Swineshead and recording Vivaldi in immersive surround-sound
by, 12-12-2010 at 02:57 PM (729 Views)
Another few days in the studio, this time the Scoring Stage at Skywalker Sound in northern California. I've recorded in that space sporadically since it was opened: from 1989-1994 on the performer's side of the mic, and from 1998 onward as a producer and/or engineer. This time around the client was Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra with their leader Elizabeth Blumenstock as soloist, under their music director Nicholas McGegan. The repertoire: Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and three other violin concerti.
McGegan's approaches this music with a "take-no-prisoner" energy at the same time he shows a scholar's respect for the score. A recent edition of Vivaldi's "Seasons" restored a lost cello obbligato part to the second movement of "Winter"; many dynamics and articulations are much bolder than what we're used to hearing. Music of the Baroque period was driven from the low end (cello, bass, plucked instruments and keyboards), just as jazz is today. The traditional orchestral seating would have placed these instruments toward the rear or sides of the ensemble, with the two violin sections in front, and the soloist facing away from the other musicians. This works for a live performance but not necessarily for a recording.
I was both producer and engineer of this recording (with Dann Thompson providing able assistance throughout). I placed the soloist in the centre and created two sonic triangles with the other channels. One triangle is between her and the continuo group (harpsichord/organ in the front left; cello/bass and lute/guitar in the front right); the second triangle between her and the two violin sections (first violins in the left surround; second violins in the right surround). The conductor played on a second harpsichord (which was angled slightly to his left); the viola section sat to the left of that instrument. As a result, the musicians could see and hear each other and have visual contact with the soloist.
I used pair of Josephson C617SET for L/R, an AEA A840 for the centre, Sonodore omnis for LS/RS and small-diaphragm directional mics of various flavours for spot mics on the instruments furthest from the main array. Ths was recorded directly to a SADiE LRX2 location recorder.
The storm in "Summer" is truly ferocious! The bird calls in "Spring" are now clearly delineated, as are the gunshots during the hunt scene in "Autumn" (alternated by different sections of the whole orchestra, while the violin acts as the "hunted" animal). The slow movement of "Winter" balances without obscuring the soloist or other musicians. For the rest of the concerti, the balance worked in this setup with minimal changes: most of the time I asked for more dynamic contrast on both ends of the scale. The stereo mix sounded open and rich; the surround is truly amazing. This release will come out on the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's own record label in early autumn 2011.