Back in 1984, Telarc International recorded what has since become a definitive version of Brahms’ German Requiem. Robert Woods, president of Telarc, produced the landmark recording with Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO). In addition to capturing an amazing performance, the album was, for its time, a sound engineering masterpiece true to Telarc’s perennial commitment to remain at the vanguard of recording excellence.
Six-time Grammy-winning engineer, Michael Bishop, recorded a new version of Telarc’s 1984 landmark recording of Brahms’ German Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra using the new DAD (Digital Audio Denmark) AX24 Analog-to-Digital converter.
Flash forward 23 years. Recording technology has advanced dramatically, but Telarc’s 1984 version of the German Requiem remains emblazoned in the minds of Brahms’ fans as a near-perfect realization of the composer’s vision. That makes Telarc’s recent decision to record the German Requiem anew uniquely challenging. They had their own past to live up to and exceed, if possible.
Telarc again went to the ASO with their chorus and soloists, this time with Robert Spano at the conductor’s podium. Grammy-winning producer Elaine Martone and six-time Grammy-winning engineer Michael Bishop were responsible for directing and capturing the talent of Spano and the ASO’s hundreds of musicians and singers at an unnerving cost of nearly $300 a minute. With wry understatement, Bishop noted, “That puts a lot of pressure on the producer and engineer.”
Bishop has recorded with Spano and the ASO numerous times and has refined his technique to elicit the very best tonal and spatial response from his equipment. He set up a temporary control room in an adjoining music library, complete with a 5.1 complement of ATC SCM150 and SCM50 mastering-grade monitors and modular RPG acoustic treatment. The main microphones were a combination of Sanken CO100Ks with response out to 100kHz, and AEA R-84 ribbon mics, which, together with the UpState Audio Sonic Lens preamps and custom-modified Studer console, gave a wide-open premium recording chain.
The new thing on this session in Bishop’s signal chain was a DAD AX24 analog to digital converter recording to the Sonoma DSD workstation. The eight-channel AX24 is capable of all the sample rates, from 48kHz to 384kHz, and the new DXD, as well as DSD, a special Non-PCM mode commonly associated with Super Audio CDs. Bishop used his AX24 in its DSD mode for this version of Brahms Requiem, ruler flat well beyond 100kHz for release on Super Audio CD. From the console, Bishop mixed direct to two-channel for stereo and direct to five-channel for surround. He mixed both formats simultaneously and recorded no backup multi-tracks. Thus, the mixes he committed to disc were the masters, which underscores the importance of his monitoring environment, pristine signal chain, and top-end DAD converters.
“Until DAD released the AX24, our old converters were the top-of-the-line, and any engineer would be thrilled to work with them,” commented Bishop. “Nevertheless, the AX24 takes us one step closer to realizing Telarc’s goal of removing everything between the source and the listener. Although it’s hard to put into words, the AX24 has greater clarity and depth than any other converter I’ve heard, and it allows me to hear deeper into the orchestra. Its clarity comes with no shift in the tonal balance. In short, the AX24 gets rid of another layer of something. You can hear it, but it’s hard to put a finger on.”
Although the new ASO&C Brahms German Requiem is still in post-production at the time of this writing, congratulations are already circulating through Telarc’s studios. Spano and Martone succeeded in delivering an inspired, nuanced performance, and Bishop recorded it with unprecedented depth and realism. Bishop shared the credit, “Of course the DAD AX24 contributed an element of truthfulness that takes us one step beyond the very best of our previous recordings.”
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