SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Grooving Classics – A Strings & Percussion Fest! – Music of HAYDN, MOZART, OFFENBACH,STRAUSS JR., DVORAK & TCHAIKOVSKY – Harold Farberman cond. – First Impression Music
Published on December 20, 2006
This is a single disc, but I wanted to show both sides of the slipcase. Conductor, composer and percussion specialist Harold Farberman has created several percussion-oriented albums in the past for both F.I.M. and others. For this project he selected, arranged for and conducted both the all-female Colorado String Quartet and the innovative Ethos Percussion Group of four musicians who have integrated ethnic instruments and playing styles into Western chamber music. The percussionists have performed works of John Cage, Steve Reich and Lou Harrison, but this particular program is a bit more conservative.
However, the unusual instrumentation and arrangements are far from conservative, and add much interest to the program. The toying-around with Haydn’s famous theme in the first selection begin, for example, with the sound of a toy piano. The familiar Can Can features the distinctive metallic sound of the flexatone, and the New World Symphony theme is introduced by the sound of chimes. Ethnic Arabic instruments are used in the Arabian Dance of the Nutcracker excerpts. The encore selection on the disc is from an earlier Farberman album in which four percussionists are joined by the Northwest Sinfonietta.
Extensive notes in the bound album describe each selection and its background, give profiles of all the performers, and a technical section explains the recording approaches used by engineer Keith O. Johnson and editing engineer Tam Henderson – both borrowed from Reference Recordings. Properly miking and balancing the two entirely different ensembles of strings and percussion was a notable challenge. Separate digital and analog recordings were made – the former for this release and the latter for a later vinyl release. There is the usual explanation of the precise engineering advances made at each step of the disc mastering process which results in the xrcd24 product, which requires no decoder or special player to reproduce the highest resolution of which the standard 44.1K CD format is capable. It is a pleasure to have the other extensive notes, since so many JVC xrcds have none at all in English in spite of the premium price.
Sonics thruout are positively sparkling, with not only a wide soundstage in the horizontal plane but also with great front-to-back depth. My favorite was the Nutcracker arrangements, but all the tracks are great fun. I can imagine this disc will be heard in the halls of the Venetian at next month’s CES in Las Vegas – unless the general level of music chosen for auditioning by exhibitors has sunk even lower than previous shows.
– John Sunier