Friday, September 28, 2012

King's College Choir, Bowman, Ledger, etc.
"Bernstein: Chichester Psalms" (Vinyl)

Leonard Bernstein enjoyed rare celebrity status for a classical musician in the 20th century.  As conductor of the New York Philharmonic and composer, ("West Side Story") Bernstein walked comfortably in many different shoes. 

This work, commissioned for the 1965 Three Choirs Festival in Chichester, was scored for an unusual combination of instruments including strings, three trumpets (not two,) three trombones (not five,) two harps, percussion, organ, chorus...oh, and a counter tenor.  In case you're not aware, a counter tenor fills the shoes previously occupied by the castrato.  Since we're not so much into doing that these days, they've found other ways of solving that problem.

I began listening to this record thinking it was a contender for the very worst sounding recording I owned, but after realizing the unusual group of musicians it uses, I'm not sure there is a good way of recording this work.  The strings are very quiet, the organ sounds like they used a microphone pressed against the opposite side of a cathedral from the pipes, the harps are very closely, deliberately miked and both the counter tenor soloist and chorus sound like they might have their backs turned to the microphone.

So, I ask those multiple recording engineers who regularly scour my blog, how would you handle that circus?

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