Recording of the Month

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Kalman Rubinson  |  Jul 12, 2018  |  31 comments
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1924 jazz-band version, orch. Grofé). 1 Piano Concerto in F. 2 "Summertime." 3 Gershwin-Wild: "Somebody Loves Me," "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You."4 Oscar Levant: "Blame It On My Youth." 5
Kirill Gerstein, piano; 1–5 Storm Large, vocal; 3 Gary Burton, vibraphone; 5 David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra1, 2
Myrios Classics MYR022 (CD, 24/192 FLAC). 2018. Kirill Gerstein, prod.; Stephan Cahen, prod.,1-5 eng.; 1, 2, 4, 5 Paul Hennerich, 1, 2, 4 Doug Decker, 3 engs. DDD. TT: 73:45
Performance *****
Sonics *** (CD), **** (24/192 FLAC)

I grew up with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I was the youngest in a family not particularly interested in music, and whose record collection consisted of pop music and three oddly assorted classical recordings, all on 78rpm discs: Enrico Caruso singing "Vesti la giubba," Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (on four 12" 78s), and the 1927 recording of Rhapsody in Blue with the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra and Gershwin at the keyboard.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 10, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1966  |  0 comments
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty Selections
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Stokowsky
London Phase-4 SPC 21008 (LP); Ampex LCL-75008 (open-reel tape). Tony D'Amato, Marty Wargo, prods.; Arthur Lilley, eng. TT: 46:50.

These are exciting, lilting, concert-style (as opposed to ballet-style) performances of the best-known excerpts from Tchaikovsky's second- and third-most-popular ballets. (First, of course, is the Nutcracker.) The recording is a surprise, after the excesses we've heard on earlier Phase-4 recordings.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1967  |  33 comments
An Audio Obstacle Course: The Shure Trackability Test Record
Shure Bros. TTR-101.

Shure's new "Supertrack" V-15 Type II pickup was designed as an answer to all those high-powered discs whose excessive modulations make them shatter all over the place on lesser pickups, But just in case anyone didn't happen to own any of these difficult discs, Shure decided to issue one of these, too. The result is a collection of some of the meanest modulations ever gathered together in one place.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 28, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1968  |  18 comments
Chopin; Nocturnes
Arthur Rubinstein, piano
RCA Victor LSC-7050 (2 LPs) (reissued on CD as RCA Victor Red Seal 0902 663049-2). Max Wilcox, prod.; Tom MacCluskey, Sergio Marcotulli, engs. Recorded August 30–September 2, 1965, 2 February 21, 1967.

If these Nocturnes are never played better than this, we couldn't care less. These are exquisite performances!

The recording, via RCA Victor's Dynagroove process is a far cry from the earlier excesses that gave Dynagroove its horrid reputation among perfectionists. One is simply not aware of the recording at all, as long as it is played at the right volume, which is about what you would hear from a good first-balcony concert-hall seat.

Jon Iverson  |  Jun 12, 2018  |  6 comments
Steve Tibbetts: Life Of
Steve Tibbetts, 12-string guitar, piano; Michelle Kinney, cello, drones; Marc Anderson, percussion, handpan
ECM 2599 (CD). 2018. An ECM production; Steve Tibbetts, eng.; Greg Reierson, eng., mastering. DDD. TT: 50:40
Performance *****
Sonics *****

The sound of Steve Tibbetts's guitar music is unique—one need hear only a measure or two of his new album to identify the distinct tang of his playing. Common wisdom is that a guitarist's sound is in the hands and fingers, but Tibbetts has another trick: his weathered, 50-year-old Martin D12-20 12-string acoustic guitar.

Margaret Graham  |  Jun 05, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1968  |  17 comments
Stravinsky: Petrouchka, Circus Polka
Los Angeles Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta, cond.
London CS 6554 (LP/tape).

This is all the proof one could want that London's big, fat sound is more the result of their recording philosophy than of the halls they record in. One of the first London recordings ever made in the US, this has the now-familiar London sound all down the line: The big, fat low end, the richness, the superb balance, and the razor-sharp detail without zizz or zip. As usual, the result is not terribly real, but it certainly is exciting as well as being musically satisfying.

Robert Baird  |  May 18, 2018  |  3 comments
Brad Mehldau: After Bach
Brad Mehldau, piano
Nonesuch 7559-79318-0 (CD). 2018. Robert Hurwitz, exec. prod.; Tom Korkidis, prod. coord.; Tom Lazarus, eng., mix, mastering; Brad Montgomery, mix. ADD? TT: 69:24
Performance *****
Sonics *****

That American jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has made a recording of J.S. Bach's music should come as no great surprise to anyone who's followed his extraordinarily varied career. In many ways, it seems a natural progression.

Having become one of the most important jazz pianists of this century, and dabbled in classical-flavored music, film scores, and even performances of popular music (by Oasis Soundgarden and Nick Drake, to name just a few of the artists he's covered), Mehldau has finally gotten around to recording this album of five pieces by one of the greatest keyboard improvisers in history. Mehldau's method here is to play a more or less straight version of a Bach prelude or fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, followed by his own "After Bach" reimagining of the same piece.

J. Gordon Holt  |  May 08, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1970  |  6 comments
Pentangle: The Pentangle
Terry Cox (drums), Bert Jansch & John Renbourn (guitars), Jacqui McShee (vocals), Danny Thompson (double bass), Shel Talmy, prod.
Transatlantic TRA162 (English LP), Reprise RSLP63 15 (US LP). TT: 30:52.

The first "pop" recording we've ever reviewed in Stereophile may set a precedent for future reviews if there are others that sound like this. To this untutored ear, the material is rock out of raga, but it is beautifully done and, except for the larger-than-life singer, the sound is almost shockingly good. No filthy fuzzed-up guitars here, and the pickup of the double-bass simply has to be heard to be believed. Get it, at least as a demo.

Robert Levine  |  Apr 20, 2018  |  2 comments
Monteverdi: Vespers 1610
Joanne Lunn, Esther Brazil, sopranos; Amy Lyddon, Rory McCleery, altos; Joshua Ellicott, Matthew Long, Nicholas Mulroy, Peter Harris, tenors; Peter Harvey, William Gaunt, bass; Dunedin Consort, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts; John Butt
Linn CKD 569 (2 CDs). 2017. Phil Hobbs, prod.; Robert Cammidge, eng. DDD. TT: 94:00
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

As the old joke does not go, How do you get to the Papal Chapel? Audition, audition, audition. There you are, gifted and, for the early 1600s, relatively famous. You practically invented opera. You've worked for years at what seems a cushy job as the court composer to the Dukes of Gonzaga in Mantua, but you're underpaid, and feeling as if you need and deserve more. And so you self-publish, under the title Vespers 1610, a 90-minute collection—psalm settings, a motet, a hymn, a Magnificat—that highlights all of your compositional gifts.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 10, 2018  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1971  |  1 comments
Early pre-recorded cassettes were so shockingly variable that reviews of their sound would have served no purpose. Some later ones are remarkably good, though. Following are some recordings that we have found to combine excellent performance and superb recordings, some on cassette as well as LP:
J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 03, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1972  |  5 comments
Lincoln Mayorga: Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues Vol.II
Lincoln Mayorga, arranger, harpsichord, piano.
Lincoln Mayorga, Doug Sax, prods.; Bill Schnee, eng.; Sherwood Sax, design engineer.
Sheffield Lab S-10 (LP).

Ever wonder just how much sound quality is lost by recording stuff on tape before making a disc? Here's your answer. This program of soft rock and cool jazz arrangements was recorded straight from studio to disc, and the sound is incredible! Suddenly, a veil that we never realized was there has been lifted, and we had the feeling we were listening to a direct-wire transmission rather than to a recording. We're not at all sure we will ever feel quite the same again about any. other recording, such is the dramatic difference in transparency and cleanness.

John Atkinson  |  Mar 20, 2018  |  29 comments
Radka Toneff & Steve Dobrogosz: Fairytales: Original Master Edition (MQA)
Odin LP03 (original LP, 1982); Odin CD9561 (24-bit/48kHz MQA-encoded FLAC file; Tidal Masters stream; hybrid MQA-CD; original sample rate 192kHz; 2017). Arild Andersen, prod. (1982, 2017); Andreas Risanger Meland, exec. prod. (2017); Tore Skille, Tom Sætre, original engs.; Svein Vatshaug, Rune Sund Nordmark, recorder restoration; Thomas Baårdsen, Geir Iversen, digital transfer of original tapes; Morten Lindberg, Peter Craven, Bob Stuart, digital restoration; Erik Gard Amundsen, technical advisor. DAA (original LP); DDD (MQA). Except: "My Funny Valentine," ADA (LP), ADD (MQA). TT: 40:11
Performance ******
Sonics ******

"See her how she flies . . ." When I first heard that lyric, from Jim Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," sung by a hauntingly fragile woman's voice and supported by a sparse yet lyrical piano accompaniment, at an audio show in 1983, I got chills. Who was this empathetic singer? Back in my cabaret-musician days, more than four decades ago, I backed so many singers with beautiful-sounding pipes but who didn't seem to comprehend the meaning of the words—yet this unknown woman directly communicated the song's emotion.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Mar 13, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1973  |  12 comments
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Vocalise
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Donald Johanos, cond.
Turnabout TV-54145S (LP). David B. Hancock, eng.; Tom Mowrey, Musical Supervision, Recording Director. TT: 41:18.

Not a new recording, and one that has already received raves in all the other audiophile publications, but if Stereophile is the only such magazine you read, you'd just better know about it, for this is the definitive symphonic recording to date.

William Marsh  |  Mar 06, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1974  |  2 comments
Chopin: Preludes, Op.28
Carol Rosenberger, piano. DED-15311.

Handel: Harpsichord Suites Nos.3 in d & 7 in g; Chaconne No.1 in G
Malcolm Hamilton, harpsichord. DEL-15322.

Scarlatti: sonatas, Vol.1.
Malcolm Hamilton, harpsichord. DEl-15321.

Szymanowski: Masques, Op.34; Etudes, Op.33; Four Etudes, Op.4
Carol Rosenberger, piano. DEL-15312.

Common to all: Amelia S. Haygood, executive producer; John Wright, Katja Andy, producers; Carson C. Taylor, engineer.

It is certainly cause for rejoicing when a new label appears that is dedicated to presenting fine artists not generally known, with recorded sound to enhance the performance. John Wright, producer for Delos records, has this philosophy and has kindly sent us four of their first five releases. The fifth will be a Schubert program played by Miss Rosenberger. The records we received were all well-produced, with fine pressings, good jacket photos, and excellent sleeve notes. Complete credits are given to the production staff on each jacket.

Robert Baird  |  Feb 13, 2018  |  8 comments
Willie Nelson: Stardust
Columbia/Analogue Productions AAPP 116-45 (2 45rpm LPs). 1978/2017. Booker T. Jones, prod.; Donivan Cowart, Bradley Hartman, engs.; Bernie Grundman, mastering. AAA. TT: 43:28
Performance *****
Sonics *****

In Nashville in the early 1960s, Willie Nelson hit his low point. He'd failed at singing and writing country music, and one snowy night, after a liberal drowning of his troubles at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, he decided to totter outside and lie down in the middle of Lower Broadway. In subsequent retellings of the tale, he's always maintained that he wasn't trying to kill himself. For that, he had a pistol.

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