SPOTLIGHT The classical music general discussion thread


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Also, I don't know if this is a majority opinion, but I really like Jaap van Zweden. He's definitely not what the critics were looking for, but he's really good in the classical and romantic repertoire, and that in the end of the day is the most important thing to me. His Beethoven cycle (I think the first on SACD) is one of the better ones for both performance and sonics, and largely forgotten about. I think it was partly meant as a demonstration of the format.
I find this Beethoven set quite boring, to be honest. Very happy that he is leaving NYC.
Since I work/volunteer for Jared and the NativeDSD dot com website, I am very pleased to say that Rachel Podger just won not only the instrumental recording of the year, but also ‘Recording of the Year’ for BBC music magazine.

She does so much great work, and we're so lucky it's all on MCH SACD in ridiculously good sound.
OK, need some advice on this one please?

I was considering this old SQ LP and then found some performances that were on digital (obviously different performances though.)
any suggestions as to how these performances are; and of course overall surroundness?
Were you able to listen to those old SQ LP recordings?

Among the newer recordings, Gardiner’s 2014 recording sounds very nice in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on Blu-ray. The surround mix is immersive and at times uses the rear channels discretely. Recommended. Vespro della beata vergine — HDVDARTS

Kuijken‘s performance is a scaled down, intimate version. The rear channels are mostly ambient but the overall effect is good.

Robert King‘s recording on Hyperion is a good performance but the surround mix is front heavy. Rear channels are rather quiet.
Some great adds on Apple Music this week, starting with Klemperer's Mahler 2d. (The Atmos mix is very convincing "Big Ambience." I don't know how Warners' engineers are doing it, but I'm not gonna ask questions.) Also Purcell's King Arthur with John Eliot Gardiner (Erato, 1985) and the new Bartok Concerto for Orchestra with Karina Canellakis on Pentatone.
See attachment for a laugh that initially gets me thinking, “this was a labor of love for more than one person.”

This’ll be long. I’m jotting this as listening to three sample tracks, one from each album. Strictly first impressions. In short: this does NOT feel like a hack job to me. Thoughtful, engaging, sometimes discrete, never gimmicky, always seemingly thoughtful. Harshness in the original recordings remains evident. Strings are often up front with brass in the rears but — not hapahazardly — this changes for some arrangements. I’ve listened to a fair bit of classical surround but am far from well versed. I’m not a huge SW fan but these soundtracks are a cornerstone for my music life. These I know inside out and I can only dream of more orchestral soundtracks getting this treatment (yes, prime Williams and Star Trek: TMP leap to mind.) okay then.

With the Star Wars Trilogy (OT, of course) having dropped on Apple Music, I decided to sample a few tracks I thought might be most telling.

Keep in mind, my surround observations are not as highly calibrated as many here. Same with this 5.1 system (I have a better one I’ll try later).

Star Wars. Cantina Band. I started with the most idiosyncratic and maybe least representative track for a reason. Small ensemble and a modest pace = easier for me to focus. I think this is a great mix. The main melody starts FL with the melody in the Center. At first it seems basically stereo but then the bass clarinet (?) comes in BR. The bells percussion comes in the rear. As the track accelerates the drums come in Center and supplementary percussion in the rears (or maybe all channels… again, not the ideal system). FR and BL seem less active but blame that on my system. In all, this seems to have an “in the room” approach. To what degree it’s successful is for others.

Empire. Finale. I chose this because if there’s a single track that may best represent the soundtracks it’s this. We have the fanfare, Imperial March, Yoda, Han & Princess… it’s a greatest hits of sorts. Since they shift from one to the other it’s easier for me to detect shifts. Opens with everything in front. As the strings swell it feels like organic big stereo (for other nerds, like when the opening of Superman goes from 1.33:1 to widescreen). I’d call it effective. Once the swell is done and we go to pizzicato it’s more front-centric, appropriately. Some ambience and other in the rear. Second swell the strings go cinematic again. Brass accents and other little details in the rears. The shift to the theme puts certain brass in the rears and trumpets to the front with the strings. Yoda’s theme mostly in front with high strings in the left and brass, again, flourishing in the rears. The dancing strings come in the rears when melodic strings are up front. Swell spreads to a sort of (appropriate) big stereo, which is mostly how this bit ends, setting up for the Imperial March to swoop in all channels. I’m not sure how discrete but the bombast works. Strings yet again in front with brass often in back. At 4:20 horns move to the front with percussion in rears. After that burst, Hugh woodwinds (?) in center with strings dealing FL/FR. The brief Cloud City segue takes an understandable step back as if to reset the mix. Cut to Han and Leia. Strings in front. Kind of big stereo with back feeling more ambient. The swell spreads to rears. Not so discrete to my ears. The grand finale feels about the same but the brass bursts spread around. Not the most immersive but effective. I mean, I’d love if it approached Abbey Road’s balladic closing to “The End” but that’s a helluva high watermark.

Jedi: Ewok Celebration/Finale. Yub Nub (written or co-written by Williams’s son [of Toto fame]), like Cantina it’s unique and easier for me to distinguish. Opening deep drum beats alternate (organically) front and rear with everybody’s favorite teddy bears hooting from the front left and a little chatter in rears. Instruments are recessed nicely until the Ewoks do that Ewok thing. Yes, the lyrics scroll along for your karaoke night. Yea, I laughed. Lead vocals up front with some harmony in rears. The call out vocals are LCR and seem a bit discrete. Laughs move around but not distractingly. SW is engaged. Strings swell in front subtly. Diegetic percussion in rears. Choir comes in front at the segue. Trumpet burst comes in heavily in rears (yet again) as those fade and strings rise up front. Star Wars theme itself matches general template effectively set earlier. Not discrete but definitely surround. Cut to Ewok theme largely upfront at first (which I’m liking in the segues). Horns do feel a bit big stereo but it’s good after the plucky melody is front-centric. It stays mildly playful in placement but not gimmicky at all. (I’m struck how much of this is a hybrid of Otis’s theme in Superman and Temple of Doom — I think I knew this and long ago forgot.) This section swells to all channels. Nice sub activity. As horns fade in back, Luke and Leia comes from up front as if on a proscenium stage. Some ambience in the back until cellos fill those speakers. High strings up front. Return to the theme follows the prior template then the keening strings of Leia’s theme from SW feel like they shrink intimately to the center after the brash horns then spread to LCR until the trumpets return in the rears. The closing, as expected, is strings up front. The final brass fanfare is heavily in the rear and drums feel big stereo.

Bonus: out of curiosity I wondered how they’d handle the Emperor in Jedi since it introduces heavy male choir. Here the horns are up front (with trumpets eventually aggressively rear). The choir is largely rear (or maybe all channel). Mid track it can be a bit cacophonous. Effectively. Then it drops to very minimal. (I’d forgotten how Raiders of the Lost Ark this track is.)

All in all from these very limited glimpses, these albums seem to follow a definite and tasteful approach throughout. Somewhat discrete, somewhat playful, mostly static (but again I’m on 5.1 so ATMOS may reveal more — I’m betting not). Ultimately, it feels grand within the understandable limitations of the recordings. It definitely seems like they didn’t waste the extensive miking at these Abbey Road sessions.
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I ordered all the BluRays!

There were some sales like this when I first returned to the hobby notably one at Channel Classics ( the LATE Channel Classics) I hope this does not mean that Sono Luminus is going away or discontinuing physical media.

I have been working on a Dutton Vocalion order but this will delay that yet again.

The 16 sale priced BDs include one 5.1 almost all of them have 7.1 and three or four Auro-3D/9.1 (whatever 9.1 means)
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I ordered all the BluRays!

There were some sales like this when I first returned to the hobby notably one at Channel Classics ( the LATE Channel Classics) I hope this does not mean that Sono Luminus is going away or discontinuing physical media.
They did announce some new BD~A/CD releases. Since Sono Luminus is an eclectic label, a lot of their releases appeal to a niche market ....but at those prices who could resist. I actually bought 6 as back~ups and only 1 that I already did not have. Still, with s/h and NO tax, this order hardly broke the bank!

Hope you enjoy them Gene!
I ordered all the BluRays!

There were some sales like this when I first returned to the hobby notably one at Channel Classics ( the LATE Channel Classics) I hope this does not mean that Sono Luminus is going away or discontinuing physical media.
Nah--they run blow-outs like this periodically (although they've really priced 'em to move this time!). And as @4-earredwonder said: they're still releasing new BDAs pretty regularly. Several already this year, in fact.
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Now this week's new-release discount (US $9.10). I've read nothing but great reviews about this cycle ever since it began, but I'm not much of a Haydn fan, so I may stand pat on the handful of quartets I have on discs by the Fry Street and Engegård Quartets.
My problem is that there's just so many of the Haydn Quartets and I'm not really aware of any as being standouts - rather they're all mostly good. I've picked up a few of these used, but it's just hard to get too excited.
Coming April 21st from Colin Currie Records in Multi~CH SACD and recorded at Abbey Road Studios: Steve Reich: Music For 18 Musicians.

Watch a brief video and sample the various tracks from PRESTO MUSIC
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