This High Definition Surround Recording was Produced, Engineered and Edited by Bert van der Wolf of NorthStar Recording Services, using the ‘High Quality Musical Surround Mastering’ principle. The basis of this recording principle is a realistic and holographic 3 dimensional representation of the musical instruments, voices and recording venue, according to traditional concert practice. For most older music this means a frontal representation of the musical performance, but such that width and depth of the ensemble and acoustic characteristics of the hall do resemble ‘real life’ as much as possible. Some older compositions, and many contemporary works do specifically ask for placement of musical instruments and voices over the full 360 degrees sound scape, and in these cases the recording is as realistic as possible, within the limits of the 5.1 Surround Sound standard. This requires a very innovative use of all 6 loudspeakers and the use of completely matched, full frequency range loudspeakers for all 5 discrete channels. A complementary sub-woofer, for the ultra low frequencies under 40Hz, is highly recommended to maximally benefit from the sound quality of this recording.
This recording was produced with the use of Sonodore microphones, Avalon Acoustic & Musikelectronic Geithain monitoring, Siltech Mono-Crystal cabling and dCS – & Merging Technologies converters.
[Bert van der Wolf is a distinguished Netherlands-based engineer/producer with over thirty years’ experience in developing and advancing high-resolution, multichannel classical recording. Recently he agreed to share his thoughts with us on a variety of topics.]
You have an extraordinarily wide range of experience within the industry. How did you get started on this path?
As a child I discovered I was quite good at playing musical instruments, first piano, later guitar, both classical and pop/jazz. I wanted to study at a conservatory after high school. However, my father encouraged me to consider something more reliable than music, because he felt the odds were against making a living in it. So I started out studying electrical engineering. After three years I got fed up with the culture at that school. I tried to apply at Polygram for an internship, but around then they started accepting only students from the Koninklijk Conservatorium’s recording department. I immediately decided to skip to the conservatory, but first I had to perform military service for a year. The rest is history! At the conservatory, I felt like a fish in the water and basically became a professional producer/engineer in two years, half the usual time needed for the course. I got an internship at Channel Classics and “fell with my nose in the butter,” as they say, because they were just starting the label. I recorded their first 100-plus productions, not to mention countless third-party jobs for other international labels.
What are your earliest memories of hearing good or bad records, of modifying equipment, developing musical values?
I remember listening to my first audio equipment, under my bed, with two different tube radio receivers; I had constructed my own proprietary stereo cartridge from what had been a mono Philips record player. It was magical, playing the records my parents got for free at Readers Digest, just as thrilling as today, when I enjoy good recordings and playback with high-resolution multi-channel immersive formats. The feeling was the same.
And from there?
At the conservatory I was immediately struck by the joy that radiated from the lessons of my most important teacher, Adriaan Verstijnen. His passion was contagious. Every so often I was permitted to follow him around and join at projects: he was working for Harlekijn Holland and Erato, recording Ton Koopman and The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and artists like Reinbert de Leeuw. Later, when I arrived at Channel Classics, I got a true baptism by fire: we did over 40 projects in the first year and a half. Channel always put quality first on its agenda, so I had to perform from Day 1 at the highest level. Luckily I stayed and did well, and many musicians crossed my path.
Your video from dCS (click here) reminds us of the early days of digital and how it “grew up.” What’s your 21st-century perspective?
We now have a much better knowledge of digital, how it differs from analog and how it became mature to a level that exceeds the best analog. Furthermore, the development of digital mixing tools, the enormous DSP power of edit engines and various plug-ins for reverb, delay, and more have multiplied our options for creativity in the editing and mastering room. That adds a lot to the magic and makes it more likely to communicate exactly what musicians intend to transmit onstage.
What problems remain?
The biggest problem is that digital sound, offering ultra-high resolution, often shoots past the reality of life. An ultra-high-definition TV can show a picture that does not exist in real life. You can zoom in on a fly on the wall at 60 yards and see its eyeballs if you want. In audio it sometimes feels as if transparency and dynamics have been overexposed—exaggerated, really—within the mix. High End now implies a move toward unrealistic transparency and projection from all angles of the soundstage, encouraged by equipment that enables this. But real life has logical blurs around the focal point—a point that should, in contrast, be very high-res!
Perhaps that’s how our brains typically handle live music. Somehow we choose a focal point, and everything else goes into soft focus. Does ultra-resolution work against this?
It’s not necessarily ultra-resolution that’s the problem, it is how engineers react to the new possibilities it offers. In the past, when the best technology captured less information, engineers tended to over-gather data, placing equal emphasis (or worse, over-emphasis) on all aspects of the potential mix. Then, to compensate for the lack of visual and other sensory information (the data our sight, skin, and scent collect at live performances), they created layers—depth of field—via supporting microphones, EQ, and dynamic alterations. They could offer focal points everywhere simultaneously, often incoherent in imaging and perspective.
Remember when HDTV came out? By capturing more information, the new visual transparency revealed too much of the actors’ make-up. This changed the “grime departments” at television shows forever, and vastly complicated the tasks of set decoration, lighting, and more. With ultra-resolution audio, engineers now have to come up with more subtle accents, more sophisticated mixes. That has not happened across the board. Timbres, transients, and imaging are still being overproduced, as if high-res did not exist; the make-up is showing. Analog—and DSD, in a way—comes with a nice layer of “lingerie,” a term I use for differences between real life and the “ultimate/naked” truth of high-resolution audio.
Sounds like you’re saying “a veil should not be lifted.”
Going back to cruder formats like analog tape or vinyl is certainly not the solution. I am experimenting with unique microphone setups to create a holographic image of the event with interactive transparency: finding elements in the mix that invite the listener’s engagement. I do not want to present everything on a platter. Many mixes are like McDonalds, where you get exactly what you expected. It’s consistent and in that sense “professional,” but ultimately it lacks mystery. With haute cuisine, a diner expects to seek out subtly blended ingredients, discerning their presence within the meal’s gestalt. When you listen to a good holographic recording of an orchestra, the total soundscape should grip you without anything seeming isolated or exaggerated. If a mix focuses on bits and pieces—all the individual sounds, all the moments, with pin-point accuracy—you get recognizable high-res, but not music.
When you plan a recording session, what are your priorities?
Most important is to create an environment in which musicians can reach their optimal potential. This will be different for every artist, but in general I strive to make the experience inspirational and engaging. My contribution is only a tool; it must never become an obstacle. I am most happy if musicians start talking music immediately after hearing the first take. This means the sound is not blocking their process; it’s just another instrument we must play.
In an engineering/producing relationship with an artist, who chooses whom? What is the basis for a good working partnership?
Many artists know how to find me, and they ask labels to hire me, or they hire me themselves. Challenge also encourages musicians to work with me if they feel the project will benefit from my style. The secret to creating a good partnership is to find the artist’s ultimate strength and put the emphasis on that very aspect!
How do your methods differ from what other engineers do?
I wouldn’t know; I am never there! I do think we all need similar assortments of temperament and skill. This profession is a killer. Some people make it, some leave; there are always others ready to take over your job. I am still here after thirty years—twenty years as an independent!—so it’s clear some musicians appreciate my work.
Has your setup changed in the last ten years?
Not much. I began working in DXD (352kHz/24bit) in 2005 and developed my proprietary (HQMM) microphone matrix system around then too. Because dCS unfortunately left the pro community, I have moved toward Merging Technologies for AD/DA hardware. I still work occasionally with dCS on consumer products, but their systems are no longer compatible with current standards and demands in pro audio. The most striking development for the industry overall has been audio-over-IP, a true blessing for us, incredibly flexible, high-quality digital I/O that cuts out a lot of destructive digital processes we once had to deal with.
You created Turtle Records two decades ago. How?
It was a chance meeting with Harry van Dalen at Rhapsody Sound in Hilversum, Holland. I was distributing dCS converters on the European mainland and he wanted to do a 96/24 recording with a Nagra-D and a dCS 904. I went to his place and found a stunning shop with playback tools that I did not know of. High End!! I was mesmerized, and Harry had many of my recordings, which I suddenly heard with “new glasses on.” Our ideas about sound and the business were strikingly similar, mine from the source—the recording world—his from the playback side in consumer audio, so the very same evening we decided to start something together. I would supply the infrastructure for recording, he the network in High End and his knowledge of true high-end equipment. And so Turtle Records® was born.
I am proud of the high standard we established in the first few years. People are still talking about it! With five partners, however, it was difficult to make it go as a business—perhaps impossible. Since 2008 the label has been completely mine, so maybe that will make it less impossible; I hope so! My other company, Edison Production Company BV, now harbors Turtle.
How did your relationship with Challenge Records develop, and how does it currently work?
Back in my Channel Classics days I was hired to do location recordings for Challenge. When I became an independent producer/engineer, they began hiring me on a regular basis. At some point they discovered my High End network and found a consistent difference in quality and USP whenever I led a project. Eventually Challenge created a brand for my productions, “HQ|NORTHSTAR by Bert van der Wolf,” and put it on the cover, much to my embarrassment; later on I started to appreciate the benefits. Because of the immense trust I received from my buddies at Turtle and the folks at Challenge, the HQ|NORTHSTAR brand is thriving and has become a solid platform for many artists. I also reserve the right to release those productions as part of my personal portfolio on www.spiritofturtle.com.
How else did you develop yourself on the business end?
For years I switched around between hardcore producer/engineer, label manager, and hardware sales/marketing (dCS, Sonodore, Avalon Acoustics Pro, Siltech, others) for High End brands worldwide. That gave me an edge over those who did only one thing, so I got job offers in many adjacent businesses.
Did that surprise you?
I was more surprised by the time lag in consumer response and awareness of my work. It was thirty years before I started to notice more interest. I have just been doing my job, not spending much energy on activities like showing up at award shows or (even) applying for them with productions. Lately things have drifted into new waters; I am doing many more audio shows and interviews in online magazines like this one. Of course, my discography encompasses about 600 recordings, so perhaps it was time for people to start noticing. I still have much to learn about the process.
Well, you’d better love it so much that you have to do it, otherwise it is way too hard!
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing independent producers like you and work like yours in the next 20 years?
It’s the changes in how people consume music. Already it is like water from the tap rather than an exclusive, valuable product.
It’s priceless in the wrong sense.
Exactly. Collecting and fairly distributing revenues is a real challenge for the industry, but if it is not settled soon, many will not survive. Not even me, I’m afraid. My method has always been to build a profile at the highest technical and artistic level. My wife used to ask me, “why can’t good be good enough for once?” But I was convinced that only spectacular is good enough to stay alive. It can be a burden both economically and emotionally. The investments in equipment and time have been staggering.
Will you recommend one or two of your most recent projects?
I am extremely proud of the integral Prokofiev symphonies for Challenge with James Gaffigan and The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. Also my Bruckner with Jaap van Zweden and the NRPO (Challenge CC72702); Symphonies 1, 3, 6, and 8 are of similar caliber. The Turtle 25th Anniversary album I did for dCS (booklet here, downloads here or here) encompasses several genres and is a very fine example of what I am happy to give the world.
Bert van der Wolf, thanks again for sharing your thoughts. How’s your tennis these days?
Still playing, still coaching! Music and tennis can be quite similar, you know: timing is everything.
“The Spirit of Turtle Records®”was set free on a Summers eve in 1997. Although we had never met before, Harry van Dalen of “Rhapsody Sound Masters” and I were aware of each others work and in a sign of projects to follow, it was over the use of a dCS analogue to digital converter that I visited Harry’s store in Hilversum, Holland.
As Harry and I talked about music and recording it soon became clear that our ideas and visions about recording and reproducing music of all styles were so strikingly similar, that it felt like we had found our soulmate in sound and performance.
A new record label with a revolutionary scope
By the end of this chance encounter we were both convinced that we had to start something together in the music business and out of this positive energy a new record label was born with only one objective: “to capture the musical message of a real live performance, translating it into the frozen bits of a recording, and then translate it back such that the essence of this performance is communicated to the listener without any loss of detail and emotion.”
“Only the Music”
Like the dCS slogan: only the music…we wanted to create a gateway between the performer and the listener which, in the best case, appears not even to be there. Furthermore an approach of no compromise and unconditional effort to reach “the optimum” under all circumstances. This motto perfectly describes our shared vision for music recording and playback and we both realised it could only be achieved by combining great musical performers with state of the art equipment and revolutionary recording techniques. We knew from our own experience that the essence of a magic musical moment in a real world event is often lost in translation by porting it into the virtual world of loudspeakers, only firing pockets of pressurized air, but we were determined to get it right all the way through the electronic chain and during the creative process of working with the artists.
High End audio implemented at the source
Myself and my partners at Kompas CD Multimedia had great experience in professional recording tools and producing techniques and allied to the knowledge Harry and Martin Odijk from More Music had gained from many years in High End consumer audio. This gave us a unique opportunity to join forces and benefit from each other’s talents and connections. This synergy quickly led to a truly “High End” recording philosophy which still might be one of the best around and forms the basis for all recordings we do. They all are shaped after this first “blueprint” and carry the signature of “The Spirit of Turtle Records®”. It is due to the talent and combined effort of the people from the first hour that “The Spirit” became such a powerful guide for the path of the future.
A true Time Machine
Recent advances in mastering technology mean that the original “impulse responses” of halls and rooms can now be digitally sampled in high resolution and this along with the availability of digital techniques to shape the images and colours in a recording, have allowed us to breathe new life into Turtle tracks that originally were only available in stereo. Interestingly enough these tracks now give us the same emotional response as the stereo version did 20 years back, whilst the latter is more of a great memory. As if one steps into a time machine, the remasters and surround version somehow turn the sweet Memory into the actual feel of the Present we found!
A chaque fois l’écoute est d’un réalisme bluffant.
Bon, bon, bon , …
voilà, je me suis pris une claque magistrale aujourd’hui
Pour une fois il ne s’agit pas de “matos” (bien qu’il ait toute son importance), mais d’un procédé de restitution.je vous plante le décor :
Me voilà en route vers la Hollande pour rechercher mon NADAC qui vient d’être up-grader (encore un produit exceptionnel dont je dois vous parler …). J’avais fait le choix de faire six heures de routes pour une bonne raison. En effet, le distributeur pour le Bénélux de ce produit est un pro du son. Il est ingénieur du son, il possède son studio et en plus son label ! Il n’en fallait pas plus pour me convaincre de faire la route. Mais, car il y a un “mais”, il y a une cerise sur le gâteau ! Hmmm, j’avais remarqué que le studio n’était pas équipé de façon traditionnelle… Et en effet ! Me voilà dans une pièces ou trône des enceintes AVALON, des amplificateurs SPECTRAL et même des câbles audiophiles !!! Heeee, je suis bien dans un studio, “oui monsieur”, ok … Il est vrai que les enceintes AVALON ont un gros potentiel. Je m’étais intéressé au produit avant de prendre TIDAL. J’ai préféré la maitrise de la céramique et de la filtration des produits TIDAL par rapport à Avalon, mais cela reste un sacré produit ! Quant à SPECTRAL, c’est vraiment pas donné, mais voilà encore une très belle référence ! la question était au bord de mes lèvres, pourquoi ce choix par rapport au matériel “classique” de studio. La réponse est bien entendu logique, pour la transparence de restitution ! Il ne voulait pas se “brider” lui-même. Seul ce genre de produit ou quelques produits de studio très haut de gamme pouvait lui donner la transparence et la dynamique nécessaire à ses enregistrements. Il me signale au passage que beaucoup de studios ne peuvent s’équiper de ce genre de système pour des raisons économiques ! C’est cher, très très cher … C’est un choix stratégique et de vie que Bert, (puisqu’il s’agit de son prénom), à fait. Ne pas s’axer uniquement sur la rentabilité, mais se faire plaisir et développer son métier bien équipé. Croyez-moi j’avais la banane de voir ce studio équipé en High end jusqu’aux câbles ! Petite précision, il travaille avec du câble High-end pour certains de ses micros. Il ne peut pas le faire pour tous, (même s’il le voudrait), mais pour lui la différence est importante !
Très très loin de la caricature, cette façon d’enregistrer et de reproduire la musique est juste exceptionnelle.
Me voilà dans la chaise du “chef” avec un système 5.1 prêt à en découdre ! Un système 5.1 !???
Nous plongeons au coeur du sujet. Bert réalise des enregistrements en multicanaux. Très sincèrement j’ai eu des craintes. Je m’attendais à une caricature comme certains enregistrements de concerts en Blu-ray. Mais il ne faut pas 30 secondes au NADAC pour distiller ses signaux pour se rendre compte que nous sommes devant une écoute exceptionnelle !!! Très très loin de la caricature, cette façon d’enregistrer et de reproduire la musique est juste exceptionnelle.
Très sincèrement, la seule fois que j’ai entendu un “truc” pareil, c’était au concert live !!!
Ce procédé apporte un naturel, une aération, un rendu 3D et une dynamique à couper le souffle. En fait, cela permet de créer l’ambiance sonore du concert avec les petites réverbérations des salles. Du coup, vous avez une écoute qui est complètement décontractée. Elle vous semble très naturelle, votre cerveau ne doit pas travailler pour “recomposer” comme avec un système stéréo. J’ai écouté des enregistrements de grosses orchestrations, un concert jazz enregistré dans un café mais aussi l’enregistrement d’un instrument seul. A chaque fois l’écoute est d’un réalisme bluffant. Là, pour le coup, je me demande si je vais pas faire le pas ! Ok, il faut un sacré matériel, mais le jeu en vaut la chandelle !
je vous invite à visiter le site de Bert : https://www.spiritofturtle.com/?v=d3dcf429c679 . Vous aurez toutes les informations. Sachez que vous y trouverez un “shop” ou vous pouvez acheter les fichiers un PCM ou DSD en stéréo ou 5.1 ! Il est aussi possible d’acheter des SACD.
La magie de ce système tient aussi dans le système de décodage réalisé par le NADAC http://nadac.merging.com . Si vous rechercher un DAC de haut niveau ou un système de streaming, ce produit peut très certainement vous intéressé ! Sachez que vous pouvez l’écouter dans mon auditorium, mais nous pouvons aussi réaliser des écoutes dans le studio de Bert si l’idée se précise !
For an artist a review like this is such a huge source of inspiration!
Marc van Roon: Inventions & Variations
Review by Mark Werlin – January 3, 2017
Classical listeners will appreciate the thoughtful treatment of Bach’s themes, and jazz listeners with open ears will enjoy the skillful work of an accomplished modern pianist in this inventive set of new music.
The presentation of 18th-century forms in a modern context can illuminate the long path of development of newer music—the piano preludes of Shostakovich are one example. But recording an album of spontaneous jazz improvisations inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s keyboard music is a risky proposition. In decades past, baroque and early classical music was reinterpreted with varying degrees of success by the Swingle Singers, the Jacques Loussier Trio, and the pianist and radio host Marian McPartland, whose Bach-inspired contrapuntal arrangement of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” was an audience favorite. The artistic risk lies in the possibility that a hybrid of ancient themes and modern forms may fail to bridge the distance that separates them.
Pianist-composer Marc van Roon builds such a bridge on the strong foundations of conservatory studies and considerable experience of jazz improvisation and composing. “Inventions & Variations” presents a rewarding journey to Bach lovers and jazz aficionados alike.
The keyboard works of J.S. Bach, his English and French Suites, Well-Tempered Klavier and keyboard concertos, course through the fingers of many contemporary jazz pianists. But does that music lend itself to jazz interpretation? Pianist Marc van Roon has something different in mind. More than half of the pieces in the set bear little resemblance to themes or forms of Bach. In the liner notes van Roon explains:
“I have labeled those improvisations that are closer to the text and score as variations and those improvisations that emerge more spontaneously… as inventions.”
In his “inventions” Van Roon is creating new European jazz with a greater than usual acknowledgment of historical antecedents—and not all of those antecedent composers lived in the 18th century.
Track 13, invention eight, played almost entirely as sustained block chords, shifts total centers freely, more Second Vienna School than Collegium Musicum Leipzig. Track 15, invention nine, draws on the harmonic language of Debussy and Messiaen and incorporates a climactic phrase that recalls the opening movement cadenza of Prokofiev’s second piano concerto.
The Bach-inspired variations do artistic justice both to the old maestro and his modern disciple. In contrast to French clarinetist Louis Sclavis, who intentionally performed acts of ‘violence’ on themes of Bach’s contemporary Jean-Phillipe Rameau (“Les Violences de Rameau” ECM 1996), van Roon doesn’t treat the material as grist for aggressive deconstruction, but more as a point of departure for thoughtful and meditative discourses. He doesn’t overly linger on familiar themes before developing his personal variations.
Marc van Roon performs on a 1925 Steinway that has been in his family’s care for more than a half century. This piano has a warm tone that is well suited to the baroque-inflected variations and to the modernistic inventions.
Producer-engineer Bert van der Wolf, known for his recordings of classical music on the Challenge Classics label, brings the same technical skill and aesthetic judgment to his recordings of contemporary jazz music. “Inventions and Variations” was recorded at a favorite site, Evangelisch Lutherse Kerk Haarlem in the Netherlands. The same location was used for Marc Van Roon’s previous record with his trio, Marc van Roon Trio: Quantum Stories, and the remarkable Tony Overwater Trio: Jungle Boldie. Presentation of the piano is neither too close nor too far, and clearly situated in a real acoustic space with a three-dimensional quality that DSD recording technology brings to home listening.
Copyright © 2017 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net
For me, these recordings are a dream come true. They represent the culmination of almost five decades of exploring, playing, performing, contemplating, constructing, deconstructing, searching, researching, reflecting, engaging in conversations, jamming, sense-mak- ing, traveling, instructing, sharing, dreaming and being.
For a long time I desired to allow myself full immersion in this genuine kind of improvi- sational exploration with its invitation to let go of habitual patterns and grooves and to resonate more deeply with the music and her deep generative source; a source that expresses itself in silence and sound so infinitely mysterious.
Recording this music has been an invitation to improvise on a tightrope, letting go of preconceived design and trained artistic conceptualisations and has been a journey to the edge of technique and control with a strong refusal to repeat myself and an keen interest in taking risk and explore unknown territory.
As an underlying framework I choose to use the printed keyboard scores of Johann Sebastian Bach. A pile of books with his iconic music has been on my grand piano for many years and enriched my life hugely.
With an enormous sense of awe, gratitude and respect for the depth and genius of the original text I felt inspired to be using this material in a different way and I became cu- rious to know how I could break away from the dogmatic or limiting dominant concepts about its performance, and opening up to its many playful creative possibilities. I started to enter the unknown and explore various ways in which I could interpret texts more freely, use more imagination, connect with the material in a more personal, intuitive and spontaneous way, and to play with it and have fun with it. I explored ways to filter Bach’s 18th century texts through the lens of an 21st century im- provising jazz pianist with a passion for – and training in – classical, jazz, pop and world music.
During the recording process I arranged all my Bach books around me, some on the pi- ano and some on the floor, some far, some near. Wherever my eyes fell on Bach’s texts I found inspiring symbols to play with; notes, phrases, themes, colours, chords, letters, numbers, cadenzas, structures, rhythms, patterns, shapes, ideas, pages turned upside down, patterns to read backwards and empty white space between the notes. Some of these themes I interpreted more strict but mostly I entertained their suggestive possibilities quite freely. I have labelled those improvisations that are closer to the text and score as ‘Variations’ and those improvisations that emerged more spontaneously and are more loosely coupled with the original symbols as ‘Inventions’.
I am very grateful to Spirit of Turtle director Bert van der Wolf. His friendship, great skill and artistic recording philosophy made it possible to record this music under the most professional and ideal circumstances. He is a magician who can surpass time and space. When I listen to Bert’s high quality recordings the previously recorded room becomes my
experiential space in the present moment. The previously recorded sound becomes alive in my room as if it is happening right there. For me, he is the secret key keeper of an invisible audio time machine.
Bert and I spent three days connecting, improvising, and sharing in the warm atmosphere and rich acoustics of the Lutheran Church in the city of Haarlem in The Netherlands. This stimulating acoustic environment has been superbly caught in these recordings which makes it possible for the listener to have a direct and intimate experience of the creative process as if one is actually present in the church during the recordings. This adds very much to the sensation of the energetic and acous- tic ‘aliveness’ one can get while listening to this CD.
For these recordings I brought my own 1925 Steinway Grand Piano to the church. This instrument never fails to guide me on my creative explorations and has become an inspiring teacher and critical friend. This instrument has a rich history. At first the Steinway belonged to Everhard van Beijnum, brother of Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra conductor Eduard van Beijnum. My grandmother, who was a classical pianist, was taught by Everhard at the Conservatory on this Steinway piano which she obtained at a later stage from his inheritance in 1957. And when my grand- mother passed away the Steinway came to me. That is how I became the third temporary caretaker and user of the beautiful instrument that you can listen to in such a special way on this album.
My journey in life has brought me to the point where I can start connecting being an improvising musician with my medita- tion practice and with facilitating creative social interventions for groups and leaders in transformative development processes. To me, all three contexts seem to deal with the dynamic process of making sense of reality as we experience it and all three contexts deal with constructing meaning from the interpretation of symbolic representations that we design collaboratively; a shared dynamic process that co-emerges from a deep foundation that is in origin and source the nameless, formless, inexpressible silent
emptiness that encompasses all and comes prior to everything and nothing. This theme has provided me for many years with an enriching horizon to travel closer to and is in essence an underlying theme of this CD.
I notice that people in our times are searching for new stories to help them to give meaning and direction to their lives and to the fast changing circumstances in a better, more just, loving and sustainable way. With these recordings I wish to offer a social paradigm and present this music as an illustration of the creative process in which old texts with all their richness, value and quality can effectively connect with, and contribute to the construction of, better narratives with richer plots. This suggestion can inspire us in dis- covering fresh perspectives, in finding new ways for interpretation, and in making sense out of our daily experience, assisting us in our search for a good, sustainable and just life in connection to ourselves, each other and our environment. These improvisations can serve as an analogy for how we can creatively connect the pre-composed orchestrated with the improvised ‘Jazz’ of life to which we are continuously being invited, and which is a
‘Jazz’ that encompasses and integrates both the sorrowful blues and the joyful swing of Jazz and life.
I am so very grateful to be given the opportunity to record my improvisations in this inspiring ambience with its superb recording conditions and to bring new music out there to the listeners. Thank you for your interest in my sonic improvisational snapshots and explorations at this moment in life.
Marc van Roon, September 2016
Almost 400 versions of The 4 Seasons….what’s new?
With considerable pride we present you a new version of the most famous music on our planet! “The 4 Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi, played by Gunar Letzbor and his Ars Antique Austria…
As many with us, we were in some doubt about recording this music yet again, a 3rd time for me, so I was anxious to know what this recording would bring. I must admit that I was hardly prepared for what was about to come! It must be said however that this probably is the first 4 seasons recording done in AURO-3D 9.1 as well! This means the “standard” 5.1 surround, but than with 4 “hight” channels added. This creates a rather complete immersive experience of the ensemble in this magnificent hall. Great fun here in the studio.
As Gunar Letzbor has explained to us in detail in his motivation for this recording, which probably is almost the 400th version to be available, this music is a typical example of Catholic Baroque, which is based on communicative “Images” which are portrayed in a theatrical fashion. This as opposed the Reformed Baroque performances, like the music of Bach, in which “the holy Word” is the most important parameter, i.e. less theatrical.
Ars Antiqua Austria takes this given fact to the extreme in Vivaldi’s master piece by putting all the music fully in the service of what is to be portrayed and communicated, nature itself in this case, and this has made this music, maybe chewed on e few times to often in general, completely fresh again. One can never speak of a definitive version, but it will be hard to top this one in my humble opinion! It will not be everybody’s cup of tea for sure, but man oh man, it was great fun working on it!
True Baroque environment….
We recorded the music in a large Baroque style hall, the “Sommer Refektorium” in the Stift of St. Florian, Austria. This is a dinner hall that the monks use during hot evenings in summer, whereby all the ceiling high windows are fully open, so as if dining outdoors. The acoustic of this hall is very generous and all that is happening outside this hall, for instance in the adjacent gardens, is clearly audible all the time. In this case these noises have become a substantial part of this recording of the famous 4 seasons! The fact that the weather during the sessions changed from a gentle 24 degrees to minus 5(!) within 4 days, with a real snow storm during our drive home only made things more imaginative to us;-)
Theatre with suggestive images…
A few examples for you to carefully listen to, and to me completely revealing in the basic idea of this music:
– An extreme live like “Spring” with birds and immense joyous blossoming of flowers and plants in nature.
You will find the birds in the adjacent garden singing in sync with the birds in the music. Lovely!
– In the second movement a sleepy person (solo violin), ever so often almost falling asleep, lies beside a small stream (monotonous accompanying violins), whilst 2 dogs are barking “out of sync” in the background (viola). Very funny at times, but yes; dogs don’t bark in the rhythm of music;-)
– An almost Ennio Morricone like “Once upon a time in the West” atmosphere followed in “Summer”, portraying the heat trembling above the fields, whereby every time I hear the mysterious Lute of Hubert Hoffmann in the back tinkling like a wind harp, I think of the Fender Telecaster electrical guitar in this movie theme…This is what our modern ears do, with all the musical knowledge of centuries after Vivaldi, but yes this does create exactly the feeling of the hottest summer ever, and for sure this feeling was the same for the people in those days…
– Than follows the most thunderous hail storm I ever heard being played by a couple of string instruments!! You can see the trees bent over almost ripped out of the ground. Gunar waisted 2 bows during this session which was scheduled as last, just because:-) Very nice detail is the sound of the bells of St. Florians church next door, clearly audible during and after the track, as if they had to be there, warning people for the deadly storm, thunder and lightning, causing fires all over the place!!
– The very “farmeresque” scene in “autumn” by the land people, rather clumsy dancing, celebrating their successful harvest, getting wildly drunk and afterwards sleep out their intoxication..
– A most delightful seen in “Autumn”, where a vigorous hunting scene is portrayed in the 3rd movement. You can clearly imagine the frightened and suddenly fleeing deers, the unsettling gun shots of the hunting party (slapping Bas) and the lamenting song of a dying animal at the end of the movement. I assure you, you never heard this movement like this although recorded hundreds of times!
– Than there is the unforgivingly cold winter where all molecules seem to come to a stand still and where all covered in ice starts to crack and break…The score of the music is literally stretched out by AAA in double bars ever so often and the sound of the strings and bows is like icicles! Again the church bells sound blows in the wind over the icy plane before a final snow blizzard erases all evidence of life.
All in all, this 4 seasons leaves you in shock and awe when all images have been engraved in your system!
Oh,….and than there is also a very nice encore with a violin concerto by Frantisek Jiránek, a guy that Vivaldi supposedly met at some occasion and where on that moment this composition was apparently performed.
Bert van der Wolf
Stylems: Italian Music from the Trecento
Future proof recording philosophy…
From approximately the mid-nineties of the last century and onwards, The Spirit of Turtle has been producing all projects in a higher recording format than the traditional CD and/or SACD. We even recorded the first 192kHz-24 bits production ever, a test project for SAMSUNG, soon complemented with DSD simultaneously in the workflow, and many productions exist as such in our archive. From 2005 onwards all our work is frozen in the bits at 352,8kHz 24bits DXD. Also many recordings are produced in immersive surround, of which actually only several were released as such for the mainstream market at the time. Even SACD stayed a niche for many years, so few people have had acces to the actual product as it was intended. Most of our productions only reached the consumers as stereo in a relatively “low” resolution digital format.
No restrictions by physical medium…
Now all that is changing rapidly with the possibility of downloading audio files and playing them with highly flexible and ergonomically clever designed media players. In essence one only needs a decent PC and a relatively modern D/A-converter, with either USB and/or Ethernet, to play original master files in a wide range of formats. Of course, as always, the inherent quality also counts for this playback chain, but at least the possibilities are not restricted by a physical medium, so everybody can have acces to the original source of great recordings.
First time releases in High Resolution stereo and 5.1 surround…
We would like to present to you the first 3 of many productions to come which only appeared as traditional CD when released initially. Two productions with the magnificent Isabelle van Keulen and Ronald Brautigam with music for violin and piano by Grieg, Elgar, Sibelius, Respighi, Strauss & Rota and Ensemble Syntagma with “Stylems”, Italian Music From The Trecento, both now all in High Resolution PCM and DSD formats and in 5.1 Surround.
May The Spirit be with you!
Maestro James Gaffigan described the symphonic music of Sergei Prokofiev as “a combination of absurdity and the Divine”…The music developing and shifting between poetic and mellow sceneries, easy to the ear, into crushing, even frightening mechanical violence and all this with the most imaginative orchestral instrumentations.
007 Avant la lettre…
The amount of references to Prokofiev’s symphonic music in the traditional 007 James Bond movies are numerous! It is fair to say that his music has been a major inspiration for the producers and film composers and set the tone for the whole franchise. It speaks for the genius Prokofiev that his music has such strength and appeal that so many musical fragments have been copied almost literally.
Working with the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra and James Gaffigan on these recordings is a real treat and we feel proud to be part of this 3 year adventure. All the symphonies, even the second version of the fourth, and all carefully rehearsed and performed on multiple occasions to make this document as good as possible. Strangely enough not many versions are available of this music, but they deliver a true audiophile experience.
The first volume of this series symphonies, symphonies NO. 3&4, has ended in the top 50 of best recordings of 2015! We are excited to present to you volume 2 featuring symphony NO. 6 & 7.
Mozart’s famous Gran Partita, well known from the pivotal scene in the film Amadeus, in a wonderful arrangement for Oboe quartet and Fortepiano by a contemporary fellow musician C.F.G. Schwenke.
“It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God…”
These words, spoken by Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, fictional though they may be, are nevertheless accurate in conveying the fascination continuously inspired by the work they refer to.
Originally for 13 wind instruments…
The report, written by the critic Johann Friedrich Schink in his Literarische Fragmente:
‘Today I have heard a ‘musique’ for wind instruments, in four movements, by Herr Mozart—sumptuous and magnificent! It called for 13 instruments, viz. four horns, two oboes, two bassoons, two clarinets, two basset horns, a double bass, and at each instrument sat a master. Oh! What power! How sumptuous, noble, magnificent!’
…now for a Quintet
In order to replace the thirteen instruments of the original version, Schwencke chose to combine two new complementary media emblematic of this period of chamber music: the fortepiano and the oboe quartet. Indeed, the second half of the 18th century saw the advent of new instruments alongside the emergence of new musical genres. The fortepiano differs from its predecessor, the harpsichord, in that it uses a mechanism of hammered instead of plucked strings, resulting in a greater dynamical range. What today is called the Classical oboe has only two keys, like the Baroque oboe, but distinguishes itself from the latter through its narrower bore and smaller holes. As a result, the Classical oboe is characterized by an easier and more extended upper register and a sonority that can in turn be soft, light, clear or pungent. These expressive sound qualities, particularly adapted to the role given to the oboe in the emerging genre of the symphony, were also fully exploited in a new type of chamber music: the oboe quartet. A younger sibling to the string quartet, it combined the oboe with a string trio composed of a violin, a viola and a cello. This genre succeeded those of the sonata with basso continuo, and the trio sonata, which both fell into disuse. Almost two hundred oboe quartets were composed in Europe between 1760 and 1800. Together with the Harmoniemusik, they embody the essence of chamber music written for the oboe during that period.
Schwencke’s arrangement is a masterpiece of orchestration, a rendering of the original score that is both faithful and richly coloured. He did not merely transcribe the material from one instrument from the version for thirteen to another from the quintet. The melodic material has been ingeniously redistributed amongst the different parts, resulting in particularly varied sound combinations. While the bassoon solos inevitably occur in the cello, or in the left hand of the piano, the oboe, clarinet and basset-horn phrases are variously attributed to the oboe, violin, viola or piano, depending on the circumstances. In addition to its melodic role, the piano naturally ensures harmonic support, thereby ef ciently replacing the four horns and the double bass of the original version.
Quatuor Dialogues is Vinciane Bauduin, Ronan Kernoa, Annelies Decock & Mika Akiha