ONLINE - ISSUE 11
Dynamic Piano Beethoven Piano Sonatas
This is a reissue of a tour de force performance by pianist Carol Rosenberger, playing her heart out on a Bosendorfer Imperial Concert Grand. That is indeed a dynamic piano. She plays the Beethoven Piano Sonatas Opus 57 (Appassionata) and Opus 111. The recording was made twenty years ago at Bridges Auditorium in Clarement, California, using the then-nearly-new Soundstream digital recorder. B&K microphones with a very high threshold for distortion (3% at 160 dB) were used, in order to stand up to the peak sound pressure levels that can be generated by this piano. The recording engineer was Bruce Leek. The album was originally released as a Delos LP, mastered by Stan Ricker on the cutting system at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. This reissue, as indicated by the scribing in the dead wax region around the label, was mastered by Kevin Grey at AcousTech. The 180 gram pressing was by RTI.
Dynamic Piano is the first LP release from Top Music, a Hong Kong company run by the gracious Povee Chan. Top Music has issued a number of stunning sounding HDCDs and "UQCDs," my favorite of which is Ella and Louis' Summertime. It is great to see them making a foray into vinyl. Top Music appears to have spared no expense on their first vinyl release. They used a heavy gatefold jacket, plus a heavy folded cardboard insert of the type that Mobile Fidelity used to use. The pressing is on HQ 180 gram vinyl.
The Appassionata is one of Beethoven's most famous piano sonatas, and perhaps his most revered. The Opus 111 was his last piano sonata, and also one of his most highly regarded. Together, they constitute a pairing that any serious classical music aficionado should love. And if you don't know the piano sonatas of Beethoven, this recording is an excellent introduction to them. Ms. Rosenberger plays with a combination of dynamism and subtlety and emotion that makes these pieces soar.
There are, however, some less than ideal aspects of this LP. First, throughout the quiet passages, I can hear what sounds like white noise. As someone who mostly listens to LPs sourced from analog tape, I didn't find that bothersome in the least. But I did find it curious, since the original recording was digital. I talked to Stan Ricker, who recalled that the microphone preamps were noisy, and may well have been the source of what I am hearing. The other flaw was a vinyl surface mar across nearly all of side 2. This created artifacts ranging from a slight click to a fairly loud pop on every revolution during the quite passages on side 2, plus assorted background noise. For a new record, this was quite objectionable. Maybe something happened in shipping from California to Hong Kong and back again ...
It is heart-warming to see yet another label enter into the vinyl LP business. I hope that we see many more LPs from Top Music. They appear to have the sensibilities and resources necessary to make a go of it. Their first LP is recommended, assuming that you can find a nice, quiet copy.