Best Engineered Album, Classical

WINNER: Mahler: Symphony No. 8; Adagio From Symphony No. 10 (SFS Media)

Engineer: Peter Laenger

(Michael Tilson Thomas & San Francisco Symphony)

The San Francisco Symphony’s Website describes Symphony No. 8 as “Mahler's immense creation—featuring hundreds of musicians, three choruses and soloists…a symphony so epic in scope that it has been dubbed the ‘Symphony of a Thousand.’ Mahler's Eighth—a tale of damnation and salvation—is quintessentially a romantic work, but it owes a great debt to the towering Baroque choral works of J.S. Bach.” This release is available directly from the online San Francisco Symphony Store in a hybrid SACD format. Both works were recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco: Symphony No. 8 from November 19 to 23, 2008, and Adagio from Symphony No. 10 from April 6 to 8, 2006. Recording producer Andreas Neubronner comments, “There has been no other composer who marked so many things in the score—dynamically, articulation, everything. Mahler was very, very precise. What you have to do as the recording producer is to really prepare the sound so that you can hear everything that is written in the score. You are just overwhelmed by this universe of sound, which has come from all sides.” Robert Ward, principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony, praises the audio team for this project: “They have done an amazing job of harnessing the technology for musical purposes. We can hear inside the music in a way that I think it’s not ever been possible.” And conductor Michael Tilson Thomas offers, “All of our recordings are characterized by this urgency to really make the music communicate, and in my book, that’s what it’s all about.”

Watch the video “A Universe of Sound: Recording Mahler's Symphony No. 8.

Britten: Billy Budd (Virgin Classics)

Engineers: Neil Hutchinson and Jonathan Stokes

(Artists: Daniel Harding, Nathan Gunn, Ian Bostridge, Gidon Saks, Neal Davies, Jonathan Lemalu, Matthew Rose, London Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Orchestra)

According to Virgin Classics, “This new recording is a new asset to the label, which has planned a complete Britten opera cycle. The opera, in its definitive two-act version, was recorded during two concert performances at the Barbican Hall [in London] on December 7 and 9, 2007. As principal guest conductor, Daniel Harding conducts the London Symphony Orchestra.” Former Decca engineers Neil Hutchinson and Jonathan Stokes, who formed UK-based recording service Classic Sound, recorded the performances. Commenting on the recording, All Music Guide’s Stephen Eddins writes, “Virgin's recording creates an effective sense of dramatic separation, and its sound is clean and spacious.” On its Website, Classic Sound describes itself as “one of Europe’s foremost specialists [in] music recording and audio post-production services. The company specializes in all aspects of music recording, including film scoring and 5.1 mix to picture, music editing/dubbing and location recording. We regularly work with some of the major recording and film companies such as Universal, EMI, Warner and the BBC.”

Watch a video from EMI Classics offering a behind the scenes look at the concert recording.

QSF Plays Brubeck (Violinjazz Recordings)
Engineer: Judy Kirschner
(Quartet San Francisco)

Quartet San Francisco (QSF)—comprising violinists Jeremy Cohen and Alisa Rose, violist Keith Lawrence and cellist Michelle Djokic—is a “classical crossover” chamber music group that embraces numerous musical styles, including jazz, rock, pop, funk, blues, bluegrass, gypsy swing and more. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic Time Out, QSF offers the first all-Brubeck string quartet CD. Engineer Judy Kirschner, who is on staff at Skywalker Sound, as well as a freelance engineer, recorded this project from July 31, 2009, to August 3, 2009, at Skywalker Sound, assisted by Dann Michael Thompson. Kirschner also mixed and mastered QSF Plays Brubeck at Screaming Lizard Productions in Petaluma, Calif. QSF Plays Brubeck is available directly from QSF’s Website.

Watch videos of Quartet San Francisco performing “Three to Get Ready” by Dave Brubeck at Skywalker Sound and “Bluette” by Dave Brubeck at Skywalker Sound.

Ravel: Daphnis Et Chloé
(BSO Classics)
Engineers: Jesse Lewis and John Newton
(James Levine, Tanglewood Festival Chorus & Boston Symphony Orchestra)

Boston Symphony Orchestra’s BSO Classics label released its live recording of Ravel’s Daphnis Et Chloé in the hybrid SACD format, along with three other releases as part of a “recording collaboration,” according to Boston Symphony Orchestra musical director James Levine. “We’ve been recording all of my concerts since I started,” Levine says, adding that he considers this particular recording to be “as close as possible to a real sophisticated souvenir of what you heard in the concert.” The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Website describes the organization’s commitment to recording and archiving its performances under Levine, stating that it “broke new ground on December 1 with the launch of the first orchestral music download service to offer tracks in both standard MP3 and HD surround formats. These are the first nominations for the orchestra on its [independent] label BSO Classics.” Daphnis Et Chloé was recorded by engineers John Newton and Jesse Lewis of Boston-based recording/post-production/mastering service Soundmirror; for Newton, this is one of two nominations in 2010 for Best Engineered Album, Classical. Soundmirror’s Website offers an extensive list of Grammy Award nominations and awards dating back to 1980. Newton is a frequent Grammy nominee, and in 2008 he won the Grammy for Best Engineered Classical Album for Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary (Chandos), as performed by Charles Bruffy and Phoenix Chorale. Lewis is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music Recording and Cello Performance programs. BSO’s Daphnis Et Chloé is available, with streaming audio tracks, at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Website. Watch the video of BSO musical director James Levine discussing BSO’s CD releases in a February 19, 2009, press conference.

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 15 (Mariinsky)
Engineers: John Newton and Dirk Sobotka
(Valery Gergiev & Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre)

John Newton and Dirk Sobotka of Boston-based recording/post-production/mastering service Soundmirror recorded this hybrid SACD to DSD format in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Mariinsky Concert Hall between July 18, 2008, and July 25, 2008, working with producer James Mallinson. The final product includes multichannel 5.1 and stereo mixes. Sobotka joined Soundmirror in July 2004, where his duties include extensive SACD recording and authoring, and radio production, as well as music production and sound for picture. Read the story about Soundmirror’s custom playback deck for A/D transfers from September 2004.

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