Since 1959, the Grammy Awards have been recognizing the efforts of the engineers who worked their magic to create the most well-balanced, full-bodied, and best sounding classical music albums. It's not the performance that wins this award, though it certainly helps. This award belongs to the men and women behind the curtain. These five albums below represent 2012's best engineered classical albums whose recording qualities are bar none. For more, read the full list of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Nominees for Classical Music (2013)
The Modern Mandolin Quartet consists of a group of gentlemen playing two mandolins, a mandola, and mando-cello. It's a strange instrumentation, or at least, and uncommon orchestration. And with classical music, there isn't a whole lot written for a mandolin quartet. Since their founding, the quartet reads through and listens to tons of classical music, picking through pieces they think will translate well on their instruments. Most pieces don't sound right, but when they come across the ones that do, well, they sound incredible. Americana features American works of classical music. It's an extremely fun and uplifting album, that was beautifully recorded by Sono Luminus.
Pop this CD into your stereo (or push play on your iPod) and it's as if you are sitting in the middle the Brentano String Quartet. Aeon spared no time when engineering this album. The sound quality is superb. Each part, though balanced, is so clearly defined, you can selectively hear one, two, three, or four of the instruments without any trouble. Bonus points are given to the extremely poignant, articulate, and expressive musicianship of the quartet (and the fact that I love Beethoven's string quartets).
With such a well-balanced and clear sound from the Kansas City Chorale, it is no doubt that Chandos worked extremely hard to record the album and present their performance as lifelike as possible. The music sang by the chorale was composed by René Clausen between 1978 and 2011. It's somewhat rare for the composer to still be alive! Clausen was able to work first hand with the chorale and their conductor, Charles Bruffy, to deliver a highly-textured, rich, and enveloping performance of his celebrated works.
Under the direction of conductor Carlos Kalmar, the Oregon Symphony performed four energetic, war-inspired classical pieces that include Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, John Adams' The Wound-Dresser, Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4. Music for a Time of War is the first recording by the Oregon Symphony in eight years. The engineer's at PentaTone Classics recorded the album in surround sound format called "Super Audio." So for those of you with surround sound and a super audio CD player, you will be able to enjoy this album in its truest form.
Unlike a traditional orchestra configuration where you have the violins grouped together, the cellos grouped together, the clarinets grouped together, and so on and so forth, TrondheimSolistene (the Trondheim Soloists) and 2L decided to mix things up. For their recording of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings and Nielsen's Suite for Strings Orchestra, 2L rearranged the orchestra so that no one person was sitting next to someone playing the same part. The result is an amazing sound that submerses the listener into an encompassing sea of glorious music.