Sunday, April 21, 2002

Q&A: Telarc exec likes Music Hall sound

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Paavo Jarvi, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Robert Woods, president of Telarc, talked about their March recording session for a Stravinsky disc to be released next year.

        Praising Music Hall's acoustics for the recording, Mr. Woods remarked, “There's nothing like it in the United States.”

  What: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Jarvi, conductor; Timothy Lees, violin; Eric Kim, cello
  When: 11 a.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday
  Where: Music Hall
  Tickets: $12-$51; $10 students. 381-3300 or
  The program: Brahms “Double” Concerto in A Minor for violin and cello; Schubert, Symphony No. 9 in C, Great
Read the review: Saturday at
  More about Paavo Jarvi: and
        Question: Besides the new Super Audio Compact Disc, what's new about recording technology?

        Mr. Woods: We keep evolving the technique of how we go about it. This is a three-dimensional recording we're creating with the surround, as opposed to the standard two-channel. The perspective of surround is, if you're in the sweet spot, as we say, it's sort of like standing right behind the conductor.

        Q: How is a recording session different from a live performance?

        Mr. Jarvi: A live performance has audience. You can't substitute this. Playing in front of this full house of people who came to experience an event is something that, as a human being onstage, just makes you feel special.

        Recordings are completely different mediums for a different reason, and often even for a different clientele.

        Microphones are brutally honest and expose the smallest imperfection. So (the musicians') first instinct is, let's be perfect. In the end, we need to be perfect. But one thing that makes the record interesting is the interpretation — the energy that is not careful, but quite the opposite.

        Mr. Woods: An audience doesn't listen like microphones. An audience forgives little fluffs that go on in concerts. That's not the issue; the issue is the overall scope of it all.

        But under the microscope of microphones, it's a different story. (The musicians) become self-conscious; we all do.

        Q: This repertoire has been recorded quite a bit. Why do another?

        Mr. Jarvi: Because they don't have my point of view of those pieces. ... It's a question of interpretation. Our job is to interpret. And I think The Firebird or Petrouchka through our eyes now is something else than through the eyes of great conductors in the middle of the 20th century.

        Also, sound quality and technology are changing all the time. With brilliant music like that — I'm willing to bet that this is going to be the best-sounding Firebird on the market, sonically speaking.

        Q: What kind of sound were you going for?

        Mr. Jarvi: For Stravinsky, I prefer a very brilliant, very alive sound that is full of color. Stravinsky, even the most Russian Stravinsky, is strongly influenced by the French of that time.

        I find that aspect of him more interesting, than bringing out the aspect of the succession of Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky. To me, the interesting part of Stravinsky is his connection to the West.

        Mr. Woods: We've got two very distinct sounds. In Petrouchka, the scale and intimacy is much greater than The Firebird. The Firebird is an orchestral showpiece, even though it's a ballet score. The way it's orchestrated, it demands a bigger, fuller fatter acoustic.

        Q: How are sales of Telarc's first album with Mr. Jarvi, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique?

        Mr. Woods: To be able to sell 10,000 units of a classical recording — which we are just about there with Paavo — that's pretty remarkable. That was respectable five years ago.

        Q: What are your hopes for this recording?

        Mr. Jarvi: That it can be as good as we can be. As unartistic as it may sound, we all hope that it will sell as many records as possible. Ultimately, the goal is to reach as many people as possible. But also, in order for us to record further, (Telarc) needs to stay alive.

        We used to make records for people who like classical music. Now the industry is basically making records for people who don't know much about it. So there has to be something that a person who maybe is not a connoisseur will find interesting to buy. There has to be a certain popular aspect to it, but not at the expense of the integrity.

        So, we are finding that Firebird and Petrouchka, something I have always wanted to record, also fits that category.

        Mr. Woods: I just hope it comes out well so that everybody gets a proper taste of how great it is down here right now.



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