MODEST MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition – Transcribed for pipe organ and performed by Calvin Hampton – HDTT 192K/24-bit on DVD-R HDDVDA281, [highdeftapetransfers.com] *****:
Mussorgsky’s half-hour-long Pictures was originally composed for piano. Later both Rimsky-Korsakov and Maurice Ravel orchestrated its colorful tone-paintings. This is not the first version for organ, but though short it is sure to please audiophiles. Hampton’s organ version had already been released on a Musical Heritage Society LP, but this hi-res DVD-R is transferred from a 15 ips two-track tape made with a Crown open reel recorder and two Neumann U-87 mics by John Proffitt. No noise reduction or other processing was used. The occasion was a March 1982 guest recital by Hampton for the American Guild of Organists, and the site was the Austin organ of the Asbury First United Methodist Church.
Starting with this perfectionist tape HDTT used their arsenal of super-high-end mastering gear, including several sorts of vibration control, and provides the recording in several formats from this 192K version down to that of standard CD-R. There is no hiss or noise, and the dynamic range is huge. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pipe organ recording via speakers that had such a solid and clean spatial display of the various pipes in front of me. I used the Pro Logic IIz setting on my Integra preamp, with my side/height speakers, and was amazed at the verticality of many of the ensuing sounds. There was no squashing-down of the pipe organ sonics into strictly horizontal mode as with most two-channel organ recordings. The recording also captured a considerable “blatt” component in some of the organ’s pipes. This could be a marvelous pipe organ demo disc that might even impress those averse to pipe organ.