GOLDEN PERFORMANCE - Jeffrey Grice, piano - BRAHMS: Sonata No. 3 in
F Major, Op. 5; BERG: Sonata Op. 1; BARTOK: Out of Doors; SCRIABIN: Etude Op. 2 No. 1 - Cosmo Village Gold CD (no number):
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Billed as a "Tapeless Direct Recording," this varied piano recital recorded in Japan seems to have been merely mastered to a computer hard drive rather than a DAT, ADAT or CD-R. Many classical recordings today are made that way, so I fail to understand the blurbs herein about "super high fidelity tapeless recording." Nothing wrong with tape as such - as hearing some of the 40-year-old tapes now being reissued on SACD can attest to. Also, while we're in a tech bag, the originator of this gold CD appears to be the Combak Corporation, who make the little expensive Harmonix tuning gadgets to stick on your walls and wherever. They tuned all critical elements of the recording setup with their products, and whatever opinion one may hold of their accessories, this proves to be one of the most impressive piano recordings I have ever heard.
It's an extended-bass-end Bosendorfer Imperial to begin with, and the hall in Nagoya Japan has excellent acoustics which are extremely well-preserved for my derived surround sound system. And the instrument doesn't sound 30-feet wide as on so many piano recordings. (The Bose is a Very Grand piano but not that grand!) Most of the booklet notes are in Japanese only. The four selections make a superb program, and Grice brings us persuasive interpretations that catch the ear strongly with alternately explosive and then quietly delicate passages contrasting with one another. The dynamic range of both his performing style and the recording is thrilling to hear on the best equipment. Only in a few passages does his bravura expressiveness boil over into the excessive. Scriabin is the soul of excessiveness, but with the Brahms there's a bit of a strain. Strangely, the tapeless process seems to preclude editing of the occasional clams heard here; perhaps it was feared that in spite of staying in the digital domain another step or two might compromise the fidelity. I've personally heard solid evidence that it's difficult to make even a single digital dub - let alone a series - without some losses. I think this CD will go on my demo disc shelf to check out components in future.
- John Sunier