Recording of the Month

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
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.

William Marsh  |  Feb 06, 2018  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1974  |  6 comments
Bax: Symphony No.5 in c sharp
London Philharmonic Orchestra; Raymond Leppard, conductor.
Musical Heritage Society MHS-1652 (LP, From Lyrita SRCS-58).

Sir Arnold Bax (1883–1953) completed his fifth symphony in 1932 and dedicated it to Sibelius. Its first performance was conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1934. Have any of our major orchestras ever played it? Not to my knowledge, and after over 40 years, it's about time. At least we have it on disc now, in addition to The Garden of Fand and Tintagel. Lyrita has even more Bax in their catalog.

Robert Baird  |  Jan 18, 2018  |  21 comments
Chopin's Last Waltz
Chopin: Ballade 4 in f, Op.52; Fantasie in f, Op.49; Mazurka in c-sharp, Op.63 No.3; Mazurka in f, Op.68 No.4; Nocturne in E-flat, Op.62 No.2; Prelude in c-sharp, Op.45; Valse in A-flat, Op.64 No.3
Robert Silverman, piano
IsoMike 5606 (LP). 2017. Available from Acoustic Sounds and other on-line retailers; DSD files available from NativeDSD, www.nativedsd.com. Ellen Silverman, prod.; Ray Kimber, Aaron Hubbard, engs. DDA TT: 50:05
Performance *****
Sonics *****

At the 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Ray Kimber was beginning to feel a little antsy. He'd just released his first LP, Chopin's Last Waltz, an all-Chopin program performed by pianist Robert Silverman, and while being part of the rush to re-embrace vinyl sounds great, pressing your first-ever long player can be a bit nerve-racking.

Paul Karagianis  |  Jan 02, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1975  |  5 comments
For a long time there, it seemed like anyone who walked into a good hi-fi shop and used the word "rock" and/or "bass" had a better-than-even chance of being "Lucky Man-ed" until his ears bled. I'm choosing Brain Salad Surgery as my favorite currently popular Rock offering partly because I've had it long enough to get over the first, transitory, blush of enjoyment, and mainly because most of the people I run into who have high-quality systems rate this group as one of the best. And EL&P come out with some very high-quality discs, making them the system demo group. I know of several expensive speaker systems that have been listed KIA as a result of several-hundred-watt amps and EL&P.
Robert Baird  |  Dec 21, 2017  |  12 comments
In 2010, down in the East Village, on Delancey Street, at the NYC debut party for Robert Plant's Band of Joy, the assembled rock press, assorted hangers-on, and wannabe VIPs patiently sipped drinks as we waited for the guest of honor. Suddenly, with no fanfare or even announcement, he stepped out of a closet or secret passage of sorts into a roomful of astonished smiles. He'd been there all along.
Paul Karagianis  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1975  |  6 comments
You have probably read speaker reports that suggested that you audition with natural sounds like clanking chains, storms, animals and other things that give an easy reference to live experience. The problem is that most sound-effects albums are a real bore, dominated by reject Walt Disney announcers with adenoid problems.
William Marsh, J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1975  |  0 comments
The King's Singers: A Contemporary Collection
Works by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, Paul Patterson
EMI EMD 5521 (UK LP). MMG Records MMG 1142 (US LP). 1975. Christopher Bishop, prod.

Astounding performances! Every piece here was commissioned by the King's Singers, those six English gentlemen whose vocal artistry surely has never been surpassed. The works here are by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson (recently appointed by HRH Elizabeth II to the post of Master of the Queen's Musick, succeeding the late Sir Arthur Bliss), Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, and Paul Patterson.

Pages

X