July 14, 2014
REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-710SACD
“Do note, there was a printing mistake we’ve just noticed that appears in the printed press release, on the label of the disc and the back tray card of the package that incorrectly states that the Dvorak Symphony 8 is in E Minor. It is not, it’s a G Major.
We are correcting the error.”
Fresh from reviewing another RR recording, “The Banner Saga”/Austin Wintory I received in the mail a new recording from them, a live recording with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Along with a favorite of mine Dvorak’s 8th it included a work that was not familiar to me that being a Symphonic Suite from Jenufa, an opera, by Janacek which was arranged by the versatile conductor of the orchestra Manfred Honeck. Manfred re-orchestrated the suite from composer Tomas Ille.
It has been said that of the nine symphonies that Dvorak wrote the 8th is by far the most Czech sounding. It was written at a time when he closer to nature and the work certainly reflect this with the sounds early in the first movement (allegro con brio) mimicking the singing of a bird. This is just part of an extremely strong melody that begins in a rather mournful fashion but as the flute enters the crescendo begins and it becomes quite loud. A second theme is introduced one that is somewhat that is to somewhat share the spotlight with the main theme. The second movement is an Adagio a beautiful yearning theme that offers the bird songs but this time there from the woodwinds. It is a tranquil change of pace from the active upbeat of the first movement. Could this be a funeral march? You must judge for yourself. The third movement, the shortest of the four movements is an Allegretto, light and fluffy is the sound you’ll hear from the orchestra. The last movement, another Allegro, offers us a series of wonderful trills from the brass section so nicely recorded and brought to the to the foreground of the recording so that the listener will stop and take notice. Other recordings that I own of this symphony treat it as just a part of the orchestration.
Jenufa and the new arrangement from Honeck offer the addition of a xylophone (triangle used in the opera) which as described by Manfred as a connecting piece to the different emotions of sadness, drama, storminess, and the ending. I ponder how so very effective Janacek would have been as a film composer. Melodies and rhythm are a strong suit of this orchestral work that passes by all too quickly.
One of the keys to the success of this recording is the superior sound which you’ll best hear in SACD or at the very least on a moderate quality system. I happen to have a Sony dream machine which has a CD player and as the case many times I listened to the CD and the result was a very ordinary sounding recording. When I played it through my stereo system the result was nothing short of spectacular. Yes you’ll hear the occasional rustling of the papers and a stray cough but at least to me I didn’t find it distracting at all. It sounds very similar to being in Heinz Hall. The CD is available from Amazon or you can purchase direct from Reference Recordings. You won’t be disappointed. I understand that Reference has already recorded other CD’s with the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Dvorak Symphony No. 8 in F major, op. 88
1. Allegro con brio (10:04)
2. Adagio (11:44)
3. Allegretto grazioso (6:03)
4. Allegro ma non troppo (11:06)
Janacek Symphonic Suite
5. Jenufa (22:57)
Total Time is 62:04
June 28, 2014
STREWN ACROSS A BRIDGE
Having just completed a review of the 1981 film Pennies from Heaven which dealt with 80 year old music from the 30’s the next selection in the stack was about as different as oil and water. This is a video game and only my second review of one, the first being one I did for Naxos back in 2011. https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/the-greatest-video-game-music/. That was a compilation and this is 70 plus minutes of material from one game. So in a way this is a first. It is also a first for Reference Recordings who are expanding their horizons on their new Fresh music sub-label now has nine releases and I look forward to reviewing more in the future.
Another label I review for BSX introduced me to Austin Wintory with their releases of Grace, and Captain Abu Raed, scores because of their affiliation with the Sundance Festival brought his name into the spotlight. Both of these releases are still available from them at only $4.99 each, a very good buy. http://buysoundtrax.stores.yahoo.net/caaburaorsob.html
The Banner Saga is an epic role-playing game inspired by Viking legend. Hand-painted landscapes portray a world eerily suspended in perpetual twilight. Cities and towns begin to crumble into chaos. Heroes abandon their hearths and homes to traverse the snowy countryside, gaining allies along the way to help battle a strange, new threat.
Decisions have consequences; wise choices must be made when conversing with possible allies during intricately crafted dialogues. Turn-based strategy brings tactical challenge in hand-animated battle sequences. With visuals evocative of the golden age of animation, The Banner Saga brings skillfully crafted art, story and strategy to gamers waiting to re-experience classic adventures and tactics*
The opening cue “We Will Not Be Forgotten” a scant forty seven seconds does set the mood for the remainder of the score. It is a proud majestic opening featuring the horns of the Dallas Winds. “How Did It Come To This” opens like an orchestra tuning up before it switches to a contrabassoon solo that will test the woofers of your system! Remember this is a Reference Recording and all recordings are not equal. Johnson and his recording crew make it better. They just have superior clarity. “No Tree Grows To The Sky” begins with an epic statement with the horns calling out, another excellent example of the superior playing of the Dallas Winds. This segues into a male chorus who are chanting.
The theme is one that is developed and also introduces the didgeridoo an Australian instrument which seems to adapt well to this recording. “Cut with a Keen Edged Sword” intoruduces an extended solo of the violin performed by Taylor Davis. Wintory’s addition of the violin, electric guitar, and didgeridoo definitely enhance this recording as do the Icelandic vocals. “No Life Goes Forever Unbroken” brings back a return to the theme we heard in “No Tree Grows to the Sky.” The track is one that you can feel the strong presence of the percussion.
Overall with a minor amount of annoyances I really like the score. The recording is superb like all Reference Recordings material. I’m interested enough to try the game and see how the material fits into the framing as long as it doesn’t take too long to learn. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Buy direct from Reference and receive a special sale price of only $14.98.
- We Will Not Be Forgotten (0:47)
- How Did It Come To This (2:50)
- No Tree Grows To The Sky (2:44)
- Only The Sun Has Stopped (1:22)
- Cut With A Keen Edged Sword (3:33)
- Huddled In The Shadows (3:03)
- There Is No Bad Weather (1:00)
- Teach Us Luck (0.34)
- No Life Goes Forever Unbroken (2:51)
- Little Did They Sleep (2:12)
- An Unblinking Eye (1:07)
- Thunder Before Lightning (2:51)
- Embers In The Wind (1:27)
- A Long Walk Still Our Hearts (1:22)
- The Egg Cracks (2:04)
- Three Days To Cross (2:05)
- Walls No Man Has Seen (1:57)
- Strewn Across The Bridge (6:04) track is included
- Weary The Weight of the Sun (1:52)
- An Uncertain Path (2:11)
- Into Dust (2:45)
- On the Hides of Wild Beasts (1:24)
- From the Table to the Axe (1:17)
- A Sunken City (1:44)
- Our Heels Bleed From The Bites of Wolves (2:01)
- Long Past That Last Sigh (2:47)
- Of Our Bones, the Hills (10:20)
- We Are All Guests Upon the Land (2:23)
- Onward (3:13)