gigi Mitchell-Velasco, Lynn Torgove, mezzo-sopranos; Charles Blandy, Stanley Wilson, tenors; Aaron Engebreth, Andrew Garland, Sumner Thompson, baritones; Simon Dyer, Tom McNichols, basses; Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, conductor
BMOP/Sound 1049 (2 SACD/CDs). 2016. TT: 107


I remember hearing this opera in college, in the 1947 abridged recording conducted by the composer, Virgil Thomson. The work was on someone's list of important American music, and listening to it was probably a class assignment. Of it, the librettist, Gertrude Stein, wrote: "a martyr does something but a really good saint does nothing and so I wanted to have Four Saints that did nothing and I wrote Four Saints in Three Acts and they did nothing and that was everything." Nonetheless, I found it tunefully attractive, despite a lack of action and a fair amount of quasi-spoken exchanges.

I find the opera even more curiously attractive today, in this 2013 production from the valuable Boston Modern Orchestra Project and its director, Gil Rose. The singers are all excellent, and there's a sense of ensemble that can't be heard in some earlier recordings with bigger names. Rose conducts with a pace and wit that remind me of a great Gilbert & Sullivan production. The multichannel sound is flawless, and open in a satisfying if unspectacular way. There is no other modern multichannel recording of this work, but I can now happily relive my old surprise and pleasure for a long time.

Haydn: Symphonies 53, 64, 96
Carlos Kalmar, Oregon Symphony Orchestra
Pentatone PTC 5186 612 (SACD/CD). 2017. Downloaded from TT: 62

A little more than a year ago, John Newton, founder of the recording company Soundmirror, sent me a DSD256 file of Haydn's Symphony 53 that he'd just recorded at a concert, and which I found absolutely delightful. The recording began with the audience entering, talking, and taking their seats, then finally hushing and applauding as the conductor walked onstage. I was struck by how much, during this preamble, I adapted to the concert hall's ambience, and how that resulted in a greater anticipation of hearing the music—just as if I were present in the hall. It didn't hurt that the recording was so transparent to that experience.


That same performance has now been released on this recording and, despite the elimination of the preliminaries, I still love it. The Oregon Symphony is a small ensemble playing modern instruments, and under Carlos Kalmar they play Symphony 53 with a snap and deftness appropriate to the transition from pre-classical to classical style. Their performances of Symphony 64 and the 96 have slightly more weight and momentum but retain the requisite clarity.

The OSO's discography under Kalmar indicates that this disc is unlikely to be the first of a complete Haydn cycle. Even if you already have many recordings of Haydn symphonies, this one is worth adding for its stylish performances and for Soundmirror's extraordinarily warm, pellucid sound—even if it is only DSD64.—Kalman Rubinson

kursten's picture

I keep my movies and music separate but together: I use a Marantz AVR and a Musical Fidelity (MF) integrated stereo amp and run interconnects from the Marantz pre-out to the MF. Since the MF has an HT Direct option which shuts of the pre-amp, I can have strong mains in a 5.1.2 setup, but don't have to deal with running any music through the AVR. Music goes directly to the MF. I wish more amps had the HT Direct option so people wouldn't have to make compromises by running music through an AVR (never ideal) or having two totally separate systems.

itsratso's picture

i have all my cd's ripped onto my computer that I play back with jriver. I sold the physical cd's years ago and love just browsing my cd collection from my couch. I would love to do the same with all my multichannel discs, but have yet to find an easy way to do this. How do you rip multichannel discs to music files and play them back? Would you consider doing a tutorial piece explaining how to do this? I think it would be very helpful for us multichannel fans.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Playback is easy because all you need is the appropriate music player software for your computer (PC/Mac/Linux). I have discussed many of these in the column although I have pretty much settled on JRiver for my own use.

You will also need a suitable device on which to play the files but HDMI out to an AVR is the simplest way. The other option is a multichannel DAC. There are only four of these (miniDSP, exaSound, NADAC+, MSB) in the home audio market plus Mytek's and PlaybackDesigns' stacking of 3 stereo DACs.

Unfortunately, ripping of multichannel discs is different for each type of disc. What types do you want to rip?

itsratso's picture

probably like most, i've got a little of everything - dvd-a, blu-ray audio, sacd, the whole shebang.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I think I can assume you have a computer but DVD-A and BD ripping requires suitable drives in that computer. The rest is software.

For SACD, you need a particular early PS3 or Oppo 103/105 or some selected other players with the same MediaTek chips as in the Oppos. You also need (free) software.

Frans's picture

For this reason I kept my OPPO 105 connected to my network for SACD ripping specifically. For DVD-A and BD-A ripping I use DVD Audio Extractor on the PC (DVDAE). If you have a decent BD drive you are all set.

As long as you keep the physical discs this is a perfectly legit way to enjoy surround recordings from your harddrive.

Douglas_Harrison's picture

To me, the desirable feature is the ease of connectivity. Next and the most important is the SQ. Combine these with personal support from the designer means Oppo level support on a unique, flexible piece of gear. I'll continue to do research but Nimitra & Keetakawee Punpeng seem like a perfect solution for me.