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AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - web magazine for music, audio & home theater
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Special Features This Month:

Disney Concert Hall
+ Classical Hall of Fame


The New Gold Standard for Audiophiles

No, it’s not a new $50,000 speaker system or a new SACD player! And it’s not another proclamation from Harry Pearson. It’s the experience of hearing an orchestra perform live at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Until you hear how really glorious an orchestra can sound in this landmark acoustical masterpiece, you have no idea how powerful and intimate a symphony orchestra can sound. It’s the new gold standard for orchestra lovers.

Architect Frank Gehry’s exterior - a cornucopia of shiny, hot/cold multi-angled stainless steel receives the most publicity. My visit there in early February was filled with bustling tourists clamoring to see the hall. From a distance the façade is a brilliant melange of miraculously integrated slanted and curved surfaces. In the bright sunshine walking next to the building the reflection of the heat off the structure warmed the cool air and blinded the eyes. Even the gardens surrounding the upper level of the structure (accessible to anyone, not just ticket holders) failed to soften the hard surfaces that towered over the greenery. An outside children’s amphitheatre of cement reinforces the perception: this is an exterior that reflects the hard-edged and multifaceted urban landscape that surrounds Disney Hall.

The genius of the building is the contrast between the outside and the transformation that occurs when one enters it. The shiny surfaces and the brazenly configured exterior are replaced by the warm glow of wood and the colorful pastel seats. In the day, the auditorium is partially lit by two skylights that transform the bright Southern California sun into a romantic, Caribbean sunset. The audience completely surrounds the orchestra, which combined with the clarity and ambiance that the acoustics reveal, creates a sense of community, removing the separation between audience and orchestra.

When I sat in my upper orchestra (Terrace) seats the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted that day by Christoph von Dohnanyi, was going through the usual pre-concert warm up exercises. In other venues, these moments of musical chaos blend together but here I heard the concert master distinctively separated from the rest of the performers. The lower basses and cellos are clearly heard as separate sections, something that was totally revelatory to these ears. The instrumental choirs have an inner clarity but never cover up the integrated orchestral sound (except where the composer deems it appropriate). Acoustics this immediate are unforgiving: musical blemishes stand out clearly as do any noises the audience makes: coughs, dropped concert programs and, of course, the dreaded cell phone beeps.

And yet, this kind of acoustical clarity links the audience to the performers so that there is a palpable sense both are creating the experience together. The slow movement of the Mozart 25th Symphony was an ethereal revelation that was made possible not only by the performers but by the audience whose utter silence reflected the quietude back to the musicians. Dynamic contrasts create a drama that rivals live theater or movies. And, of course, the louder sections of Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel were as thrilling as the pianissimos of the Mozart. The impact on the listener creates the illusion of hearing a huge orchestra in your living room: you’re in the middle of the orchestra, yet you’re hearing the ambient space of the hall and the intimacy of the instruments at the same time. The outer shell of this sonic miracle may attract the attention, but it’s the essence of the music played inside that makes the Walt Disney Concert Hall experience a must for all those who revel in orchestral sounds.

-- Robert Moon


Classical Recording Industry Hall of Fame for 2004

The following 20 recordings have been selected by the CLASSICAL RECORDING INDUSTRY HALL of FAME for the 2004 Awards. They are recordings 26-45 to be honored. Both numbers are listed. The recordings are listed in random order.

1 (26). Copland-Appalachian Spring (original version for chamber group),Ensemble led by Copland. Recorded by CBS (New York 1973). CD# Sony MK 42431.

2 (27). Puccini-La Boheme. Freni, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov, Panerai, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan. Recorded by Decca (Berlin 10/72). CD# Decca 421 049 2.

3 (28). Brahms-A German Requiem. Schwarzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau, Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus/Otto Klemperer. Recorded by EMI (London 1961). CD# 7243 5 66903 2 5.

4 (29). Rimsky-Korsakov-Scheherazade. Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner. Recorded by RCA (Chicago 2/8/60). CD# RCA 68168.

5 (30). Herold-La Fille Mal Gardee-excerpts. Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden/John Lanchbery. Recorded by Decca (London 2/62). CD# Decca 430 196 2.

6 (31). Mozart- Divertimento for String Trio K563. Pasquier Trio. Recorded by Erato (Paris 1964). CD# Erato Japan WPCS 22082.

7 (32). Liszt-The 2 Piano Concerti.Sviatoslav Richter/London Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin. Recorded by Mercury (London 7/61). CD# Philips 446 200 2.

8 (33). Brahms-Symphony 4. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan. Recorded by DG (Berlin 10/63). Not available on CD. Original LP# DG SPLM 138 927.

9 (34). Berlioz-Les Troyans. Vickers, Veasey, Lindholm, Glossop. Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Sir Colin Davis. Recorded by Philips (London 10/69). CD# Philips 416 432 2.

10 (35). Beethoven-String Quartet in C Sharp Minor #14, Opus 131. Version for string orchestra. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Leonard Bernstein. Recorded by DG (Vienna 9/77). CD# DG 435 779 2.

11 (36). Dvorak-10 Legends for Orchestra. Budapest Festival Orchestra/Ivan Fischer. Recorded by Philips (3/99). CD# Philips 464 647 2.

12 (37). Three Tenors in concert in Rome 1990. Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti. Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Orchestra del Theatro dell'Opera di Roma/Zubin Mehta. Recorded by Decca (Rome 7/7/90). CD# Decca 430 433 2.

13 (38). Respighi-Ancient Airs and Dances. Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati. Recorded by Mercury (6/58). CD# Mercury 434 304 2.

14 (39). Britten-Peter Grimes. Pears, Watson, Evans, Brannigan. Opera and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Benjamin Britten. Recorded by Decca (London 12/58). CD# Decca 414 577 2.

15 (40). Goldmark-Regina di Saba, Aria "Magiche Note". Enrico Caruso/Orchestra conducted by Walter B. Rogers. Recorded by Victor (Camden 11/7/09). CD# RCA 63469 and Naxos 8.110719.

16 (41). Beethoven-Violin Concerto. Joseph Szigeti/British Symphony Orchestra/Bruno Walter. Recorded by HMV (London 4/14/32). CD# Naxos 8.110946.

17 (42). Sibelius-Symphony 2. London Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux. Recorded by Decca for RCA (London 6/58). CD# Decca Japan UCCD-7071.

18 (43). Schubert-Symphony 9 and Haydn Symphony 88. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwangler. Recorded by DG (Berlin 12/51). CD# DG 447 439 2.

19 (44). Beethoven- Piano Trio #7 "Archduke." Isaac Stern, Leonard Rose, Eugene Istomin. Recorded by Columbia (Switzerland 1965). CD# SBK 53514.

20 (45) Arnold-English, Scottish and Cornish Dances. London Philharmonic Orchestra/Arnold. Recorded by Decca for Lyrita (London 1979). CD# Lyrita SCRD 201.

The WALTER LEGGE Award is presented each year for outstanding contribution to the world of recording classical music. For 2004 this award is presented to the RCA Victor production team of Richard Mohr (producer) and Lewis Leyton (engineer). They are best known for their outstanding work in the RCA "Living Stereo" series of recordings in the 1950's and 1960's.

We wish to thank record collectors and record companies world wide for contributing to the 2004 Awards. If you would like to participate in the 2005 Award selection process, please contact us at HALLofFAME@mail.com.

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