Four recordings of Gustav Holst's "The Planets" demonstrate how
diferent the end results could be.
Sir Georg Solti. London Philharmonic Orchestra.
(London 414 567-2). The production dates from 1978. The sound may put
you off, but the fault is not in the recording. Anyone who has heard a live
Solti performance will know what I mean. For all his musical excitement,
Solti pushes the orchestra to such a feverish pitch that the brass take on
a uncomfortable edge and the strings become hoarse. The sound, which is
analog original, is what many anti-digital people used to accuse digital
recordings of. About the only really pleasant thing in the sonic texture
is the Kingsway Hall pipe organ (most of the other performances on CD make
use of electronic instruments). The recording used London's usual
technique: A main pickup array plus many accent microphones operated at
reduced level. The only problem is the hard-driven performance.
Herbert von Karajan. Berlin Philharmonic (Deutche Grammophon
400-028-2). On this digital recording dating from 1981, von Karajan
turns in a hard-driven performance that remind one of Solti. Von Karajan's
conception on the score is almost completely subverted by the grotesque
recording approach, in which accent microphones completely dissect the
orchestra ansemble. Fore/aft perspectives are so out of proportion that
the front row of strings across the stereo stage can almost be counted!
In addition, the low end under 50 Hz, has been attenuated, and the
sound made gutless.
Andrew Davis, The Toronto Symphony (Angel CDC 47417). This CD
was digitally recorded in 1986. Davis turns in a stunning performance, and
the orchestra is up to all his demands. The recording is remarkable in
another way as well. One person is responsible for both recording and
producing. In any event, Kwiatkowski does a beautiful job for Davis and
the orchestra. With subtle use of accent microphones supplementing a main
pickup array, he gets back-of-the-orchestra detail without destroying
natural perspectives. The notes states that this recording was made on a
24-track Sony recorder, presumably allowing the producer/engineer to be
unconcerned with details of balance during the session and to concentrate
on matters of performance and covering the score. Subsequent mixdown was
made to two-track. We can be impressed with all aspects of the recording
as unorthodox as the basic approach was.
Andre Previn, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Telarc CD-80133).
Previn's identification with English music is well established, and he
understands it to the core. This performance, digitally recorded in 1986,
demonstrates his affinity for the score. The recording approach is
as orthodox as Andrew Davis was not. Here we have typical Telarc minimal
spaced-omni miking, with the expected natural perspectives. As with many
Telarcs, it helps to raise the volume a bit to make-up for the fact that
there has been little, if any, manipulation of the dynamic range during the
recording. I am impressed with all aspects of this Compact Disc.
(John Eargle, Audio/October 1987)
Teleman: Horn Concertos.Iona Brown-cond; Hernann Baumann: horn
The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-fields, (Philips 412 226-2). A
digital recording made in London in February 1984, this absolutely
delightful CD is outstanding for its clarity and its superb balance among
strings, horns and harpsichord in a warmly resonant ambience. Hermann
Baumann, on principal horn, is a virtuoso player, in fact he performs these
ingratiating concertos in the manner of the original scoring, which is
without "stopping"- putting a hand inside the bell of the instrument. The
resultant sound is very well projected with a big , brassy, gutteral
quality. Four concertos and a horn suite may be a bit too much for
nonstop listening. Sampled individually, they can be most tasty
musical hors d'oevres!
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons. Andrew Parrott; John Holloway, violin.
The Taverner Players,( Denon 38C37-7283).The Taverner Players are a
group of exceptionally talented musicians who perform on original
instruments or copies of same. Andrew Parrot, their founder and conductor,
has had the benefit of studying under such luminaries as Claudio Abbado,
Sir Colin Davis and even Leopold Stokowski. In fact, in his finely wrought
performance of this work, the very expressive string playing is reminiscend
of Maestro Stokowski's renowned string sound
The engineer who recorded this music is Britisher Tony Faulkner.
Tony, one of the best classical recording engineers in the business,
espouses the use of such "purist" mike techniques as Blumlein (Coincident
figure-of-eight) or M/S (figure-eight/cardioids "middle-side"),
although he has resently been using a pair of the new Bruel & Kjaer
omnidirectional condenser mikes. He achieves a lovely, clean sound,
with precise localization and a lot of depth, all clothed in a warm
ambience of Rosslyn Hill Chapel in London.
Tchaikovsky/Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos. Charles
Dutoit; Kyung Wha Chung, violinL'orchestre Symphonic de Montreal, (London
Kyung Wha Chung recorded these same two violin concertos for London /Decca early
in her career. If I recall, this was in the early ‘70s, and her interpretation
were very well received. In this splendid new digital recording, her
performance clearly reflect growth and maturity as a violin virtuoso of
international renown. She has always been secure in the technical mastery
of her instrument. Now she adds a new dimension to her artistry with her
richly expressive playing and deeper involvement with the music.
Engineer John Dunkerley has developed a recording technique which fully
exploits the fabulous acoustics of St. Eustache Church. This is evident from
the notable series of recordings he has made with the Montreal Orchestra in
this locale, and he has provided Kyung Wha Chung with a recording of equal
stature. It is a very natural, open sound, yet it never lacks in orchestral
definition. The violin is projected just forward of the orchestra and clearly
reveals the richness of the artist's tonal resources. Dutoit's
Montrealers get better and better, and his accompaniment for the violinist
is nicely balanced, displayng a good raport between these artists. How
nice to have this kind of wonderful music making on CD, where the high
harmonics of the solo violin will remain pristine and audible forever,
instead of expiring at the grinding stylus/groove interface of a vinyl disc
!If you are fond of these two great staples of the violin concerto
repertoire, you will find this CD particularly rewarding from both musical
and sonic viewpoints
Bert Whyte, Audio/October 1986