Music in the Round #90: Merging+Player PL8 Recordings in the Round

Sidebar 2: Recordings in the Round

Del Tredici: Child Alice
Courtenay Budd, soprano; Gil Rose, Boston Modern Orchestra Project>BR> BMOP/sound 1056 (2 SACD/CDs). 2017. DDD. TT: 133:44.

I'm thrilled to tell you about this release. Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been a lifelong fascination for composer David Del Tredici, who in 1980 won a Pulitzer Prize for Part 1 of Child Alice. Since then he's written a stream of similarly inspired works, though they seem linked less by any continuous narrative than by a rich and continuous stream of creativity. Recordings of Del Tredici's Final Alice (with Barbara Hendricks, Georg Solti, and the Chicago Symphony, Decca Eloquence 4429955) and An Alice Symphony (with Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Oliver Knussen, and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, CRI 688) are treasures of my collection.


When I heard, in 2016, that Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project would be performing Child Alice, I was disappointed that I couldn't get up to Boston, but elated that they planned to record the performances in the hope of releasing it on SACD. It would be the first complete recording of the work, and BMOP opened a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite its production, release, and distribution. With our small contribution helping a bit, it was successful.

The result is everything I'd hoped for. Del Tredici was a master of orchestration and vocal writing from the beginning, and his music has since evolved to be even more complex and more integrated while losing none of its beauty, passion, or capacity to communicate. In asking for help with the Kickstarter campaign, I said, "For a taste of Del Tredici's Alice music, think of Mahler's soaring and powerful melodic expression with hints of Copland!" That thumbnail description also applies to Child Alice—but there's so much more here.

Each of the work's six movements—Simple Alice, Triumphant Alice, Ecstatic Alice, Quaint Events, Happy Voices, All in the Golden Afternoon—has its own musical character, but leitmotifs thread through and bind them all. As an example of the range, I hear Ecstatic Alice as a 20th-century evolution of the Liebestod, from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, with echoes of Leonard Bernstein in the vocal line. All in the Golden Afternoon has a fin de siècle languor that recalls late Richard Strauss, albeit with a bit of spice that conjures Berio and Stockhausen. But just as you can't appreciate the pleasure of great food from a list of ingredients, you can't realize the delight and pleasure I get from this long-awaited, first recording. Perhaps, however, it will entice you.

The BMOP continues to impress me with its abilities over a wide repertoire, and under director Gil Rose they always seem to capture the right flavor for the work at hand. At first I noted a slight wavering of soprano Courtenay Budd's voice, but that awareness quickly evaporated—she fully embodies the music, to the point that I found it hard to imagine another singer in her place. The BMOP recording team always does a great job of providing the transparency needed for Del Tredici's rich, complex orchestral textures, but with adequate weight, and in a lifelike reproduction of the sound of the recording venue. But I urge you to buy this recording for the music.—Kalman Rubinson

supamark's picture

I agree they should include at least a 1 year (and seriously, for this kind of money, lifetime subscription - it's only $500 retail) since the box won't work without Roon. I'm sure they could get it cheaper than retail and fold it in to the price if their margins are so slim.

The other problem with this approach (which would disqualify it were I in the market for this sort of thing) is that you're buying a $14k (w/ tax) piece of equipment that requires software from a third party to operate. When buying high end audio you're always gambling that the company will stay in business and support the thing, but now you've got to hope *two* separate companies stay in business and support their things (just because a company is still around doesn't mean they support all of their products).

Kal Rubinson's picture

There's no assurance that any company will outlive you but the NADAC Player does not become a doorstop if Roon goes belly-up.

First, Roon has stated that, in the event that they close-down, they have a policy of maintaining a download version that will allow the user to continue using Roon forever without needing access to them.

Second, the NADAC Player can, without Roon, still operate as a network endpoint/DAC from any server.

Rlotzkar's picture

Nice series! I've been researching Network Renderers and almost went for NADAC style to avoid USB cables. I chose a different route (Bricasti M5 > Legacy Wavelet & HDPlex 200). So now I need to reconsider USB cables because only 1 of these devices uses a "normal" USB plug (Wavelet uses MicroB & HDPlex uses Type C). So the question arises, do USB cables make a difference...

I've used split cables (have 2 LHL 2G split cables) and can hear the difference vs decent quality straight cables. Now that I'm looking for a custom cable I'm curious about your experience with USB Cables. It seems to be a recipe for flame wars on various audio forums. Bits are bits and don't have sound...

So how did the AQ Coffee stack up against that RAL fire hose?

Thanks for the power cord referral, another one I'm looking for!

Kal Rubinson's picture

I am not particularly interested in comparing cables and only do so if there is a particular feature that seems to warrant attention. I tried the RAL because of it's split config. As I said, it was appreciated with the plain-Jane motherboard USB outputs but offered no advantage over the AQ when used with the externally-powered SOtM tX-USBhubIn.

adrianwu's picture

I have been experimenting with the Microrendu, which allows music data to be streamed over an ethernet based network to be converted to feed an USB-based DAC. The beauty of this gadget is that it allows a direct connection without the need of a USB cable. We have tried different Ethernet cables going from the switch to the Microrendu, and the difference is quite marked. We used a long cable (10 M) so the difference could have been more exaggerated than say a 1M cable. A shielded cable (Cat6a or Cat7) is certain preferable, with noticeable tightening of the bass impact and better imaging. The PS for the Microrendu also matters, and a DIY regulated linear supply gave a darker background and more relaxed, more musical presentation than the ifi wall wart.
We also had the 2 channel NADAC on loan for audition during several sessions over a week. Not impressed at all. Compared to the Lampizator Golden Atlantic/Microrendu, the NADAC sounded clinical, unmusical and uninvolved. This could just be our taste in music reproduction, but the Lampizator was better at expressing the microdynamics and the sound was fuller and had more nuance. Impossible to say which was more "accurate", but for enjoyment, we much preferred the Lampizator.

otaku's picture

Hi, I just bought a Signal MagicPower cable, basing my decision at least partly on this review. To my ears, my Bel Canto C7R sounds a lot better with this cord, which is surprising since the Bel Canto contains circuitry similar to their Virtual Battery Supply. What I am thinking is that rather than improving the sound of the receiver, the MagicPower cuts down on 60 cycle hum radiated from the power cord into the nearby speaker cables and interconnects, particularly the phono interconnects.