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Dvořák & Novák

The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the largest in Europe, gave a memorable concert in the Royal Festival Hall which was recorded for the first time in any format by Orchestral Concert CDs.

Review by Geoffrey Terry:

Antonin Dvořák - Symphony no 9 There are no dramatic changes of tempo, no extremes of any sort, just a perfect performance and a perfect recording. It is like looking at a painting after restoration. Profoundly Czech, why would it not be? It is played by a Czech Orchestra and conducted by a true, Czech giant. The strings constituted 16 first violins, 16 seconds, 16 violas, 16 cellos and 8 double basses, with a normal complement of woodwind, brass and percussion; a full, Symphony Orchestra indeed. The scene is set by the controlled and electrifying, pp of the strings, followed by a brief comment from the French Horns. Then the woodwind respond with heart-rending clarity, the sound seeming to drift across a calm lake. The calm is broken by a snapped announcement from the strings, followed by a crisp triplet on the timpani – the unmistakable sound of wood striking skin; of that there is no doubt, (it seems that capturing that particular sound creates difficulty for many CD publishers, not so here). The short strings-followed by timpani phrase, is repeated three times, then the deep, rich sound of the double basses and cellos is heard, all twenty four of them; their rosined bows exciting the strings of their instruments to produce a sound that is precisely reproduced on the recording. There are several more short statements from each of the sections of the orchestra before the introduction leads to the first theme.

Waldhans draws beauty, drama, elegance and most of all nuances from the highly skilled team under his command and, despite being probably the most played and recorded of all symphonies, somehow this rendering appears to introduce us to Dvořák’s great work for the first time. The elegiac, second movement emphasises the nostalgia of the composer for his homeland and the staccato opening of the third movement reminds us that we are sitting in the Royal Festival Hall, perhaps the centre of the 10th row from the front. If we close our eyes for a moment we could easily be mislead into believing that to be the case. By now the professionalism of the orchestra has been clearly established as, once again, the attack of the timpani resonates in uncanny realism. The full dynamic range of this rendering is wholly due to the direction of the conductor, since no adjustments were made to the sound during the recording process. The only electronic alterations made to the recording were to remove any extraneous noises, even then, providing that the music was not affected in any way.

The end result is a unique experience. A truly, natural, acoustic, mirror image of the glorious sound of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra in a realistic representation of the sound that evening in the Royal Festival Hall.

The concert included a little know masterpiece, Jan Novák's Philharmonic Dances. Novak was a pupil of Bohuslav Martinu and, being tutored by such a distinct master, he could not fail but be influenced by the individualism of the newly re-discovered genius. The Philharmonic Dances opens with the side drum dictating a staccato beat, which is then taken up by the strings and horns in counterpoint announcing the two themes which hop around amongst all the sections of the orchestra. The development becomes slightly grotesque but reverts to sanity intermittently. By contrast the second movement, moderato, is gentle and lyrical. The hurdy-gurdy imitation of the central passage leads to the first, short example of syncopation, almost a trademark of Novak. The final movement, vivace, as with the first movement opens with the side drum and quickly settles to syncopated rhythms that grow, utilising all the orchestra’s facilities. The composition is full of melodies and colourful orchestration; sounds that are captured on this recording with remarkable definition. Two very English pieces by Frederick Delius close the concert; the Czechoslovaks undertake that task to perfection.

Geoffrey Terry

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This is the first CD ever to carry the CNSTR mark of approval. It is also the first to be published by www.occds.org. A visit will give you the opportunity to judge the sound, from extended, high quality samples of the CDs currently available. CNSTR, the acronym for Certified – Natural – Sound – Technique - Recording, is a newly introduced standard for the commercial recording industry, September 2008, directed in particular at manufacturers of classical music CDs. It is a voluntary code of practice for CD publishers, however, the addition of the CNSTR logo, to published CDs, provides assurance, for the purchaser, that the recording was undertaken to conform to a minimum standard. CNSTR has been expressed in layman terms since it is a reference intended for the public.

In the majority of recordings of symphony orchestras a considerable number of microphones is employed, positioned at strategic points amongst the players. The sound, picked up by the microphones, is fed to a control panel where an engineer constantly adjusts the level in an endeavor to establish what he considers the composer intended. The engineer is, in effect, undertaking to correct the directions of the conductor who, from a musical point of view, is better qualified to perform the task.

With CNSTR only two microphones are used. The task of the recording engineer is to establish the best positions for the microphones so that: 1. They faithfully capture the full spectrum of the orchestra and simulate a left and right image that would be heard sitting in an optimum position in the auditorium. 2. Prior to the recording the engineer should establish the maximum level of sound likely to be produced by the ensemble. The level controls being set to that position and no corrections or alterations being made during the performance. Following completion of the recording process any extraneous noises, tape hiss or coughing should be removed. There the process terminates, the resultant recorded sound being a Natural Sound, by virtue of the fact that it has not been electronically transformed in any way.

Multiple reproductions, CDs, of the recording can then be produced. Extended high quality examples of recordings made, using CNSTR, can be heard by visiting www.occds.org There, you will find, sound samples of: Solo instrument - RFH Organ, Duo – violin and piano Trio - piano violin and cello Chamber orchestra Symphony Orchestra Enlarged Symphony Orchestra Grand Opera, in a live performance.