01 – Barbara Hofling, mezzo/ Grainne Dunne, piano – Katzenberger Music Productions

01 [TrackList follows] – Barbara Hofling, mezzo/ Grainne Dunne, piano – Katzenberger Music Productions stereo-only SACD 01, 58:04 (8/24/10) ****:

I was a little confused when first looking at this disc; it’s not titled with an artist or theme of one or more composers, but instead simply “01”, the first disc in a series of what are now three from Katzenberger Music Productions. It’s always a bit suspicious when the disc itself is the featured player in the game, as if points are to be made simply about the technique used in the recording, and to a large degree that is indeed the case here. KMP specializes in the use of “natural sound recording and mixing techniques” to achieve an “organically pure sound quality.” This means they focus on purist recording techniques and avoid filters, compression and other effects, according to one website. The recording is very clear, and is very natural in perspective; it’s also 192kHz/24-bit and available as a hi-res download. But as much as I have commented on the fact that small chamber experiences benefit greatly from surround sound, I was disappointed that this release didn’t take the final step and offer this to us. And the notes try to tell us that we are in for a special sound experience that is unique—this is not the case, though the sound is superb in all respects. In fact, the philosophy is that two standard stereo mikes are set up for the main system, followed by two unique mikes which are dedicated to each sound source, in this case the two performers. They even give us four bonus tracks at the end of the recital of the complete song “Fruhlingslied” by Mendelssohn in four different microphone pickups, which is interesting.

I did not know Barbara Hofling, and her bio in the notes is rather thin; nevertheless she turns in very creditable renditions of all the songs here, which as you can see are a nice selection of standards peppered with French and English works to spice the whole thing up. Her diction is excellent, her rounded mezzo rich and solid, and if I say that this will not compete against the very best versions of this music to be had in any number of recordings it is no fault of hers and should not be taken as a negative assessment of the effort. Any SACD recording project that places the technology as the main emphasis always runs the risk of performance drag, meaning that far too often secondary readings are given which keep the issue solely in the hands of audiophiles who may not particularly care if the performance is first-rate or not. This is not the case here, and the disc has much to recommend it. But you should keep in mind that there are other recordings of music like this in equally good sound—and many in surround sound at that—and the forty dollar price tag (The other Katzenberger release I reviewed is $58!…Ed.) I saw this selling for on Amazon will be discouraging to most people, or so I suspect.

TrackList:

MENDELSSOHN:
01 Frühlingslied op. 47 Nr. 3
02 Suleika op. 34 Nr. 4
03 Nachtlied op. 71 Nr. 6
SCHUBERT:
04 Auf dem Wasser zu singen D 774
05 Geheimes D 719
06 Suleika D 720
07 Lied der Mignon D 877 Nr. 4
08 Lied der Mignon D 877 Nr. 3
SCHUMANN:
09 Heiss′ mich nicht reden op. 98a Nr. 5
10 Aufträge op. 77 Nr. 5
11 Ihre Stimme op. 96 Nr. 3
12 Meine Rose op. 90 Nr. 2
FAURE:
13 Notre Amour op. 23 Nr. 2
14 La Fée aux Chansons op. 27 Nr. 2
15 Les Berceaux op. 23 Nr. 1
16 Soir op. 83 Nr. 2
17 Clair de Lune op. 46 Nr. 2
WARLOCK:
18 The night
STANFORD:
19 A Lullaby op. 19 Nr. 2
IVOR GURNEY:
20 Sleep
SCHUBERT:
21 Dass sie hier gewesen!
—Steven Ritter

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