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

http://www.hraudio.net/showmusic.php?title=11728#reviews


Intro

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.

Content

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’.

Context

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.

Meaning

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.

Thank you

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.

 

Extremes…

 

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!

 

aaa_brendon_heinst

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!
Fascinating stuff!

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.

September 2016

Bert van der Wolf


Stylems: Italian Music from the Trecento

ENSEMBLE SYNTAGMA

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!


Devine absurdity…

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.

Rare performances…

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.


Grand Quintetto

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.

A Masterpiece

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


Album of the month, now 25% discount

OP, music from Oscar Pettiford by the Tony Overwater trio, Ack van Rooijen and Ernst Reijseger

DSD in it’s infant shoes

This month we’d like to present to you the digital release of one of the most special albums from our Turtle Records catalogue.
A recording from the first period of DSD recordings which we performed in collaboration with the Philips SACD team. As DSD was in it’s early stages we used prototype MOD (Magneto Optical Disc) recorders by AUGAN (Holland) which were able to put the raw DSD data down in combination with prototype dCS converters, but we needed an off line rendering process to perform any edits. This custom made rendering application was developed by the team of Philips Nat.Lab. Eindhoven for us on the basis of a so called EDL (edit decision list). We performed the edits in the studio in the PCM 192kS/s-24bit domain and the EDL was used to process the raw DSD format we delivered. This process of auditioning edits in DSD through PCM is often still the same these days, although in the more equivalent to DSD format DXD. Now all of this  is incorporated in standard workstation applications like Pyramix by Merging Technologies (CH), the company that recently introduced NADAC. Several of our early Turtle Records productions we recently re-mastered from the original DSD recordings, but this one is straight from the old Philips master.

OP won the most prestigious Dutch award in the business, the Edison Jazz award 2001

The Tony Overwater trio with wonderfull additions from the legendary Ack van Rooijen (flugelhorn) and Ernst Reijsiger (cello) who doesn’t need any introduction as well known ECM and Winter & Winter artist. A winning team and a well deserved Edison Award!


For over a hundred years the recorded arts have been tightly connected to and restricted by physical media and delivery formats. To obtain and enjoy a relatively high quality version of a musical performance, one had to turn to either a Vinyl record or a Compact Disc, and more recently to Super Audio CD and BLU-RAY disc. These formats have their limits however, both in bandwidth and maximum playing length and almost never can harbor the recording in its original quality.

The master recording compared to the delivery format…

The Spirit of Turtle has been producing all projects, from approximately the mid nineties of the last century and onwards, in a higher recording format than the traditional CD and later SACD. We recorded the first 192kS/s-24 production ever, soon complemented with DSD simultaneously in the workflow, and many productions do exist as such in our archive. From 2005 onwards all our work is frozen in the bits with 352,8kS/s-24bit (DXD). Also many recordings are produced in immersive surround, of which only several where released as such for the mainstream market at the time. Even SACD stayed a niche for many years, so few people had acces to the actual product as it was intended by the artists and producers. Most of our productions only reached the consumers as stereo in a relatively “low” resolution digital format.

dCS-Vivaldi-DAC_Front1NADAC-FrontRight2-White-Shadow

dCS Vivaldi                                                             Merging Technologies NADAC

No more limitations by physical media…

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 Digital to Analogue converter, with either USB and/or Ethernet I/O, to playback original master files in a wide range of formats. Of course, as always, quality also counts for this playback chain, but at least the possibilities are not restricted by a physical medium anymore, so everybody can have acces to the actual source of great recordings.

Instrumental in the development of digital converters…

The Spirit of Turtle staff have played an instrumental role for already longer then 25 years in the development and implementation of professional audio gear and digital converters in particular. We are long time consulting partners of Data Conversion Systems (UK) and Merging Technologies (SUI) and have been working on several professional and consumer converter models by both companies. Our workflow contains also dozens of units of both brands and we consider them as leading in the field because of their impeccable temporal response and natural timbral quality. For many years we have been distributing professional dCS gear on the mainland of Europe and from the summer of 2015 we are distributing NADAC by Merging Technologies in the Benelux. Both companies always have been close to each other with highly complementing products in professional audio and mutual respect.

Straight from our studio into your own living room…

We believe that, because we so extensively use these products in our workflow, dCS and Merging Technologies converters communicate our artistic craft the best by far and when you listen to our recordings through these units, you essentially can hear the same quality as we experience in the studio. This is rather special, seen the fact that for many years a master recording was quite distant from what the consumer would perceive in the living room. Now with NADAC and dCS converters you can have the music straight from our studio into your own living room in full immersive High Resolution quality!


Jaap van Zweden & The Spirit of Turtle

The Spirit of Turtle wants to congratulate Jaap van Zweden with his appointment as musical director of the renowned New York Philharmonic Orchestra! For many years we have been working together with the maestro, both at the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and The Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Texas USA and we have several fantastic productions with him directing in our catalogue, available as Hybrid SACD and High Resolution Download.

Album of the Month February, Bruckners 6th Symphony 25% discount

 The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden / Bruckner Symphony NO.6

To celebrate this fantastic news and incredible achievement we are offering all our titles with Jaap van Zweden for 10% discount and Bruckners 6th Symphony as a 25% discount. We trust you will be as thrilled about these performances as we are and we wish Jaap van Zweden all the best for his new adventures to come. The Spirit will always be in close range with Jaap van Zweden so we are heading for an exciting future!


This month, we’re in the winter season holiday Spirit!

What better than enjoying your favorite music, triggering dear memories from the past, and adding new music to your palette to create new memories for the future?

When it’s too dark and cold to be outdoors, snugging around the fire with a good glas of wine enjoying music recordings in the highest quality, by artists who have the ultimate gift to communicate their message through the timeless music of all the ages, past, present and future.

An abundance of titles with these qualities are available on our Spirit of Turtle platform which we would like you to discover, so during this holiday season, ending January 6th 2016, we are offering all our products with a 10% discount! Simply use the discount code “ hohoho ” at checkout and enjoy!

Click here to visit our Store!

May the Spirit be with you!
Bert and Brendon