James Boyk, piano – Tonalities of Emotion = BACH: Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue; CHOPIN: Fantasy-Impromptu Op. 66; DEBUSSY: Reflections on the Water; MOZART: Sonata in A Minor K310

by | May 10, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

James Boyk, piano – Tonalities of Emotion = BACH: Chromatic Fantasy
& Fugue; CHOPIN: Fantasy-Impromptu Op. 66; DEBUSSY: Reflections on
the Water; MOZART: Sonata in A Minor K310 – Stereo SACD PR10, 44:59
****:

James Boyk makes the phrase
Renaissance man short of an accurate description. He is a concert
pianist, professor of electrical engineering at Caltech – where he also
leads a series of musical encounters, an active recording engineer, and
an author and consultant. He was involved in the engineering of the
famed Sheffield Lab direct discs of the Kodo Drummers and the LA
Philharmonic. He studied piano with Leonid Hambro among others. For
Boyk, all his activities add up to the one career of musician, and it
is that is in the spotlight in this program of keyboard classics.

The program is fairly conservative but varied. The liner notes include
a lovely essay by Boyk titled “In Love With Sound.” The opening Bach
selection is cleanly articulated in a very detached style (but not as
extreme as Glenn Gould), and the Chopin transitions to the Romantic
style flawlessly. I would have liked a bit more pedal in the Debussy.
The Mozart Sonata is the same as on the Richard Goode Nonesuch CD
reviewed this issue, which exhibits a bit more flow and polish, but
there is no denying the fidelity of Boyk’s recording leaves the
Nonesuch version in the dust, and I don’t believe entirely because it
is SACD. In addition to his careful micing and other aspects of
recording, Boyk was the first performer to record on the magnificent
Bösendorfer piano, with a much more musical and less harsh treble, as
well as added bass notes. He uses ribbon mics and special tube preamps,
and even advises users to try switching the polarity of their speaker
cables to see if the sound improves. This is one of the few piano
recordings in which the piano sound normal size in stereo – not
stretched. Switching in Pro Logic II creates a richer and more
realistic sonic picture of the instrument with stronger bass extension,
but now it streches to 40 feet wide! This problem arising is about the
only time I turn Pro Logic off and return to direct stereo.

Related Reviews