3 Sonic Arts LPs; 2 Kates Cello + Cleve. Teldec vinyl LP Records
Set number one in our SAC 3-fer series includes three the superb Sonic Arts classical LP’s. These audiophile LP’s were recorded by Golden State Recorders and Mastered by Sonic Arts. Under the stewardship of San Francisco’s legendary Leo De Gar Kulka, GSR and SAC were home to famous famous performances and recordings that ran the gamut from George Cleve to Janis Joplin to Turk Murphy.
Mr. Kulka’s Laboratory Series records featured a realistic sounding, “live” recordings beautifully recorded direct in stereo to Sony PCM without effects or processing, and through a simple, pristine signal chain, precision mastered using a Neumann VMS-70 lathe. The LP’s were manufactured to the highest standards by Teldec in West Germany, with first rate packaging and detailed liner notes. We are proud to being you these superb vinyl recordings -- great values on original, mint records from the SAC Lab Series Catalog.
You get these 3 records, mint, in the original shrink wrap:
SAC Lab Series #27
Stephen Kates, Cello and Carolyn Pope Kobler, Piano - “Famous French Composers”. The lovely performances, superbly recorded, include Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano (1st Movement), The Girl With The Flaxen Hair, and Clair de lune, Ravel’s En Forme de Habanera, Sicilienne by Faure, and Messaien’s Louange a l’eternite de Jesus. Recorded in 1981, pressed in West Germany by Teldec, in original box.
Any duo requires a certain intimacy between the performers or it just does not work. This Sonic Arts digital direct to disk release focuses on the narrow: One Montagnana cello and one Bosendorfer piano, two performers and a handful of pieces by well-known French composers. The selections are quiet, mellow, paced affairs; it does not surprise that three Debussy pieces (including, naturellement, Claire de lune) fill most of side one. Debussy’s Sonata for cello and piano (first movement) leads off the LP in a suitably restrained way. The second cut, “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair” hints at Debussy’s interest in Javanese music…a beautiful piece, and one played with much sensitivity by the performers. There isn’t much further to say about “Claire de Lune.” You’ve likely heard it a dozen times (though perhaps not performed by cello and piano). It is a beautiful piece, and Kates and Kobler do it justice. The final track on the side is Ravel’s “En forme de habanera,” which the liner notes indicate was written during a period in the composer’s life when he was “tortured by insomnia.” The piece does not reflect this…in fact it is intensely subdued and restful.
Side two leads off with Fauré’s “Sicilienne,” which may take the prize as the most invigorating composition on this LP. It is played gorgeously by the performers...Kates infuses the piece with strong emotion. The final track is Messaien’s “Louange à l’éternité de Jésus” (Praise to the eternity of Jesus), a segment from his “Quatuor pour le fin de temps,” composed when Messaien was in German custody in 1940. The track is very different in structure to the other, better known works on this LP, and must have been particularly difficult to interpret; the long cello notes in the piece, glacial—even monotonous—pace and introspective ambiance reward concentrated listening.
The Sonic Arts digital recording is of excellent quality, and achieves the intimacy that the composers and the performers no doubt attended. The “rosiny” sound of bow on string is particularly well rendered, and close miking ensures some pickup of the performers breathing. The Teldec pressing is of superb quality, flat and with zero surface noise. Dynamic range is limited by the nature of the works on the LP (it will give your speakers’ midrange a workout), but the shading of dynamics is excellent.
The LP benefits from premium packaging. This single LP is, unusually, packaged in a box, complete with a plastic-lined paper innersleeve and a foam insert to keep things from rattling around. Deluxe indeed, and a nice upgrade from the typical single-sleeve packaging. Useful liner notes are printed on the back side of the box. Aficionados of chamber music should be well pleased with the LP.
Reviewer: Peter D’Amario
SAC Lab Series #47
George Cleve coducts the San Jose Symphony Orchestra. Side One features “Litany Of Tides” by contemporary composer Henry Brat -- “Spacial antiphonies for Solo Violin, Large Orchestra, Small Orchestra, and Four Sopranos”. Side Two includes Bethoven’s Prometheus Overture, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance #10 in E minor, and the Suite No. 3 in D Major by J.S. Bach. Recorded at the San Jose Center For The Performing Arts in 1983. Sn Extra Heavy disk pressed in West Germany by Teldec on 140 gram vinyl.
Sonic Arts Corporation, LS-47, Litany of Tides, Henry Brant.
San Jose Symphony Orchestra, George Cleve. Daniel Kobalka, Solo Violin
“Modern” classical music can be pretty challenging, bracing stuff. It can also be melodic and listenable. The primary piece on this LP (which includes, on side 2, some much more standard repertoire from Beethoven, Dvorak and Bach) is Brant’s “Litany of Tides,” completed in 1983: It straddles “challenging” and “melodic.” This live concert performance is the premiere of the piece, composed for the solo violinist, Daniel Kobalka.
Brant is a composer of “acoustic spatial music.” In this instance, the orchestra is not positioned together on the stage; rather, most of the strings are on the stage for this performance, with percussion, brass, some soprano soloists and others scattered around the concert hall (including on the balcony) and paying attention to the conductor via closed-circuit TV. The solo violinist walks around the hall, playing at different times in different places.
The piece starts off with a Leroy Anderson-like prelude…it sounds like a march played by a mariachi band. This is meant to suggest the gavotte from Bach’s Suite No. 3, played on side 2 of the LP…I was challenged to make this connection, but the introduction is an accessible lead in to the rest of the 27 minute piece. The key to understanding this piece is to imagine the proliferation of artists around the hall, and to attempt to “hear” the spaces. The music itself is reasonably melodic, the voices rather nice and the violin soloist accomplished. I would not classify this as “classical easy listening” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a beautiful and predominately dreamy piece that rewards multiple listens.
On side two (15 minutes long) we move into the more “traditional” part of the performance, beginning with Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture to which Cleve imparts a studied, almost regal interpretation. Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 10 in E minor is lovely, with a dreamy and gentle feel. The Bach piece that closes out the side is the Gavotte from the Suite No. 3 in D major. If I were programming this concert, I would have chosen the Beethoven to close out the performance; the Bach is lovely, but is here given rather more of a “big orchestra” sound than I would have preferred.
The digital recording is of very fine quality, with a great deal of “air” in the quieter passages (particularly appealing are the sound of the sopranos and the naturalness of the solo violin). Transients between solos and full orchestral fortissimo are rendered beautifully.
The quality of the pressing is absolutely superb, with zero surface noise. The LP was perfectly flat and compares well to any audiophile LPs in my collection. I rate the quality on par to Telarc, MFSL or other “premium” vinyl. The LP is packaged consistently with other top quality vinyl; in fact, Sonic Arts has done a great job of replicating Mobile Fidelity’s packaging, with a plastic “sandwich” innersleeve, a full cardboard “mid-sleeve” and an attractive outer sleeve. The LP comes complete with commentary by the composer, conductor and producer. An insert contains specific hand-written performance notes by Brant, as well as a map of the concert hall, indicating where each part of the orchestra should be located.
Reviewer: Peter D’Amario
SAC Lab Series #13
“Tribute to Patiagorsky”. Stephen Kates plays the Dominicus Montagnana Cello, accompanied by Brooks Smith, Piano. Side One: Patiagorsky; Fourteen Variations on a Paganini Theme. and Carl Maria Von Weber, Adagio and Rondo. Side Two: Haydn’s Divertimento (Movements 1, 2, 3), Chopin’s Nocturne, and Tchaikovsky’s Valse Sentimentale, Op. 51.
“It was a pleasure to have known personally and to have worked with the man whose moving force has created so much beauty and who shared so much of his love for what he did with his students. It is in the spirit of this memory and with continued respect and appreciation for his art that I dedicate this record to Gregor Piatiagorsky." Stephen Kates
Executive Producer and Engineer: Leo de Gar Kulka
Co-Producer: I. MonDragon
Assistant Engineer: Bud Osterberg
Mastering: Sonic Arts Mastering Room
Recorded December 18th and 19th, 1978 at Sonic Arts Studios, 665 Harrison St., San Francisco, CA 94107
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